Rescue Dog Takes in Orphaned Puppies After Losing Her Own Litter: 'Nothing Short of a Miracle'

After all of her newborns died, Pepper the dog was ready to take on mom duties for an orphaned litter of rescue puppies

After losing her own puppies, a rescue dog in Minnesota found a new family in an orphaned litter.

NBC affiliate KARE 11 reports that rescue dog Poppy — a new mom who had just given birth to 10 puppies — died unexpectedly at Ruff Start Rescue in Princeton, Minnesota, on July 8. The night of Poppy's death, volunteers working at the rescue took shifts caring for the newborn puppies while they figured out the next steps for the orphaned litter.

"We frantically started figuring out our next move with the babies," Lexi Johnson, a Ruff Start Rescue foster parent and volunteer, told the outlet. "Another volunteer was over until 11:30 that night helping bottle feed. And throughout the evening, my husband and I were up every 3 hours getting food in their bellies ... and it was taking over 1.5 hours each time."

Around the same time Poppy died, another rescue dog, Pepper, experienced a tragedy of her own, losing her entire litter of newborn puppies. Pepper was "devastated and grew very depressed" after the death of her puppies, according to FOX 9.

Between these two sad stories, Johnson saw an opportunity for the puppies and Pepper to find the love they were looking for. Ruff Start Rescue volunteers paired up the orphaned newborns with the grieving dog, and the new family immediately clicked.

"When she got to our house, we brought her in the puppy room, and she immediately sat next to the litter," Johnson said. "I started placing puppies around her, and she laid down, and the puppies instinctively hobbled towards her and started nursing."

Five minutes after meeting Pepper, all of the puppies were nursing from their new mom.

Johnson told FOX 9 that Pepper has been "nothing short of a miracle" and that her experience with the litter has been "incredible."

Pepper with foster puppies at Ruff Start Rescue

Right now, Pepper and the litter are still in the nursing stage and currently not ready for adoption, but they're expected to become available later this month. Prospective applicants can head to the Ruff Start Rescue website around Aug. 25 to check which puppies are available.

"The babies were all thriving with their humans, but the best place for them is with a mama who can not only give them some good milk but teach them dog things, behaviors we as humans can't," Johnson wrote on Facebook last month.

"I cried again last night, but these tears were happy tears. Tears knowing that mama Poppy would be so appreciative of Pepper taking over the mama role," she added.

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