Amber lying on grey tiled floor looking into the camera

Cruel ‘backyard breeders’ dump sick and pregnant dog

Amber was found in a shocking state and about to give birth any day…

Starving, petrified and heavily pregnant, Amber spent several days hiding around the field she had been so cruelly dumped in.

The golden retriever was so scared that she fled every time someone tried to help her, until she had no energy or will left in her to run anymore. 

She was initially taken to a local vet by a concerned dog walker and arrived at Blue Cross’s Burford rehoming centre in Oxfordshire a few days later, back in March.

We believe poor Amber had been used by backyard breeders and abandoned when it became clear that she and her unborn litter wouldn’t survive without vet intervention. She’s likely to have had many puppies.

Amber when she first arrived in Blue Cross care with red raw sores over face
Amber was in a shocking state when she arrived in Blue Cross care

Amber, four, was skeletal apart from her bulging, pregnant tummy. And her skin was in an appalling state, due to untreated sarcoptic mange. It must have been unbearable for her.

Hannah Wiltshire, Burford Centre Manager, says: “She was so thin. If you stroked her, all you could feel were bones. 

“And her skin was so red and sore. She was bleeding from some spots where she had clearly just been biting and itching so much. 

“We were so worried about her and her unborn puppies.”

Amber looking sad and being comforted by Blue Cross team member

And, several days after coming to Blue Cross, Amber started to show signs of going into labour.

“It was almost like she was just waiting to be in a space long enough to give birth,” says Hannah.

The team feared Amber was too weak to give birth alone. And when a trip back to the vet revealed that her unborn puppies’ heartrates were dipping, they were delivered in an emergency C-section.

All eight were born safely, but the battle to keep Amber and her puppies alive had only just begun.

Amber lying on grass with her puppies when they were four weeks old
It took a team of 25 people to support Amber and her puppies

Hannah continues: “Amber didn’t reject any of the puppies, which was amazing, as that’s a big risk with C-sections and she was so poorly that her body was probably saying: ‘I can’t do this’.

“But she was so stressed. Panting all the time and not sleeping. She was feeding her puppies and keeping them warm, but there was no way she could produce enough milk for them all.”

The team had to step in from the get-go to supplement feed Amber’s puppies, who were named Theodore, Cider, Dougal, Kasper, Winnie, Holly, Sasha and Bailey.

It required more than 25 people from across Blue Cross working in shift patterns – day and night – to keep the puppies alive, fed and cared for.

The team was particularly concerned about Holly, who was half the size of her littermates and born with a hernia.

Amber resting her head in the hand of her new owner who is wearing a red dress

“But we were seriously concerned about all of them,” continues Hannah. “There was a very real risk that all nine of them – mother and litter – wouldn’t make it.” 

The first two weeks were crucial for all. 

But the turning point came when Amber began to trust her carers and see how they were supporting her. She started to relax more – sleeping deeply for the first time.

“She was still feeding the puppies and playing a part in their development, but she knew we were there for her. And when she started taking herself away for time to herself, that’s when we really started to relax,” says Hannah.

Amber sitting on the sofa looking over shoulder and enjoying  a fuss from her new family
Amber enjoying a fuss from her new family

Amber’s skin started to heal, and she learned to trust humans again. Meanwhile, her puppies thrived. 

At eight weeks old, the littermates went to loving homes and it wasn’t long before Amber found the second chance she needed, with Elly and Adam and their two children Sophie, eight, and Laurence, six.

They provided Amber with what’s likely to be her first safe, warm and loving home.

And she helped the family through the grief of losing their two elderly golden retrievers, Henry and Stanley.

“We needed her, and she needed us. We focussed on that,” says Elly.

Amber opening a Christmas present with Laurence and Sophie excitedly looking on in background

Henry, 13, had died a month earlier and Stanley, also 13, a month after the family rehomed Amber.

Amber had developed a close bond with Stanley in the time they had together. But, despite losing her new friend so soon, she continued to settle in well and enjoy her new life.

Elly continues: “It’s really sad [what she had been through] but we could see that the centre had done an amazing job as a team, all pulling together for her and the pups as well.”

“Obviously, we were a little bit tentative to start with because we don’t really know anything about her background other than she’s been a breeding girl. We don’t know if she’s lived in a home, so we took it slowly to start with. But she relaxed quite quickly.

Amber having a fuss from her new family with fairy lights and decorations in background
Amber is now looking forward to her first Christmas filled with love

“She could see that she could make herself at home and have her freedom. And she’s loved watching the children and being around them. She just loves people, and everybody she’s met – she’s so happy now.”

Elly adds: “I think she’s unbelievably stoic with how she’s coped with everything. She’s slotted into our life really well and I’m enjoying having a younger dog to go on long walks with.

“She’s brought us happiness. It’s lovely, she’s the perfect family pet.”

And Amber, once again, has the company of another four-legged friend. The family have recently rehomed a cocker spaniel called Crumble from Blue Cross Burford.

This Christmas, Amber and Crumble will be showered with all the love they deserve in the company of a family that adores them as much as the two dogs do them.

Amber outside on a walk with Elly, Sophie and Laurence

— Page last updated 17/11/2022