A British couple are seeing spots before their eyes, but their vision is 20/20. The spots are the ones bedecking a record litter of Dalmatian puppies — 18, to be exact.
That’s 83 Dalmatians short of the proverbial 101. But this is real life, not a Disney movie, and the tally is still impressive.
On Friday, TODAY show viewers got their first live look at what is being called the largest litter ever delivered by a Dalmatian. Born by Caesarean section on Dec. 23 to Button — a purebred that, appropriately enough, is a daughter of one of the stars of “102 Dalmatians” (the sequel to “101 Dalmatians”) — the pups posed in all their glorious cuteness in the home of Button’s owners, Nicola and Adam Morley.
“They’re the Duggars of the doggy world,” quipped host Meredith Vieira, referring to the famed Arkansas family that welcomed their 18th child into the world last month.
Busy with the brood
Huddling together, the squirming, spotted mass was more swarm than litter, a virtual puppy pond.
Button, like any other new mother, hasn’t gotten much sleep since delivering her brood.
“She’s been really good,” Nicola Morley said of Button. “She’s awake most of the time. She’s hardly slept at all, actually. All she wants to do is be with them.”
Button has her own box where she nurses six pups at a time. The other 12 are tended by Nicola and Adam and their oldest son, Michael, 17, who have been rotating eight-hour shifts caring for the pups since their birth.
Every hour, six pups go in the box with Button while one of the Morleys bottle-feeds and tends the others.
Adam Morley described the job as “keeping them all fed and keeping everybody clean and happy. We’re around the clock, 24 hours a day.”
When the pups were born, the Morleys daubed each of them on the head with a different color of nail polish. They use the colors to identify them so they can keep track of their weight and progress.
The Morleys, who have two other Dalmatians, have given the pups Christmas-themed names: Santa Claws, Jingle Bells, Santa’s Helper, Brandy Butter, Balsam Fir and so on. There are 12 males and six females in the litter.
They’re keeping one pup, Rudolph Reindeer. The rest are already spoken for.
“Some are actually going to friends and families,” Nicola Morley said. “Some we’re going to sell as well, because they’re costing a lot of money to raise.”
The Morleys have three children: Michael, George, 9, and Thomas, 7, who is autistic and has syringomyelia, a spinal condition that can lead to severe disability. They got their first Dalmatian, Dottie, nearly five years ago when they saw how well Thomas related to the dog. They added Button three years ago and also have 15-month-old Perdy, from Button’s first litter of 11 pups.
When Button had that first litter, the Morleys said that Thomas just lit up, coming alive emotionally and expressing love, concern and care. Thomas’ reaction convinced them to breed Button again for a second litter.
Countdown to V-Day
They expected seven or eight pups, but when their veterinarian performed the C-section, everyone was shocked to find that Button was carrying 18 pups. It took just nine minutes to deliver all the offspring as a team of four nurses worked frantically to clear airways and get all of them breathing.
The 18 pups bring the total that the Morleys have raised to 48, which includes one litter delivered by Dottie. The Morleys have said they’ll probably shut Button down after this litter, because they’ve run out of good homes of people they know to place the pups with.
The Morleys will keep on their round-the-clock schedule until Valentine’s Day, when the pups, which will be weaned at 5 weeks of age, will be on solid food and ready to go to their new owners.
On the same day, Nicola and Adam Morley will celebrate their 17th wedding anniversary.
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