April 05, 2010 05:45 PM

A heroic beagle named Valentine has proved to be a fiercely loving mother – even after being abandoned by her owner in a snowstorm when she was about to give birth.

During a brutal snow emergency in mid-February, Julie Holmes, the chief dog warden for Hamilton, Ohio, responded to a call for help from a local resident who heard two dogs barking at something that seemed out of place. Found were a thin mom and seven newborn puppies trying to survive the cold in extreme distress.

“The puppies were laying in snow,” Holmes said. “Even though the mom tried to protect them with straw she dragged over from a round bail, it was apparent that she was dumped right before giving birth. There were no neighbors close enough for her to have wandered over there.”

Holmes said they were one lucky family to have been found because they would not have made it through the night in the chilling temperatures.

The dogs were taken to Animal Friends Humane Society and placed in a kennel. The next morning, mama Valentine – named by shelter workers because her rescue was near the holiday – gave birth to another puppy. Two ultimately died, leaving her with five little ones.

Now Valentine and her pups are under the care of volunteer Gay Covell, who’s been fostering dogs with her husband Bill for about five years. “We specialize in puppies and pregnant dogs,” she says. “So we were excited to bring this family into our home and are proud to say they are all doing well.”

The shelter staff discovered right away that Valentine was a great mom. “She never left her babies’ side,” Stephenson says. “The Covells took the family when the puppies were only two or three days old and gave them a loving foster home.”

The man responsible for abandoning Valentine came forward after the births made local news. Darryl Lawson, 45, claimed that he had given the dog to a friend and didn’t know she was pregnant – and he wanted her back. Stephenson refused.

An investigation later showed that Lawson had dumped the dog. “We charged him with cruelty to animals and abandonment,” Stephenson tells PEOPLEPets.com. Lawson pleaded guilty, and will serve five days in jail in addition to a $500 fine and 400 hours of community service at the Animal Friends Humane Society. He also received two years’ probation, during which he cannot live in a residence with animals.

Although Valentine had a hard time learning to trust again, foster mom Covell – who has five dogs of her own – says she is much improved. “Valentine still looks thin, but in seven weeks [she] is up to 28 pounds and now comes out of her crate to be with us,” Covell says. “She used to walk with her head and tail down. But they are both up, and she feels so much better. Soon the puppies will be spayed or neutered, and the family will be ready for adoption.

“It is so rewarding to watch Valentine get healthy and learn to love again,” says Covell. “And she is the best mom, so caring. This has been a wonderful experience.”

See more hero pets on PEOPLEPets.com:
Gucci the Dog, Whose Brutal Burning Led to a Stronger Cruelty Law, Dies at 16
Gracie the Dog Helps Paralyzed Owner Escape Fire

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