Bailey is a St. Bernard cross who was nursing five puppies in unsanitary and substandard conditions when she was brought to the BC SPCA.
Thankfully, the puppies were all healthy, but Bailey was underweight, had multiple abscesses on her feet, long nails that were growing into her pads and her fur was full of mats and feces. She has had extensive grooming, her nails treated, two surgeries for her swollen feet and is on a specialized diet to help her safely gain weight. She is also suffering from inverted lower eyelids that will require double entropion surgery to repair.
“When we were looking for a foster home for Bailey and her pups, I knew it was going to require the commitment and support of an entire family,” says Isabell Diederichs, animal care supervisor at the Shuswap branch of the BC SPCA. “Five St. Bernard puppies and a mom who is recovering from surgeries require round the clock care.”
Mikaela, her mom, Donna her dad, Mike and her two brothers, Tristan and Sam stepped up. “Luckily, we are all currently living together,” says Mikaela. “We could never have taken on a momma St. Bernard and five puppies unless everyone in our family was onboard. Everyone has a shift.”
“It is the first time we have fostered dogs,” says Donna. “We eased into it with six St. Bernards,” she says with a laugh. Donna is an early riser and gets up with the puppies at 5:30 am to bring them outside to potty train and play. “House training five puppies at once has definitely been the biggest challenge,” says Donna. “The cleaning is constant.”
Dad works from home so he takes the day shift, feeding them at noon and making sure the puppies and mom get plenty of playtime and snuggles. The rest of the family comes home from work as quickly as possible so they can give him a break. Mikaela works weekends, so she takes the day shift on her days off during the week and her brothers take shifts on the weekends.
Donna says that Bailey is an amazing mom. When they were getting ready to transport her from the shelter to their home, Bailey wouldn’t get into the vehicle until all of her puppies were loaded into the car and she wouldn’t get out of the car until all of the puppies had been unloaded.
Bailey was very shy when she first arrived at her foster family’s home. She has come out of her shell and is far more comfortable now. “She doesn’t understand how to play with toys, but she does ‘play bows’ and accepts belly rubs which she didn’t do before,” says Mikaela.
“I have always wanted to foster puppies,” says Donna. “I knew they would bring joy, but caring for Bailey has filled my heart.”
One of the biggest perks of taking care of puppies is watching them start to develop new skills. “All of the puppies are characters,” says Mikaela. “It is so fun to watch them figuring out how to run, how to use their legs.”
Mikaela says they live on a sloped property and one of the puppies’ favourite things to do is go up one of the hills and roll down. “They are like pudgy teddy bears,” she says. “It is so much fun for them and we get such a kick out of watching them.”
All of the puppies have amazing personalities and quirks, but one puppy really stands out. “Frangelico is hilarious. She is so sassy and is the ring leader and she has been that way since the beginning,” says Mikaela. “She is always the first one to do anything. And if they are being mischievous, she is right up front leading the way.”
Donna has some advice to anyone who is considering fostering. “Be committed to the amount of work it is and keep your focus and goal in mind,” she says. “Enjoy the process and know you are helping the animals in your care find their forever home.”
And they did find their forever homes! Bailey and all five of her puppies have been adopted.