On Saturday 20th November a Guide Dog poodle named Zoe gave birth to 14 puppies, which was a record number!

The Guide Dog breeding centre team supported Zoe and her family around the clock to ensure all the puppies received enough milk. However, 14 is a very big litter and the team had concerns that the pressure on Zoe to feed them all would become too great.

After consulting with the Guide Dog vet team at Franklin Vets in Papakura and Massey vets Vicki Erceg and Dr Nick Cave, the Guide Dog team made the difficult decision to transfer four puppies to a foster mama, in order to make the situation safer for both Zoe and her family.

Inspector Todd Southall, National Coordinator for the NZ Police Dog Section, kindly offered the puppies a place with their detector dog breeding mum Isla. Isla had three puppies that were almost the same age and she had a lot of milk plus she was used to fostering. This seemed to be the perfect match.

“Service and working dogs are an important asset.  We’re delighted to help out our friends at Blind Low Vision.  This is a great example of the relationships which exist within the service dog sector, our veterinary and breeding programme teams.”

The day soon arrived for the four chosen pups to leave the Guide Dog centre. Our Heath and Breeding Program Manager, Lydia Charteris, carried out some final health checks and preparation to ensure the puppies were all set to travel. They had a special insulated box with a heat pad beneath to make sure they stayed cosy and warm for the journey. Air New Zealand are supporters of Guide Dogs and often help us travel dogs all over New Zealand. The Air New Zealand team took amazing care of Lydia and the puppies to help ensure the precious cargo arrived safely and quickly in Wellington.

The puppies slept soundly on the flight with the exception of one, who preferred cuddles with Lydia rather than his box.

Small puppy travelling on Air NZ flight

On arrival, Sue Alexander of the Police Dog Training Centre’s Kennel and Breeding Services team was waiting to take Lydia and the puppies to the Police Dog Breeding Centre, where Isla was waiting for them.

Labradors are a really special breed and will very often foster another dog’s puppies, without question. Sure enough, Isla instantly welcomed the newcomers as her own. All the Guide Dog puppies were given a decent wash by Isla before settling down for some very eagerly-awaited milk.

Very soon, all four Guide Dog puppies had full tummies and after many more trips to the milk bar, they cuddled up to their new, slightly bigger siblings and slept soundly, next to their new Labrador mama.

Foster Mum Isla with her new pups

On behalf of Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dogs, Lydia and her team would like to say a massive, massive thank you to the vet team at Franklin Vets Papakura, Vicki Erceg and Dr Nick Cave from Massey University Vets, Inspector Todd Southall and the NZ Police Dog Section team and Air New Zealand. The kindness, generosity, care and support shown to us from everyone, to ensure that the four Guide Dog puppies made it safely to their foster mum is appreciated beyond words. It was an epic team effort with a very happy ending. A particular thank you to Vicki Erceg the National Police Dog Coordinating Vet at Massey University’s Working Dog Centre who went above and beyond to ensure the puppies’ safe transfer.