7 min read

Dog Becomes Mom To Every Puppy — And Kitten — She Meets

“We pretty much can’t bring in any baby animals into the house without her getting involved.”

Pirate has a habit of adopting puppies who have lost their moms. Not only does the 5-year-old dog cuddle and clean them — she also produces milk for them to nurse. But Gabi Vannini, Pirate’s owner, never expected her to adopt a tiny, orphaned kitten.

In June of last year, Pirate was rescued from a hoarder’s home in Michigan, where a total of 98 dogs and 3 cats were found covered in feces and urine. Pirate had two puppies at the time, and three of them went into foster care with Vannini.

Dog with puppies in yard
Pirate and her two puppies after being rescued | Gabi Vannini

Vannini ultimately adopted Pirate, and when Pirate’s puppies grew up, she helped find them loving homes. But it didn’t take long for Pirate to start mothering again, although she’s never had puppies of her own again. Instead, Pirate started adopting the foster animals Vannini brought home from the Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center.

Rescue dog and puppies in yard
Gabi Vannini

“The first time I took home bottle babies from the shelter, it was just for a night until a rescue was going to take them,” Vannini, who also serves as public information coordinator for Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center, told The Dodo. “I thought, ‘Pirate is really sweet with puppies, so maybe she can clean them and keep them warm while I bottle-feed them.’”

But Pirate did more than keep them warm — she started producing milk for the puppies, despite the fact she stopped nursing her own puppies over a year ago.

Dog nursing puppies
Pirate nursing one of her surrogate litters | Gabi Vannini

“She was immediately like, ‘Oh yeah, you guys can start nursing. You’re my puppies,’” Vannini said.

Dog nursing large puppies
Gabi Vannini

Pirate didn’t just do this once — so far, she’s adopted and nursed more than nine foster puppies, including three currently in her care. Then, last month, Vannini brought home a scrawny, filthy and very feisty 1-week-old kitten named Nebula, who’d been found living outside on her own.

“[Nebula] was covered in fleas,” Vannini said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many fleas on a kitten in my life. So I bathed her to try and get the fleas off … and the whole time, she was just throwing a tantrum.”

Rescue kitten wrapped up in blanket
Gabi Vannini

Vannini planned on bottle-feeding Nebula, but she felt bad about Nebula not having a family. A kitten as young as her needed to cuddle up with her mom and siblings.

“I thought, ‘You know, I wonder if Pirate would take in this kitten,’” Vannini said.

Puppy caring for kitten

Vannini decided to try — and sure enough, Pirate did. “Pirate was immediately like, ‘Yup, this is my baby too,’” Vannini said. “And she just started licking her and cleaning her.”

Pirate also started giving Nebula her milk, but Vannini worried about Nebula nursing alongside the three puppies.

Dog and kitten outside in the grass
Gabi Vannini

“She was about 5 ounces when she came in, and the puppies were about a pound and a half,” Vannini said. “I thought, ‘There’s no way she’s going to nurse with the puppies.’ But she did. I walked out for 20 minutes, came in, and she’s in there, on top of them, nursing by herself.”

Dog nursing puppies and kitten
Pirate nursing the three puppies and Nebula | Gabi Vannini

“She made it very clear very quickly that she had no problems with [the puppies],” Vannini added. “She seems to have no idea that her siblings are four times as big as she is. And the puppies have been very gentle and very sweet with her.”

Puppies and kitten on chair together
Gabi Vannini

Nebula loves being around the puppies so much, she threw a tantrum when Vannini tried introducing her to a litter of kittens she recently started fostering.

“She was like, ‘Where’s my mom? Where are my siblings? Why am I with cats right now?’” Vannini said. “So we immediately put her back with the puppies, and she was like, ‘OK, I’m happy now.’ And she cuddled up and went to sleep with them. She’s a character.”

Kitten sleeping with puppies
Gabi Vannini

Nebula and the puppies are growing up fast, and when they’re big enough, they’ll be up for adoption.

As for Pirate, Vannini wants to give her a much-needed break — after nursing and caring for nine puppies as well as Nebula, she’s bound to be exhausted. But Vannini is sure that it won’t take long before Pirate starts helping orphaned babies again.

Dog lying on top of another dog
Gabi Vannini

“She’s just this really cool, really unique dog,” Vannini said. “She wants to mother everything. We pretty much can’t bring in any baby animals into the house without her getting involved.”

If you’re interested in adopting the puppies or Nebula, contact Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center. You can also follow their progress on the shelter’s Facebook page.