Lilly: Four-legged single working Mom

What an amazing week!  Last Sunday night at 9:45pm, the text came in. “Lilly is in labor.”  I arrived at 10:30pm.  Poor Lilly was panting non-stop and obviously uncomfortable.  She had an important job to do; she was giving birth to a litter of puppies who will be trained to make a significant different in the lives of veterans and other children and adults with special needs.

But giving birth isn’t her only job.  Lilly is actually a working dog herself.  I witnessed her graduation at the Hazelton Prison a year ago last November.  She now works with her owner/handler/mother, Candace, in an elementary school classroom for children with special needs.

Lilly’s puppies will be trained by prison inmates at a women’s prison in West Virginia.  This program is run by a non-profit, paws4people, which I wrote about previously.

But back to the birth of the puppies.

Terry and Kyria – who run paws4people – took shifts watching Lilly for signs of going from labor to pushing. While we waited, I photographed poor Lilly as she tried unsuccessfully to get comfortable.



After five hours of watching poor Lilly with no indication that the puppies were coming any time soon, we all fell into an exhausted sleep.

Now puppies are born with their own individual placentas, which means Lilly had to push out each puppy individually.  The puppies usually come out in their little sac.

The mom breaks the sac, bites the umbilical cord and licks the puppy, which is designed to get the puppy breathing and I think keep the puppy warm too.  As a first-time mom, Lilly might need a little help doing what she needed to do for the puppies.

But at 4:30am, while we slept, Lilly pushed out the first puppy.  The birth woke Terry.  The good news, the sac was broken. The bad news, the puppy lay next to it, not moving.

I ran upstairs to get Kyria.  Terry gently picked up the puppy’s body. We assumed the worst.  As he snuggled the puppy, she began to move! Terry raced her to Lilly, so that Lilly could work her mommy magic.  It was a happy time, with Claire (mom of the previous litter) coming in to admire this little miracle puppy.

Puppy birth: Don’t blink or you will miss it!

Now generally, the puppies come out in their little sacs, but that little puppy’s must have broken on the way out. Here’s how puppies usually come out:


Lilly pushed out seven healthy puppies and, sadly, one who did not make it.  It took her about three and a half hours from the first to the last.

It was truly an amazing experience to see these little guys and gals be born.  I’ve been back to photograph them since their birth.  Here are just a few highlights, more to come.



Sponsorships are available for the puppies:

$500 for medical care

$250 for their “back-to-school” supplies including leash and vest

$200 for care and feeding until they are ready to move to the prison for training at around 10 weeks.

Your generous sponsorship comes with a low resolution jpg of “your” puppy.

Of course, all donations are welcomed.  Email Kyria Henry, Founder and Deputy Executive Director paws4people: kyria.p4p@gmail.com




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2 Responses to Lilly: Four-legged single working Mom

  1. Chris says:

    Oh these are just adorable!! Awesome images capturing the whole process and then the baby puppy pictures, I love them all!

  2. Tam says:

    Fantastic photos, Joan! Good job, mommy!

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