If there was one thing Montana Pecore was sure about, it’s that she couldn’t commit to having a puppy.
But sometimes life surprises you.
After losing her Boston Terrier last year, Pecore thought she had better get another dog, which she agreed to share with her son, Mose Pecore, and his partner Treana Mayer.
“They were looking for a dog to help their giant dog to be better at being a dog,” Pecore explains. Mose and Treana have a Newfoundland St. Bernard mix who has some behavioral insecurities, and they wanted a calming, confident leader to be its companion.
When Mose and Treana met Addi at the St. Paul Humane Society, they fell in love immediately. An enormous, gentle, affectionate dog, Addi is a real heartbreaker. “She was a total dream and melts in your hands as soon as you put them out,” says Mayer, who happens to be a veterinary student at the University of Minnesota. They learned Addi had “kennel cough” and a leg injury, but despite these challenges, the couple were hooked on her.
Mose wrote to Pecore to say Addi was ‘the nicest dog [he] ever met,’” and sent a video as well. Later, Pecore went with the whole family to meet Addi, immediately falling in love.
The plan was for Addi to split time between Pecore's house and her son and Mayer’s place, to slowly introduce Addi to her new dog companion.
Addi started gaining weight, and rapidly. AHS had told them that Addi had been spayed, but Pecore began to have doubts. “I kept thinking at the back of my head, ‘What if she’s pregnant?’” Pecore says.
Meanwhile, Addi’s dog boobs grew enormously, and one day, as Mayer felt around Addi’s belly, she felt kicking. “She just started ballooning,” Pecore says. “You could see the rippling from afar from all the babies.”
Eventually, they took Addi into Cedar Pet Clinic, in Lake Elmo, “not so much confirming the pregnancy as finding out how many puppies there were,” Mayer says. “When it came up on the screen, her belly was completely full of spines and skulls. I yelled so loud that Mose could hear me from the hallway.”
Realizing that they had gotten more than they bargained for, Pecore started a Facebook page for Addi, to drum up support in preparation for the birth. They were overwhelmed by the support from community, with friends and neighbors reaching out to help with care and supplies.
By chance, someone saw Mayer’s post about Addi on social media and reached out. The person was from the Student Initiative for Reservation Veterinary Services (SIRVS) run out of the University of Minnesota’s vet school. The student initiative provides vet services for reservations across Minnesota, free of charge. “One of my friends who is a fellow vet student recognized my picture of Addi,” Mayer says.
The fellow student said that SIRVS had worked with Addi a year and a half ago up at the White Earth reservation. At the time, Addi had an owner, but had been hit by a car, which is why she hadn’t been spayed: She had too many adhesions in her organs because of the trauma.
That back story helped explain why the Animal Humane Society didn’t realize that Addi was pregnant. “When the Humane Society got her, they looked at the scar and thought she was spayed,” Pecore says.
As best they can tell, Addi is from Pine Point on the White Earth Reservation. “It is a hard neighborhood,” Pecore says. Still, Pecore knows that someone provided Addi with care and affection. “She must have had people that really loved her,” Pecore says. “She is so sweet.”
But she had some trauma as well. The car accident may have left shrapnel inside her. Pecore says they don’t know what happened between when SIRVS last treated Addi and when she was picked up by the Animal Humane Society in St. Paul from another shelter in Minnesota.
Since the birth, the Animal Humane Society in St. Paul has offered food and supplies for the puppies. “It’s been an interesting turn of events,” says Zach Nugent, media producer for AHS. He says the organization plans to do the first round of vaccinations for the puppies. “We’ve been continuing to reach out wherever we can,” he says.
Meanwhile the Cedar Pet Clinic, where Mayer used to work, offered vet services. Veterinarian Dr. Noemi Plantz did Addi’s C-section for free, with over a dozen other volunteers at the ready to help with surgery and with rubbing the puppies after they were born. Normally, the mom dog would do the rubbing task, but because Addi was out cold, humans needed to help.
Dr. Plantz said it was because of the nature of the case, and the unfortunate circumstances, that she decided to volunteer her services. Before they knew Addi was pregnant, Dr. Plantz had treated Addi’s leg, but then got a text over the Christmas holiday with the news that Addi was most likely pregnant.
"The dog is lucky she got adopted by a vet student,” Plantz says. “The average person might have had no idea what was happening in her belly.”
The C-section was originally scheduled for New Year’s Day, but Mayer realized on Dec. 31 that Addi’s temperature had dropped and the dog had started to “nest.” “Within an hour, we had 13 people saying ‘Yep, I’m on my way,’” Plantz says. Volunteers stayed for five hours. “I was just taking out puppies and handing them out,” Plantz recalls.
Addi gave birth to 15 puppies at about 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 31.
According to Mayer, they weren’t sure that all the puppies would make it. "We were not feeding her as if she were a pregnant dog until her third trimester,” she says. And yet, “All 15 came out and they are all huge, and beautiful, and perfect. It does seem like a miracle. Addi gave everything she had to them.”
For Pecore, the experience has been surreal. When her son and Treana approached her about co-owning a dog, she wasn’t sure if she could handle having a dog again. But “Addi is the most gracious creature,” she says. “I was so worried we would lose her. I’m really attached to her.”
Pecore has also been heartened by the response on social media. “It’s like, ‘How are we going to do this?’ says Pecore, who is a public schools teacher. “We have no extra money.” Turns out, people can turn out for support when you ask. “I want to believe that people in communities will kind of do things,” Pecore says. “There’s a lot of people out there that really care about dogs.”
She’s also glad it’s a story that can make people feel good. “Addi is the hero we needed,” Pecore says. “People have really been stepping up and helping out and it’s been great.”