Foster home is simply the best for mama dog and pups

Tina Turner the dog, lying on the floor, being hugged by a person
What’s love got to do with it? How a dog named Tina Turner and her puppies were a case of foster love at first sight for an 11-year-old girl.
By Lindsay Hutton

Laura Gallagher and her daughter Isabella are no strangers to fostering. The Gallagher family had been fostering pets for years with Best Friends and other organizations, and on their most recent trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, Laura and Isabella spent time volunteering. Dog lovers committed to rescuing, they already had two adopted dogs at home, both adored and named by Isabella: Jimmy Waffles and Sparkle Syrup.

Last summer, a month before school started, Isabella wanted to foster a pet — perhaps a puppy — before the summer ended. She and Laura went to the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in L.A. to see whether there was a single dog or puppy who needed a foster home. It turned out that a single puppy wasn’t available. But there was a mama dog named Tina Turner with two pups; they had come through illness and needed the quieter, calmer space that only a home could offer.

Best Friends’ goal is for all shelters nationwide to reach no-kill in 2025, and people who step up to foster pets, either with Best Friends or any animal shelter or rescue organization, play a vital part in reaching that goal.

Isabella took one look at Tina and her sweet, fuzzy babies and said the Gallaghers had to foster the family. Laura hesitated at Tina’s intimidating size. How would she behave with her young daughter? During a meet and greet, Tina gave a show-stopping performance of affection, gently nuzzling Isabella’s face and giving out dog kisses. When it came time for the staff to take Tina back to her room, she clearly didn’t want to go. That sealed the deal for Laura.

It was true: They already had two adult dogs at home. But they were in the position to keep Jimmy Waffles and Sparkle Syrup separate to provide a peaceful place for the foster dogs. They went to lunch and talked over the idea with Laura’s husband, Jerry. When they came back, they said yes. They would foster the big mama dog and her pups, even though, in all of her years of fostering, Laura had never taken in a mom and pups together. This decision would change — for the better — their family and the lives of Tina and her babies.

Heartache and healing

Two-year-old Tina had been brought to an L.A. County shelter shortly after giving birth to seven pups. A large, busy, municipal shelter isn’t the ideal place for a mama dog with pups because the environment can be stressful. And with city and county shelters at capacity in L.A., it was even more imperative that soulful mama Tina and her pups be moved. All needed medical care, and three of the pups died at the shelter before the family came to Best Friends.

Medical complications took two more of Tina’s pups, leaving her with just two of her seven babies. The veterinary staff worked to get the little family healthy, and it was a tenuous situation at first. Tina was diagnosed with giardia and canine coronavirus, and the puppies were stricken with diarrhea.

But after a lot of TLC from the medical care team, within a few weeks the two remaining pups and Tina were stable and on their way to healthy. With the worst behind them, Best Friends staff member Ana Pulido and the rest of the team began working on placing Tina and her puppies in a foster home.

So when Laura and Isabella said they would give the family a foster home, Ana was overjoyed. “Laura was just this gift from the universe,” she said. “We were really struggling to find a foster home for a large breed dog and her puppies. It was incredible to find someone just willing to give it a shot.”

[Foster family welcomes six puppies to the world]

Ana acknowledges that taking in a mama with puppies can be a daunting assignment. That’s why Best Friends has put a lot of support in place. All food and supplies are provided. Bilingual dog foster mentors are available seven days a week. There is a 24-hour emergency line. There’s also a network of previous foster volunteers who are willing to talk to new people and let them know what to look out for.

With all the supplies and support, they took Tina and her puppies home to settle in.

As the puppies grew healthy and strong, the Gallaghers noted they were not only super cute but also very intelligent — just like their mom. The family worked to house-train the puppies to make their transition to a new home easier, and it didn’t take long for them to be adopted once they were old enough. And that left just Tina.

Tina gets a new home and new name

Tina stayed in the Gallaghers’ care for a while after the puppies left and before her spay surgery. During that time, Laura introduced her to Jimmy and Sparkle. They loved her.

Sweet, well-behaved, smart, and loved by everyone in the household, Tina fit into the family. And when Laura took her to the center to meet a potential adopter and saw how Tina only wanted to come back to her, she couldn’t bear the thought of parting with Tina. So they made a decision: Tina wasn’t going anywhere because her home was with them.

It wasn’t a surprise to Ana. She says, “I kind of knew that Tina wasn’t going anywhere when Laura sent me a picture of the three large dogs in the kitchen, all sitting next to one another, calmly waiting on Laura to finish fixing their dinners.”

[A perfect storybook ending for a mama dog in need]

When the decision had been made that Tina would stay, the last step of her integration into the family was her getting a new name. Isabella and Jerry chose the name Lagertha Linguine. Lagertha, according to Viking legend, was a female ruler and shield maiden. The strength and perseverance suggested by the name was fitting, they felt, for the dog who had been through so much and worked so hard to care for her young. And Linguine because Isabella gave the other two dogs food names as well.

Lagertha Linguine went from a vulnerable mom in need of a safe place to care for her puppies and recover from illness to living a dream life. This winter she traveled to Montana with her new family and experienced snow for perhaps the first time. She got caught up in a game with Jimmy Waffles and Sparkle Syrup, bounding through the powder like a deer, joyful and unafraid.

Let's make every shelter and every community no-kill by 2025

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill by 2025. No-kill means saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved, accounting for community safety and good quality of life for pets. 

Shelter staff can’t do it alone. Saving animals in shelters is everyone’s responsibility, and it takes support and participation from the community. No-kill is possible when we work together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively.

Silhouette of two dogs, cat and kitten

You can help save homeless pets

You can help end the killing in shelters and save the lives of homeless pets when you foster, adopt, and advocate for the dogs and cats who need it most.

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