When Gary DeNicola rescued a stray animal in late September, he planned to drop her off at a shelter the next day. But then one dog became 10, and DeNicola became an animal shelter himself.
The commercial real estate executive didn’t hesitate when he saw the small reddish dog dodging traffic at a busy intersection. On his way to Sunday brunch, he had taken a detour through Bolton Road when he spotted her, so he pulled over and coaxed the animal to safety. She was starving and emaciated, and appeared to have been nursing. He searched the area for puppies and found none, so he placed the petite mutt into his car and turned toward home.
At the time, DeNicola had one dog, but by no means was an animal activist. He wasn’t affiliated with any rescue groups, but knew he couldn’t leave the dog in the city streets. He had a plan: keep her that night and drop her off at an animal shelter Monday morning. Ruby, as she soon would be called, had something else in mind.
Not wanting to bring the animal with an unknown background around Tiger, his 12-year-old Cairn terrier mix, DeNicola let the pup eat, drink and rest in his spacious backyard in Virginia-Highland.
“At that point, I actually felt a kick and put two and two together and realized she was pregnant,” he explained.
Still, DeNicola planned to take her to a shelter. He didn’t dream his backyard would become a birthing center. That evening, on Sept. 27, DeNicola noticed the dog begin to hunker down in a garden bed. Next, she was giving birth to one, two, four, seven, and then nine black and tan puppies.
DeNicola began making calls to shelters and soon discovered many area animal rescue groups are at full capacity. People struggling financially had abandoned their animals, and many pets were turned out during the flood, he was told.
“And one shelter wouldn’t take the newborn pups until they were vaccinated,” he said. “I realized — they are mine.”
Cathy Sleva, director of development of the Atlanta Humane Society, confirmed that many shelters are facing overcrowding. The AHS is currently undergoing a renovation and has no space for new animals, but she noted once it completes renovation around Thanksgiving the shelter will have 20 percent increased capacity and may be able to help DeNicola place remaining pups at that time.
DeNicola is now raising the lucky litter on his own until he can find qualified, permanent homes. He built a special pen for the dogs in his basement, not wanting to mix the new deliveries with Tiger, who isn’t sure how to handle the strange sounds coming from below.
“He had been voicing silent protest,” DeNicola said.
Neighbors, like Thomas Brooks and Jody Davis, are pitching in to help the bewildered pet owner.
“Gary was definitely in new father shock,” said Davis, whose 3-year-old son Will Brooks named the mother Ruby for her reddish coat.
He’s taking the pups, now five weeks old, to the vet next week for their first shots and check-ups. He’s already found a good home for Ruby when the time comes to separate the mom and litter. He believes Ruby, who knows how to sit on command and has a sweet demeanor, may have been abandoned when her owner saw she was pregnant. Ruby was scanned for a microchip, but had none.
DeNicola says he doesn’t plan to keep any of the puppies, but may be breaking his resolve. After all, he named a couple with notable characteristics: Winnie, the tiny black escape artist; and The Colonel, the biggest tan boy of the bunch.
People interested in Ruby’s family may contact DeNicola at Â [email protected]