The Coast News Group
Helen Woodward Animal Center rescued three pregnant dogs abandoned in Riverside County that whelped a total of 18 puppies over the holidays. Courtesy photo
CommunityRancho Santa Fe

Three pregnant dogs found, 18 pups born at Helen Woodward

RANCHO SANTA FE — Three abandoned pregnant dogs in Riverside County found safety at the Helen Woodward Animal Center on Dec. 22. A concerned neighbor discovered the homeowners left them behind with neither food or water. Nearby shelters were already filled to capacity, but the dogs and their pups found hope at the center.

“It was a hard time because everybody was leaving for the holidays, added to the fact that these dogs were very pregnant,” PR and Communications Director Jessica Gercke said.

The Helen Woodward team made a special trip up to Riverside and picked the dogs up just before Christmas. The dogs were named Mary, Bethlehem and Noel. Both Mary and Bethlehem whelped on Dec. 26 — combined, they had 10 puppies. On New Year’s Day, Noel whelped eight puppies, which brought the total 18 puppies.

“They are all doing very well,” Gercke said. “Obviously, it’s going to be another eight weeks before they can be made available for adoption.” She added that the female dogs will be spayed and placed in new forever homes.

Since so many dogs are now spayed and neutered, the center rarely gets puppies. There’s always a huge interest when puppies come up for adoption.

But for now, there’s a period of waiting to make sure the puppies are healthy and have a warm area to spend their first weeks of life with their littermates.

As the center helps animals in need, many in the community want to know how they can pay it forward. An enormous need in 2018 will be for families to foster pets.

“The main reason for fostering this year is that we are taking down our adoptions building and building a new one, so for now, we are cutting our availability as far as kennels are concerned in half,” said Gercke, adding that they would break ground on Jan. 14. “We’ve set up a new little Adoptions Village, to make sure we still have adoptions going on.”

Helen Woodward provides its fosters with everything including food, bedding, toys and supplies. No foster parent ever has to put out anything financially, Gercke said. And fostering can range from a weekend, days or weeks. It’s highly flexible.

Gercke said the center is doing the best it can to have as many animals on site. However, some animals will have to be offsite with their fosters.

Once an animal gets adopted at the center, a foster will get notified that it’s time to bring in their pet. It’s a continuous cycle with the mission of saving lives while Helen Woodward builds its new adoption center that will enable the nonprofit to save even more lives.

For those unable to foster, Gercke said that monetary donations are welcomed and very appreciated. Plaques and pavers are available for purchase on which buyers pay tribute to a person or pet.

Every dollar helps so that animals like Mary, Bethlehem, Noel and their puppies can have the second chance they deserve.

For more information on adoption, fostering, or supporting Helen Woodward Animal Center, visit