WATCH: Bella delivers record-equalling litter of puppies for Limerick family

Nick Rabbitts - PICTURES: Brendan Gleeson

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Nick Rabbitts - PICTURES: Brendan Gleeson

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nick@limerickleader.ie

A LIMERICK family had planned a trip to the vets to give their dogs the snip – but then Covid-19 happened.

Now they’ve got 15 bundles of joy on their hands!

The Killing family were astonished when Archie, an Irish-setter/English-springer spaniel and Bella, a labrador/border collie produced a brood of 16 puppies.

While one baby dog has sadly died, the incredible birth equals the second largest number of puppies in a single delivery – and is understood to be the largest in this country.

Bella, aged 15 months, gave birth to the puppies at the family home in Crecora.

But, mum-of-five Mary Killing says were it not for the Covid-19 lockdown, the family would never have welcomed these joyous critters.

“The neutering appointment was cancelled during lockdown as it was not considered urgent,” she explained, “We tried keeping Bella and Archie apart: we tried nappies, Vick’s Vaporub and we separated them for a couple of days. It wasn’t to be though.”

The incredible delivery began on Saturday, July 25 with 10 puppies popping out by midnight, and a further six following the next morning. There were eight girls and eight boys in total.

“I was in absolute shock. The vet had told us she was going to have eight to 10 puppies. So having 15 was quite phenomenal. It’s a record I think,” she added.

Mary explained how she was relaxing at home when the first of the extraordinary litter came.

“It was a shock to the system. Bella was panting heavily inside on my sofa. I’m in the middle of a re-run of Game of Thrones with me feet up, and next up, a pup was delivered onto my lap. You can imagine! So we steered her in under the stairs. We had a big duvet cover set up for her,” she added.

“We had to get a suitcase the following morning to put them into to count them as they were wriggling all over the place. It was just phenomenal. We were in awe. They are all different colours – and some of them have the mark of Zorro on their head, some have it on their chest.”

It’s been ideal for Mary, who works in the University of Limerick president’s office. For due to Covid-19, she has been able to work from home, while at the same time caring for the new dogs.

”It’s been tough, it’s been hard work. I’ve been rotating them onto her teats because she obviously hasn’t got 15. So I was on my hands and knees. It coincided with my 10 days annual leave from UL, which was great,” she added.

The family has decided they are only keeping one of the litter, first-born Walter – named by 11-year-old Isaac after Where’s Wally because he kept hiding!

The rest of the litter – all incredibly born without the supervision of a vet – are going to family and friends, including one to her eldest son Josh, 24, who lives with his partner Maria Healy in the city.

Dougal the puppy will join Ted the cat in their household.

Mary is not taking a red cent for any of the dogs – saying all she wants in return is a guarantee they will be loved and treated like one of the family.

The puppies will leave for their forever homes this weekend, and Mary admits she will be “bawling” when they go.

“I thought at one stage, I’d have 17 leads as I love them all,” she concluded.