|David Backes and his wife, Kelly, pose for a picture after helping with an emergency C-section on a pregnant boxer. All 12 puppies survived and have been placed in foster homes as they await adoption through Stray Rescue of St. Louis.
Shortly before David Backes
laced up the skates for a game in Calgary back in March, he got a phone call from his wife, Kelly, who found a stray boxer walking alongside the road.
Having rescued stray animals before, Kelly reached into the glove compartment of her car and found some dog treats she keeps for occasions such as these. While feeding the dog, she noticed that not only was it starving, “her entire backbone was showing and you could see each vertebrae and her ribs,” she said, but it was pregnant, too.
“I called David and told him I found a pregnant boxer and asked if we could foster her,” she said, recalling the phone conversation. “He told me (we could) as long as I sign a contract that said I wouldn’t keep her or any of the puppies.”
A contract was necessary, David said, because they already had four rescued animals (two dogs, two cats) to care for at their home in St. Charles.
“(Kelly) seems to think she’s got her own animal rescue program going, so she stops and picks up stray animals all the time,” David said. “It wasn’t a surprise that she picked up a dog, but then she said it was pregnant so I figured it was a good opportunity to give them a home.”
When David returned from a three-game road trip through Western Canada, he immediately began to partition off a section of their basement where the puppies would live. With help from neighbors D.J. King and Tyson Strachan, along with a few trips to a home improvement store, a puppy-safe area was constructed just before the mother went into labor.
When a natural birth wasn’t possible because the first puppy got stuck, the Backes’ raced to Hillside Animal Hospital, where Dr. Ed Migneco was waiting.
“The commute was nerve-wrecking,” Kelly said. “We were both hoping the little puppy (that was stuck) would survive.”
|It's likely that these puppies would not have lived if Kelly Backes had not rescued their mother from the side of the road. Some of the puppies can still be adopted through Stray Rescue of St. Louis. |
David and Kelly were instructed to put on masks and caps at the animal hospital, as both would be needed in an emergency C-section to give birth and help rescue all 12 puppies. For the next half hour, they pulled the puppies out of amniotic sacks, removed fluid from their mouths, cleared their airways and helped get their hearts beating.
“You have to put them in a towel, rub them and try to coax life into it,” David said. “When you’re doing that, you’re hoping you hear that little squeak from them. You get them where they’re safe and alive, and it’s pretty cool and pretty rewarding to be a part of.”
“I recall David saying that was one of the coolest things he had ever done,” Kelly said.
Once all the puppies were stable, they headed back home and spent weeks tube-feeding them every 3-4 hours and making sure they didn’t suffocate while also keeping a close eye on the mother as she recovered from surgery.
“We went through 15 large canisters of puppy formula, the laundry machine got abused and I think we used more newspaper than the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,” Kelly said. “But I think both of us would do it over again in a heartbeat, just maybe not during the end of a hockey season and while I’m a full-time student. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun and a really good experience for both David and I.”
For now, the mother has been adopted and all 12 puppies have been placed in foster homes. Some are still available for adoption through Stray Rescue of St. Louis, an organization that restores animals to health and places them in permanent homes.
“It kind of puts hockey in perspective,” David said. “With the C-section, if Kelly didn’t pick her up on the side of the road, the dog probably dies with all 12 puppies inside of her.
“With all the work she put in to keep the area clean and keep the puppies fed…I don’t know if a group of dogs can have a better first five weeks of their lives than these did.”