Gaia was a feral dog when Tri-Cities Animal Control officers found and trapped her in October northeast of Pasco.
Shortly after Gaia's capture, the agency discovered the young shepherd mix pooch also was pregnant.
Animal control called father/son veterinarians Charles and Todd Coleman for help Dec. 5 when Gaia's pregnancy approached full term.
Their practice, Pet Medical Center of Pasco, often volunteers medical aid and housing for lost, homeless or feral animals the agency picks up. Gaia is the ninth feral dog the medical center has helped during the past year.
"Animal control asked if we could help with Gaia, who was getting ready to give birth," said Rachel Current, one of medical center's vet assistants. "She went into labor two days after she was brought to us and had eight puppies."
Todd Coleman handled the birthing of Gaia's pups. Four of her babies came naturally, but then she began to struggle with her labor, and the last four had to be delivered through cesarean section.
Coleman said Gaia's uterus began to tear, which sometimes happens when it becomes fragile after a dog becomes stressed from birthing.
Several of Coleman's staff members volunteered to assist in reviving the pups as Coleman pulled each one from Gaia. One of the babies inhaled liquid from the intestinal tract during the procedure and required extra oxygen to save her, Current said.
"We almost lost Gaia that day and one of her pups," she said. "But Dr. Coleman saved the day."
Though most people are familiar with feral cats, feral dogs aren't so common. And a feral dog isn't always as ferocious as one might expect.
"Mostly, a feral dog is just scared," he said. "With that comes fear biting. But once they have a meal and a warm place to stay, they tend to calm down a bit. Gaia was quite shy at first."
There is a feral dog population northeast of Pasco that animal control has been trapping for the past few years.
"With a lot of help from the people who live out there, we're seeing that population dwindle," said Jenny McCombs, the animal care manager for Tri-Cities Animal Control. "Mostly, we were catching the puppies because they were easier to catch. It was a little harder trying to catch the adults. But we have high hopes to help as many as we can."
The Pet Medical Center of Pasco also is doing its part to help that effort, Coleman added.
"We try to help animal control as much as we can because they are so overloaded with (homeless) animals they're trying to help," Coleman said.
The medical center fosters as many homeless pets as it can, gives the animals any medical attention they may need and provides spay and neuter procedures. Coleman's team also provides an adoption service that provides all vaccines, spay and neuter surgeries and vet visits for a year. The cost is $32.95 a month for that year with an $89.95 adoption fee.
Gaia and her babies will be ready for adoption about Valentine's Day, Current said. The puppies appear to be a mix of husky, shepherd and mastiff, she added, though at just more than a week old, it's still a little hard to be sure.
But come February, all eight of the adorable little butterballs -- Reginald, Memphis, Rooster, Big Delores, Miss Nesbitt, Miss Brisey, Vivian and Noche -- will be ready for a loving home.
For more information about Gaia and her family, call the Pet Medical Center at 545-4931. Or drop by and check out the puppies at 8823 Sandifur Parkway.