BERLIN — 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.
Owner Ramona Wegemann said Monday she barely slept for more than a couple of minutes without interruption during about four weeks in an "exhausting" struggle to make sure all of the purebred Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies would survive.
She said when she was "finished feeding the last puppy, the first was hungry again."
Wegemann's dog Etana gave birth to eight female and nine male puppies on Sept. 28 in Ebereschenhof, which is near Berlin.
At least five times a day, Wegemann gave the dogs a bottle with special milk because their mother's nipples could have never coped with the demand, and when the puppies were not hungry, they wanted to be entertained, she said.
Wegemann said when dogs give birth to so many puppies several of them die within the first week. "But all of our puppies survived. This is incredible and wonderful," the 32-year-old added.
It was the second time that Etana gave birth. She gave birth to eight puppies in her first pregnancy, not uncommon for the dog's breed, Wegemann said.
"The birth of the puppies was very special. All puppies were born naturally, no cesarean was necessary," she added. It took Etana a full 26 hours to give birth to all of the puppies – and Wegemann was as baffled as amazed.
But caring for 17 puppies turned out to be a full-time job: Wegemann put her work as an independent animal psychiatrist on a hold and her husband took as much vacation as he could.
Their lives have been turned upside down by the puppies, and their living room is now occupied by a giant box that houses the puppies.
But even Wegemann still struggles to recognize them: The females puppies are called Bahati, Binta, Bahya, Bashima, Batouuli, Binki, Bora, Bisa and the male ones are Baakir, Banjoku, Belay, Bruk, Bundu, Bayo, Bukekayo, Biton and Bulus.
Wegemann gave them all African names because the Rhodesian Ridgeback is an African hunting dog. Wegeman and her husband now plan to give most of the puppies away.
A price of ?800 ($1,050) per puppy would only cover the expenses for the veterinary, vaccinations, food and the mandatory paperwork, Wegemann said. She hopes to get about ?1,000 ($1,315) per dog, but said they would only give them to families with children, not breeders.
Four of the puppies have been sold, two more are already paid for and will leave their siblings shortly.