ACWORTH, Ga. – A sick and feeble dog was found along the side of a rural Georgia road—cold, hungry and pregnant with a litter of puppies.
The yellow Labrador retriever-pit bull mix was alone and wandering around Cherokee County’s countryside, north of Cartersville, Ga., for approximately two weeks, before a good Samaritan picked her up and reached out to Caroline Claffey, a volunteer with the Cherokee County Humane Society.
Claffey, of Kennesaw, Ga., picked her up on Saturday, Dec. 30. The dog was afraid of people and refused to eat. And Claffey quickly noticed that the dog was pregnant.
"She had just started lactating which told us that she was about to have her puppies somewhere within the next seven days," Claffey, who is now fostering the dog in her home, said.
Her teeth had been filed down and she had been overbred—but her owner could not be located.
"She was very timid. Her teeth were all broken and flat which tells us they were either deliberately filed or she broke them by probably chewing on the bars of the cage and she clearly had had a lot of litters of puppies. Her teats were infected and overused and chewed to the point where most of them were not even producing milk at all."
And that told the dog-lover a lot about what this dog's life had been like before she was found.
Best-case scenario she lived in someone's backyard, where she was not spayed, was neglected and had several litters without a lot of direction, Claffey said, tearing up, about the dog she named Kiah, which means, “new beginning.”
"Worst-case, she grew up in a puppy mill and just had litter after litter with very little medical intervention. When we X-rayed her, when we took her to the vet, we found old shotgun pellets near her spine. So, clearly, she had been shot. At some point in her life."
The veterinarian estimated that Kiah was 4 years old and performed an emergency C-section in an effort to save her life—the puppies inside of her had already been dead for several days.
PHOTOS: Homeless dog consoled by stuffed animals after losing puppies
While her life had been spared, Kiah woke up “devastated and confused," according to the Cherokee County Humane Society's Instagram page.
"Dogs absolutely have the same range of emotions that we do. Maybe not to the same extent, but they experience grief and pain and depression. It's not uncommon for dogs to be depressed if they lose puppies," Claffey confirmed.
But, she said, Kiah's situation is different.
Typically, when a dog gives birth to a stillborn puppy, she has the opportunity to smell it and to see it and understand what happened and to accept that it has died.
"She's done this a lot of times, so, she knows what's supposed to happen. And then this time, one day she had puppies and the next day they were gone. So, she doesn't really understand where they went or why. So, and her hormones are in overdrive. They're telling her that she's a mother but she doesn't have any babies to take care of. So, she's just sad."
Claffey tried introducing Kiah to another litter of puppies, but she not only wasn't interested, she growled at them.
"I think she's had so many puppies she's not really big into puppies in general she just wondered where hers were."
It’s been a lonely new beginning without her puppies. So, on Tuesday, Jan. 9 her caregiver tried something that a friend suggested—she gave her foster dog some soft, cuddly stuffed animals… to be her surrogate puppies.
"I went to a toy store and I got her three little tiny ones and then one regular-sized one and then one that's for newborn babies that vibrates and plays lullabies.
At first, she was leery of the new toys.
"When I first put them in her box, I couldn't tell if she liked them or if she was just upset that I was putting things in her box with her. But I went up to check on her a couple of hours later and she had gathered them all close to her and had her head resting on them. And if I moved them she would follow them. So, that's helping her a little bit," Claffey said.
Now, Kiah only eats if she can hear the lullaby the toy plays.
It's one of those things, she said, when she watches Kiah cuddle with the stuffed animals, it comes off as adorable, but then, she remembers how heartbreaking it actually is.
"I think for Kiah, [they're] just something to soothe her when she needs it, which you know she deserves after the life she's had--plus that one that vibrates, she really likes that one because it feels like it feels more like a living creature."
Kiah update: She has been home from the hospital for a few days, she seems to be suffering from depression so today her foster went out and got her some stuffed animals to help comfort her... she's not eating unless she's hand fed but we're hoping a little more time & the new fuzzy "pups" will help her heal not only physically but emotionally as well. Please keep this sweet girl in your prayers... she's been through so much ... we just want her to get well so she can get a forever home & start her new life!!!
A post shared by Cherokee County Humane Society (@cchsrescue) on
“She has been home from the hospital for a few days, she seems to be suffering from depression so today her foster went out and got her some stuffed animals to help comfort her... she's not eating unless she's hand fed but we're hoping a little more time & the new fuzzy "pups" will help her heal not only physically but emotionally as well. Please keep this sweet girl in your prayers... she's been through so much ... we just want her to get well so she can get a forever home & start her new life!!!” the Humane Society wrote on Instagram.
Claffey created a GoFundMe page for Kiah’s medical expenses, including her $900 surgery and the heartworms that she was diagnosed with on Friday, Jan. 12.
To date, the page has raised $1,925 of $1,000 of its goal, financing her surgery and then some.
"Some dogs just tug on your heart strings and they shed more light on the fact that there are a hundred Kiahs just in the state of Georgia that we haven't heard of, but they're out there."
Physically, Kiah is recovering very well, Claffey said. Now, it's just a matter of treating her mental state, with toys, hugs and treats, as well as medicate her for her heartworms.
Then, once all her vaccinations are up to date, and she's mentally healthy enough to make the transition, Claffey said, the Humane Society will put her up for adoption and try and find her a loving forever home.
"She has a home with me for as long as it takes. But ultimately, the goal is to find her someone who will love her and keep her forever," Claffey said.
Visit, GoFundMe.com/kiahs-new-beginning, to donate to Kiah’s care and the Cherokee County Humane Society's shelter.