A litter of 14 pups orphaned when their mother died giving birth have been saved after they were hand-reared —- by an entire village.
Eight-year-old Springer Spaniel Nutmeg's offspring were looked after by the locals in Tedburn St. Mary, near Devon, England, who drew up a rotating schedule. Nutmeg suffered difficulties after going into labor and was rushed to a vet for treatment.
She was expecting around eight puppies but they kept coming — and ended up with a litter of 14 placed into a laundry basket.
The vet then came out of surgery to announce that Nutmeg had sadly passed away immediately after the operation.
Owner Christine Conner, 53, was forced to hand-rear the giant litter and told that the puppies would need round-the-clock care — and be fed from a bottle every two hours.
With the help of her husband, Shaun, 62, and three sons, Henry, 18, William, 14, and Charlie, 12, the family set about raising them. They sat around the kitchen table the next morning, bottle-feeding the blind dogs, when Conner snapped a picture and shared the news online with the hashtag #DoingItForNutmeg.
And soon, the family were inundated with well-wishers and volunteers wanting to help.
Sadly, three of the puppies didn't survive, but 11 have flourished and all have now found new homes.
Conner, a freelance journalist from Tedburn St Mary, Devon, said: "People started ringing up saying, 'Can we help?' and I said, 'Sure, come on over'.
"It was friends, friends of friends, friends of the kids, people from the village — all sorts of people. They turned up with food and cakes and donated their time,” she said. “There's a church kitchen in the village and they fired up and started sending us meals because we didn't have time to shop.”
"Pretty soon we had a rotating schedule drawn up and people filled their names in and came and helped the puppies. I started getting calls from people all over the world, one of my girlfriends from Istanbul sent a hamper for the puppy feeders and we got a load of pasties sent from a friend in Hertfordshire.
"It was a really lovely atmosphere, people were helping with housework. People would turn up and say, 'What can we do?' There was people doing everything you can think of, hoovering, washing, everything,” she describes.
"I started a blog because there were so many people asking for updates. That continued and had lots of hits. Then I got a call from a friend in Yorkshire. He said he had been reading the blog and that we were breaking his heart with the puppies, so sent down $190 to the local pub so we could take all the puppy feeders for a pint."
Conner said they had Nutmeg from a puppy and she was the family dog.
She added: "She was lovely, a working Springer, I wanted to get a litter from her because she was a beautiful dog with a lovely temperament.
"She went into labor and it didn't progress so we took her to the vet. He managed to get some out then said he'd have to do a cesarean section. He asked me to hang around to help so I did and he opened her up and started handing them to me.”
"He thought he was done then said, 'Hang on a second,' and pulled out another 8 puppies. In total 14 puppies came out of her.”
"Then the vet came out and said, 'There's no good way to tell you this, I'm afraid we've lost her'. It was due to complications because there were so many puppies. This was September 1, in the middle of the night on a Friday. We were left with 14 puppies and I said to the vet, 'What do we do now'?"
Conner said that all the surviving puppies — named Plum, Patch, Molly-Blue, Hank, Tia, Orange, Red Dog, Runty, Dutch, Morgan and Macie, have now been re-homed — but she has kept one for herself.
She said three of the puppies, Black Dog, Pink Man and Squeak, didn't survive.
"They've all found homes and people have collected them," she said of the others. "They're going all over, we didn't advertise them; people came to us. Most are in Devon, a couple in Gloucestershire.”
"We've kept one, a female named Macie. You've got to keep one, haven't you?”
Conner said they all joined a Facebook group to stay in contact, too.
"When something really terrible happens it's amazing to see what it brings out of people. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what about a litter of puppies?" Christine said.
This story was originally published by SWNS.