German dog to be spayed after 17-puppy litter

A dog in Germany has given birth to 17 puppies, leaving their owner thrilled but fatigued after having to feed them with a bottle for several weeks because their mother couldn't cope with the demand.
December 23, 2010 5:45:30 PM PST
Ten weeks after giving birth to 17 puppies, the Rhodesian Ridgeback mother is to be spayed while her cute offspring leave for new homes, the dog's owner said Thursday.

Ramona Wegemann said the 26-hour labor was very tiresome for the mother, Etana, and she does not want to endanger the dog's health with another pregnancy.

Wegemann said she had to personally feed the eight female and nine male puppies with a bottle filled with special milk for several weeks, because Etana's nine nipples couldn't cope with the demand.

Caring for the puppies has "turned out to be a full-time job," she said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press that was at times interrupted by the din of puppies joyfully barking in the background.

Etana gave birth to the puppies on Sept. 28 in Wegemann's house in Ebereschenhof near Berlin.

Wegemann, a 32-year-old freelance animal psychiatrist, said she has been feeding the dogs at least five times a day. And when the puppies are not hungry they constantly want to be entertained inside their giant box in the family's living room.

"Now they sometimes also play with each other. But we still play with them. We also make them listen to CDs with noises from traffic, construction work or yelling kids to prepare them for real life," she said.

"All the puppies are well," she said. "We play with them in the snow and have started teaching them how to sit still."

The dog family, however, has started to shrink as one by one the puppies have left for new homes. Wegemann and her husband plan to give most of the puppies away.

"We usually have only three dogs, Etana and two others. But now our living room is full of them," she said.

Two of the puppies - which are now about 16 inches (42 centimeter) big - were given to friends and five others have been sold for about euro800 ($1,050) each, Wegemann said. The price only covers vets fees, and expenses for vaccinations, food and mandatory paperwork, she added.

"Ten of them are still up for grabs," she said, but adds they will only be given to families with children, not to breeders.

"We've already turned down families where it didn't feel right, where the puppies were just regarded as objects."

Wegemann said even with so many dogs at home, it's still difficult to let one go.

"It's really hard. Every time one of them leaves the house we're close to crying then."

The litter was Etana's second - she gave birth to just eight puppies in her first pregnancy, all of which were given names starting with 'A.'

Now it's onto 'B,' for the second litter, said Wegemann.

The females puppies are called Bahati, Binta, Bahya, Bashima, Batouuli, Binki, Bora, Bisa, and the male Baakir, Banjoku, Belay, Bruk, Bundu, Bayo, Bukekayo, Biton and Bulus - all of them African names because the Rhodesian Ridgeback is an African hunting dog, said their owner.

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