For a tiny newborn puppy, the very first experience of life was harsh and cold.
She had been dumped in a garbage can outside in the freezing winter shortly after being born. But her fortune quickly changed when an incredible set of circumstances led to her rescue, survival, and adoption by a mother dog who had just lost her own litter of puppies.
Donisha Jones, 19, was outside Saturday night smoking a cigarette behind her mother’s Rockingham Street home in Toledo when she heard a small noise.
“It sounded like a little cat meow,” she said.
The squeaky, crying sound seemed to be coming from the neighbor’s garbage can. Inside, wrapped in paper towels and tied up in a plastic Kroger shopping bag, was the dark brown, newborn pup.
“It was all wet and still had the umbilical cord and all of that,” Ms. Jones said. “It looked like it was all covered in mucous.”
She quickly took the puppy inside, out of the cold, and called the Toledo Police Department. While the family waited, Ms. Jones’ mother tried to feed the puppy some Similac baby formula without success.
The police called Lucas County Canine Care & Control at about 10:30 p.m. Director Julie Lyle said when the responding officer arrived, the newborn was rooting around and looking for its mother.
It was active, but the puppy remained in grave danger. Temperatures were hovering near the freezing mark at about 32 degrees and would later drop into the mid-20s.
“Infants can’t maintain their temperature,” Ms. Lyle said. “As soon as they’re away from their litter and their mom, they start to go down.”
The puppy was immediately taken to the Animal Emergency & Critical Care Center on Douglas Road.
“That’s our policy,” Ms. Lyle explained. “Even if they’re healthy, we take them there. Unless we have the mom too, we can’t leave [infant puppies] at the shelter or they won’t survive.”
Dr. Kittsen McCumber, a veterinarian at the emergency clinic, said the little female, who weighed just 6 ounces at the time, was hypothermic.
“Her temperature was too low to register on the thermometer,” she said. “Whoever found that baby really found her in the nick of time. This puppy could not have survived more than a little while out there. It definitely wouldn’t have survived through the night.”
The vet staff inserted a stomach tube to feed the puppy and placed her in an incubator to keep her warm.
“She was moving around and suckling on blankets trying to nurse,” Dr. McCumber said.
The pup, whose breed is unknown, made it through the night.
“She’s a tough little dog,” the veterinarian said.
Upon hearing the pup pulled through, Ms. Lyle said the county shelter began looking for a rescue group to take her. The Lucas County Pit Crew stepped up.
In mid-January, the organization had taken in a young, gray and white, female “pit bull,” who had given birth to six brindle puppies at the county shelter. While the mom, named Paisley, was able to fight off a suspected upper respiratory infection, her pups sadly could not, despite veterinarians’ best efforts to save them.
“We really don’t know what they had, but that’s our best guess,” Jean Keating, executive director of the Pit Crew, said. “Everybody is devastated by what happened to them.”
The last of Paisley’s pups died about four days before the newborn was found. The Pit Crew decided, after careful consideration, to see if Paisley would accept the newborn, nurse her, and raise her as her own.
“It was really the puppy’s best chance,” Ms. Keating said. “We decided it was worth the risk to try it.”
The Pit Crew had successfully integrated orphan pups twice before, but those babies were added to existing litters.
“It’s much easier to do that,” Ms. Keating said. “You can rub the new puppy on the existing puppies while the mom is outside to get the right scent and kind of sneak it in there.
"We were really nervous with this one," she said, "because we knew the baby wouldn’t smell right, and we had no way to make her smell right.”
Paisley gave her new charge, now named Celia, a good sniffing as the baby tried to nurse for the first time.
“She latched right on and ate,” Ms. Keating said. “The two of them took right to each other, and so far, so good.”
Celia is gaining weight and doing well. The mother dog is feeding Celia and cleaning her as if the newborn were her own.
Paisley, who had been grieving for her lost puppies, also seems to be doing better with a new little one to look after.
“Paisley seems like a happy girl again,” Ms. Keating said. “It’s been good for both of them.”
The pair are being monitored very closely to ensure Celia’s safety and well-being. There is still a risk the situation could change suddenly and the tiny pup could die.
“We’re really keeping our fingers crossed,” Ms. Keating said. “There’s no way to know right now if there could be long-term effects for the baby after what she went through.”
The county shelter contacted the Toledo Area Humane Society, the county’s only humane law-enforcement agency, about the puppy. Investigator Gene Boros visited the area Tuesday and talked to residents, but did not have any luck.
Mr. Boros said if the person responsible for Celia’s predicament is found, he would charge the individual with a second-degree misdemeanor count of animal cruelty, punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and six months in jail.
“To put a newborn puppy in a situation where it clearly wouldn’t survive is cruelty,” he said.
Ms. Lyle noted that newborn pups sometimes do not breathe right away and initially may appear to be stillborn.
“It’s possible someone thought it had died and put it in the garbage,” she said.
Mr. Boros said if a suspect is located and claims to have thought the puppy was dead, he still would bring the individual before a judge to determine if that is a reasonable explanation for throwing Celia in the trash.
“I’d want to let the court decide on that,” Mr. Boros said.
Ms. Jones said a small, brown dog with long hair used to be kept outside at the house where the puppy was found in the garbage, but she also said she hasn’t seen the female dog in a long time. The newborn puppy was inside a trash can in the backyard.
“I just thought it was horrible that someone could do something like that,” she said.
But Celia’s future is looking a lot brighter than the dark-and-dirty interior of the garbage can in which she began her life.
“So far, she appears to be thriving,” Ms. Keating said.