Great grandmother Phoenix is the talk of the greyhound racing world.
Many people believe a dog’s love is unconditional and Phoenix proved it by saving eight little greyhound puppies needing some motherly love from a certain death.
Nerida and Karen Woods from Nabiac were looking after a friend’s ex-racing dog, Bella for ‘whelping and rearing’ – fostering a bitch while she is giving birth and looking after her and the puppies afterward.
“She was raced by friends of ours in Newcastle, and she came to stay with us to have her babies,” Nerida said.
“She’s their pet – they always intended to keep her as a pet, but because she was a pretty good race dog they wanted to breed a litter from her, and they don’t have the facilites.”
Bella had a very long whelping, delivering 10 puppies, and she went quickly downhill afterwards. She stopped eating, was drinking excessively and running a temperature.
It was very lucky for Bella that Nerida works as a vet nurse at Taree Veterinary Hospital.
After two days Nerida took her to work, where Bella was diagnosed with liver disease, as well as being septic. Bella stayed at the vets for four days on fluids, having blood tests and being treated.
Meanwhile Nerida and her mother Karen were frantically trying to keep the 10 puppies alive.
I think at last count we had 42 dogs. We also have a kelpie.
“It was horrific. Every litter we’ve had in the past, we’ve never had an issue with. We’d never lost a puppy in the past, and then we lost two when Bella was sick,” Nerida said.
“We were supplement feeding them but because there were originally 10 puppies, by the time you finished the last one you had to start again on the first one. So for three nights we did that and I think we got about three or four hours sleep between us.”
Enter family friend Rebekah Hansen from Taree, who breeds chocolate labradors.
Rebekah has three labradors, two of whom had just had litters – Indie, Phoenix’s daughter, and Vision, Phoenix’s granddaughter.
“Plus we’ve got Dirty Gertie. She’s a ring-in. She’s a groodle [a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle]. She’s the little white sheep of the family," Rebekah said.
Even though Phoenix had no litter of her own, she spontaneously started producing milk in reaction to the two other litters in her family.
When told of the greyhound puppies’ plight, Rebekah brought Indie and Phoenix around to see if they would accept Bella’s pups. And they did.
“Phoenix and Indie both fed the puppies to start with. And then Indie went back home to her puppies, and Phoenix stayed,” Nerida said.
Phoenix has got one pace, and that’s slow. I said to Karen I hope they don’t take after Phoenix running wise because they’ll be pretty slow!
Nerida said she and her mum felt absolute relief when the puppies started feeding.
“These poor little babies that have just cried for two days for food, they had this feed and they were quiet for half an hour, and we were just like ‘what do you do now?’ It was amazing. And they were cleaning up after them!” she said.
“Karen asked me could Phoenix stay, because sometimes bitches won’t take to other pups, so it was just a godsend,” Rebekah said.
While Bella went straight back to Newcastle to recuperate and live on the lounge, Phoenix stayed with the Woods for five weeks, “doing an awesome job”, Rebekah said.
“She took to them like they were her own babies. She cleaned them, she looked after them. She was so good,” Nerida said.
“And the funny thing is when Phoenix had her first litter Bek said she wasn’t that interested in her babies. She looked after them and fed them, but she would rather just sit on the lounge with you, and then with these babies she was just obsessed with them.”
Nerida and Karen breed and race greyhounds.
“I think at last count we had 42 dogs. We also have a kelpie,” Nerida said.
Bella’s pups are now living in the ‘puppy paddock’ at Nerida and Karen’s place and Phoenix is enjoying being back at home with family and Rebekah.
“It all turned out well. We’ve got eight beautiful greyhounds,” Rebekah said.
“Phoenix has got one pace, and that’s slow. I said to Karen I hope they don’t take after Phoenix running wise because they’ll be pretty slow!”