On Friday, Greg Zubiak was having a look around the field near Glaslyn where he plans to hunt moose this year when he saw some movement in the distance.
"As I walked up, they all just kind of looked at me and I guess my moose hunt was over. I just said, 'OK, come on,' and as soon as I said that, they all come running to me," he said.
Hunter gives abandoned puppies clothes off his back
He counted 20 puppies left in the field.
"I saw two puppy heads sticking out and the rest of them had their heads buried in each other," he said.
Zubiak says he knew some of the 20 puppies, who range in age from approximately 3 to 6 weeks old, apparently needed some extra warmth after being left out in the field, apparently left with just a blanket.
"I just took off what I was wearing when I was hunting, like all my hunting stuff, and made them kind of a little place in the front of the box of the truck. They're too small to jump out so I made a little bed for them," he said.
Zubiak believes the dogs wouldn't have made it if he didn't stumble across them on Friday.
"It had to have been that day," he said. "Because there are so many coyotes in that area that they wouldn't have made it overnight."
Next, he headed to the Battlefords Humane Society.
Humane Society nearly at capacity before 20 dogs arrived
Michelle Spark is the Coordinator at the Battlefords Humane Society. She was en route to a visit in Regina when she got the call that 20 new dogs were headed to the shelter and needed care.
Spark believes that before this weekend, the largest number of pets they've taken in at once was 11. She says taking care of 20 new residents at once would be a strain on most shelters.
"Especially small ones like us," Spark said. "We don't have a lot of room. At max capacity we can hold about 26 dogs. We had 18 dogs before these 20 came in, so we're going to be at 38 dogs now."
Nevertheless, staff are gearing up to take on the task of caring for the new puppies. Spark says they'll take up a lot of time, space, and resources. Volunteers and staff are considering making room for the pups in their own homes.
"We make do," She said with a laugh. "So, between now and next month we just work really really hard to get animals adopted and out the door so we have room for these ones to move into bigger kennels as they get older."
Puppies arrived cold, flea-ridden
As for the dogs' condition, Spark says following a vet's initial checks, it appears all the dogs will survive. She expects vet bills including vaccinations, spaying and neutering, and other medical treatments will likely total $3,000.
"He said they're not in too bad of shape. They're definitely hungry, they're full of fleas. The younger ones—the 3-week-old puppies—one of them will need bottle-feeding, he's fairly weak," she said. "They're full of worms, but other than that, we feel that there's a really good chance that they're all going to survive."
Spark says she's thankful Zubiak happened to see them.
Zubiak believes they were abandoned there because the field is not easily visible or accessible.
"You just feel bad and you wonder how any person could do that to an animal," Zubiak said. "But I guess they're safe and sound now."
While Zubiak hopes they'll go to good homes soon, he says his own dog likely wouldn't tolerate a new companion, so he won't be adopting one himself.
Support pours in for found puppies
Spark says shortly after word got out about the unexpected puppy delivery, help started pouring in.
Between donations, help from veterinarians after-hours, and offers from other animal shelters and dog rescue groups to help house the animals, Spark calls the outreach "tremendous". But with 20 new pups in the shelter, they'll still need some extra help, including more hands on deck.
Here are a few examples of ways Spark says people can help:
- Puppy food
- Teddy bears - Spark says they help make the puppies feel like they're near their mother
- Volunteer hours - especially cleaning and feeding the dogs
- Extra kennels - Spark says they're doubling up for now while the dogs are small, but 10 more kennels will be particularly helpful as the puppies grow
- Money for veterinary care (vaccinating, microchipping, spaying/neutering, other medical issues)