On one of the coldest nights of the year, with temps dipping well into the negatives, Binelli, a two-year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, gave birth, for the first time, to 16 puppies. That is a rarity, according to Blackfoot veterinarian Dr. Marcia Matsuura of Matsuura Veterinary Housecall. The dog belongs to Conner Funk and Val and Valerie Ellis of Riverside.
Funk had her bred to Max, a Golden Retriever in the neighborhood, thinking that she would have a normal litter of 6-8 puppies that he could sell. The mixed breed dogs make great pets and hunting dogs.
However, the family said they were shocked, when on Jan. 3 in the family's garage, Binelli just kept having puppies...and more puppies.
"We couldn't believe it...when she was done we counted 16 puppies," Valerie exclaimed.
While two of the puppies didn't survive, the remaining 14 (8 males and 6 females) are healthy and thriving well with nurturing from Mama Binelli and some help from the Funk and Ellis family. Mama and babies have stayed in the garage where they were born but were kept warm with lamps and heat pads.
Matsuura, who has kept a close eye on Binelli and the pups, said that it is extremely rare for a Chesapeake to have so many puppies.
"It could just be a fluke, or it could be that she was bred twice either by the same dog or by two different dogs," she said.
Matsuura has had Binelli on special vitamins and omega supplements to help her stay healthy and keep a good milk supply flowing while she nurses the puppies.
The pups, now 7 weeks old, have been eating "puppy food" for about two weeks now, and while Binelli is trying to wean them, they still flock to her for mother's milk and comfort, which in the spirit of a good mother, although weary, she abides them.
"She [Binelli] is such a good mom; she's skinny from nursing them, but she is good-natured and healthy," Valerie saidd. "We trimmed the puppies' claws because they were scratching her and causing her to bleed."
Valerie said the family is enjoying the puppies, which are now playful and mischievous, but that "they are a lot of work."
"We bathe them and take them outside after their nap so that they can play and go potty," she said. "They're eating about 10 pounds of dog food a week and that amount goes up about a pound a week. It's starting to get expensive."
Some of the puppies have been named, with the brute of the bunch, who is guilty of trying to bully his way to the food, being dubbed "Moose."
"We are starting to get attached to them, but at the same time, we know it's time for them to go to good homes," Valerie noted.
The puppies, black and brindle-colored, have had their first vaccinations and have had their dew-claws removed. They are priced at $250. The family is not sure whether or not they will breed Binelli again.
"The puppies are in excellent health and have been very well taken care of," Matsuura noted. "I am very pleased with how Conner and the family has cared for Binelli and the puppies."
Anyone interested in a puppy can call Valerie at 251-8468 or Funk at 251-8815.