When the forecast calls for rain in our parched Northern California – I am always a believer. This weekend – it did not disappoint. You can almost hear the trees and plants breathing in the good soak.

However, when it comes to rescue, I have learned to adopt a healthy bit of skepticism – if only to prepare my heart.

Recently, one of our volunteers connected with a woman looking to “rehome” Golden Retriever puppies on Craigslist. In fact, she of course meant to sell them claiming they were an “oops” litter. Our volunteer was surprised to hear back from the woman several weeks later, asking to surrender the pups…ten in total. It was suspicious that they had gone unsold, but, of course, we said ‘yes.’

I was not there the day they were delivered. The photo seemed to reflect that they were bright and alert. Then someone mentioned that one was worrisomely lethargic. My mind immediately went to Parvo. I’ve been through it before.

We isolated them as we do all puppies. My fear was confirmed the next morning when one puppy was rushed to the vet. The heartbreaking decision was made to let her go. In the final stages, Parvo is very painful and it was the kindest thing. The next day – two more were lost.

Parvo is deadly to puppies. Protection requires four rounds of vaccinations which is why we always caution that puppies cannot go to public places – even sidewalks – until fully vaccinated. The mortality rate for puppies is a devastating 80%.

Strict isolation protocols were put in place with a tiny team to watch over the others. We were determined to save the remaining seven. Under guidance from our dedicated vet, we established two isolation areas – one for those showing symptoms (lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea among them) – and a separate space for those without. Our president personally took all shifts for the three in greatest danger – administering their care and watchfully waiting. The other four progressed well, learning what regular access to food meant and quickly gaining weight.

When it was safe, we sent the four to foster and celebrated the day when the three could be released from their separate isolation. They are now on the rebound.

This is where my skepticism creeps in. We try to give people the benefit of the doubt and to be genuinely grateful for the chance to help, but I suspect that the surrenderer knew what she delivered to us. Honesty might have helped us save more.

We offered to spay and neuter her dogs – something she said she wanted to do but could not afford. We sent her education about Parvo and why future litters were likely to suffer the same fate. We never heard back. After a Parvo litter, homes and yards cannot be used for up to a year after complete disinfecting or removal of surfaces. I grieve for her next litter – those that will suffer the same fate and those that go to unsuspecting families destined for heartbreak.

I have no issue with responsible breeders who truly care for their dogs, puppies, and the families that purchase them. But please help spread the word about how to identify them versus backyard or puppy mill breeders who create tragedies like this. This is a resource you can share.

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I am a nascent gardener, rescuer, and photographer, chronicling the journey of the dogs at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary near Sacramento, CA - and the Memorial Garden we have devoted to them.

7 thoughts on “Delivered”

  1. So deceitful of that woman, but what a shame for those puppies. I cringe every time our newspaper runs ads for pups. The prices are ungodly, but I so wonder about the breeding conditions.
    I agree with what Judy says–the folks that should be reading this are not.

  2. We needed this rain and like you I enjoyed seeing the oak and pine trees on my property getting a good well needed drink. More importantly thank you and your team for saving those precious pups. It is sad that a few were lost but good and humane that you did not allow them to suffer needlessly. It angers me to k ow there are “owners” that don’t take steps to spay and neuter especially when you had offered to pay for it. Again thank you for your work caring and fostering these special and precious puppies!

  3. I had no idea how destructive Parvo can be – to puppies and their environment. Thank you for this educational post. I hope that recent breeder has learned a valuable lesson and will have a change of heart when it comes to the care and protection of animals.

  4. I was the foster who took home the 4 boys on Thanksgiving. Thankfully, they were adopted last Friday. It takes a team of volunteers and we do whatever it takes to get them healthy and thriving.

  5. Parvo is so easily avoided…shame on “breeders” who don’t protect their puppies. I’m glad they found their way to you, and most were saved.

  6. Thank you for the great work that you all do and that in spite of encountering the worst of human nature at times, you focus on helping anyway! Your post was so educational. I had not known about the long-lasting contagion of parvo in an outdoor area after an infection. This would be a concern regarding use of dog parks and even large leash walking areas in communities I would think.

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