How one dog became mom to a litter of baby foxes

October 17th, 2013
Posted by | Posted in Dog behavior 2,099 views

dog-fox-kittens-ftrWith some animals, their drive to help baby critters—whether their own, or others of the same species, and even infants from other species—is so strong that you can’t stand in their way, you just gotta let them at it.

A foxhound named Mama is one of those dogs. It all started at the LEO Zoological Conservation Center in Connecticut in September 2011, when director Marcella Leone was concerned when one of their animals, an African Fennec fox named Fiona, became pregnant; she had given birth previously, but unfortunately she had a history of abandoning and/or eating her newborns. Leone realized the best solution was to find a female dog that had recently given birth and was close to weaning her own puppies to pitch in and nurse the fox babies. Since Fennec foxes are small, the best surrogate canine for the job would be a small dog like a Chihuahua.

Several weeks before Fiona was due to give birth, Leone put out feelers through a local rescue group called Adopt-a-Dog, who soon located a dog named Mama with six puppies of her own at a shelter in North Carolina. In fact, Mama’s mothering instinct was so strong that it’s the reason why she ended up in the shelter in the first place: the dog had tried to gather up six more stray puppies she found wandering around the streets and caused a car accident.

Everything sounded fine until Leone saw a picture of the dog: Not only was Mama larger than a Chihuahua, the dog was an American Foxhound, which is bred to, ahem, hunt foxes. She had her doubts, but once she heard about Mama’s maternal streak, she thought perhaps that it would override her breed instincts, so she decided to give it a try.

Volunteers relayed Mama and her puppies from North Carolina to Connecticut, where they took the puppies to prepare them for adoption while Mama headed to the LEO headquarters; they made it through the door just as the fox kits were born, and staff and foxhound prepared for action.

When Mama first saw the fox kits, she growled and had to be held back, but staffers were patient. They placed the kits in an incubator and brought them out to nurse every two hours. In the beginning, one person would hold Mama’s head and distract her while another held her down by her hips. A third person then brought the kits up to Mama’s teats because they were too small to reach them on their own. Though it took an hour the first time, soon everyone—humans, kits, and dog—got used to the process and everyone relaxed.

And just as Leone expected, Mama’s maternal instincts overrode her hunting drive.

“She loved them and cleaned them and protected them,” Leone said. “She is just a precious, wonderful dog.”

~ Courtesy of Parade

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