Swift action saves miracle puppy

Person holding Pioneer the puppy in her hands
When Pioneer arrived at the Sanctuary, she was barely breathing. Now she’s thriving thanks to the quick action and dedication of her caregivers.
By Alison Cocchiara

Pioneer now spends her days romping with her siblings, cuddling with her mom, and playing with her favorite oversized toy. But life wasn’t always so easy for this pocket-sized pup.

Pioneer was one of more than 100 Chihuahuas in a hoarding case who were removed from a home by Socorro County Animal Control in New Mexico. The dogs were sent to area animal welfare organizations, including Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Large-scale cases such as this can strain animal shelters’ efforts to reach or maintain no-kill, and it takes agencies working together to share the effort and to place those pets in homes.

Right place, right time

Best Friends staff members were already in New Mexico meeting with a shelter in the area when they got the call about the Chihuahuas. The team was able to load up and transport 17 of the dogs — including seniors, adults, and two moms with puppies — back to the Sanctuary the next day, arriving close to midnight.

The dogs were shy, but most were comfortable around people, including Pioneer’s mom, Orca.

“Orca was a little more sociable, so I was able to reach inside the transport crate, take her puppies out, and put them in the whelping box (a space to keep young puppies safe and contained),” recounts Best Friends caregiver Kimmy Grimes. "As I was putting the puppies down, I noticed that Pioneer seemed to be moving a little erratically. Then I heard mama start whining frantically. I looked over and could see that Pioneer seemed to be seizing; she was rolling around like she wasn’t in control of her body movements. After a few seconds, she went completely limp and stopped breathing.”

[Volunteer prepares puppies for their best lives]

That’s when Kimmy jumped into action to revive the tiny puppy. After a few seconds, she felt a weak pulse, and then Pioneer took a huge, gasping breath and started breathing on her own. The team rushed Pioneer to Best Friends Animal Clinic, where veterinary staff helped stabilize her.

“She slowly perked up and started looking for warm hands to cuddle with,” says Kimmy.

Once she was stable, she went home with one of the Best Friends veterinarians for the night and returned to her mama and siblings the next day.

Pint-sized playtime

This pint-sized family of pups needed somewhere safe, comfortable, and quiet to recover and grow. They found just that with foster caregivers Chandra Forsythe and Tina Sylvester.

All the puppies, including tiny Pioneer, are healthy and thriving in their home-between-homes. Tina says they’ve started playing more — wrestling, jumping, and behaving like typical silly little pups.

[First-time foster volunteers team up for a mama dog and her 14 puppies]

“Pioneer’s siblings are all bigger than her, so sometimes they knock her down, but it doesn’t seem to faze her. She’s a sweet, mellow little puppy,” says Tina. “I think she spends a lot of time with her mama. I often see her cuddled up close to Orca, who is a fantastic mama.”

Foster caregivers like Tina also teach the dogs basic skills, such as house-training, to get them ready for adoption. Welcoming a homeless pet into your home through fostering or adoption is one of the most impactful ways to help save animals’ lives. And, thanks to the efforts of their foster family and other caregivers, loving homes of their own are the next step for Pioneer's family. In fact, Pioneer has already been adopted.

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

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill in 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.

Saving lives around the country

Together, we're creating compassionate no-kill communities nationwide for pets and the people who care for them.

Let’s be friends! 

Connect with us on social media to stay in the loop about the lifesaving progress we’re making together.  

Facebook logo    Instagram logo    icon