Tails of survival

Barely alive at birth, rescue pup may be world's smallest

March 23, 2012 at 12:36 PM ET

Image: Small dog
Lisa Van Dyke / El Dorado DOG Photography

She’s two weeks old, she’s tiny, and — like the title of a song penned by her namesake — she’s a survivor.

Meet Beyoncé the puppy. She’s smaller than an iPhone and scarcely bigger than a business card. When she was born, she weighed 1 ounce and was so little she could fit in a spoon. Animal rescuers are hailing her as an unlikely success story after her brushes with death, and her foster mom is trying to confirm whether she’s the tiniest rescue puppy on the planet.

Beyoncé was the runt of a litter born on March 8 to a beleaguered dachshund mix named Casey. After being abandoned by her owner, Casey found herself in a family way on the streets of San Bernardino, Calif. Devore Animal Control picked her up and planned to have her spayed and readied for adoption — but Casey was too far along to have her pregnancy terminated. Because the shelter couldn’t accommodate a canine mom with a brand-new litter, Casey was scheduled to be put down.

Image: Small dog
Lisa Van Dyke / El Dorado DOG Photography

That’s when volunteers who work closely with the shelter contacted The Grace Foundation, a last-chance dog rescue organization in Northern California. About three weeks ago, The Grace Foundation gave Casey and her forthcoming brood a place to stay.

Grace workers brought Casey to the vet, where an ultrasound revealed that the mom-to-be was pregnant with five puppies. One of them — (pssst ... it was Beyoncé!!) — was unusually small and wasn’t expected to survive.

Beyoncé was the last of Casey’s five puppies to be born, and her arrival was dramatic. At birth, she didn’t have a heartbeat and she wasn’t breathing. Dr. Michael Russell, The Grace Foundation’s veterinarian, quickly began giving the puppy heart compressions. That jump-started her heart — but she still wasn’t breathing. So, Grace founder and executive director Beth DeCaprio acted fast, almost without thinking, and began performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the tiny dog.

Image: Small dog
Lisa Van Dyke / El Dorado DOG Photography

“There is a very fine line when doing rescue — we want all of the animals to survive, but only if they can have a quality life,” DeCaprio told TODAY.com. “I would never keep an animal going if they were suffering or if they could not enjoy a good life.

“Dr. Mike was surprised when he got a heartbeat, but when it came to getting her breathing he handed her back and said, ‘You can do that,’” DeCaprio added. “It was actually a little funny, and gross, trying to get my mouth around hers, but after a couple of really small breaths she took a deep breath and started to really move around. We cleaned out her little nasal passages, and I gave her a couple more breaths and then she started breathing on her own!”

WHEW. Today Beyoncé is still smaller than the rest of her siblings, but she’s grown to 4.3 ounces and she’s thriving — and she’ll be available for adoption in just a few weeks. For the time being, Casey, Beyoncé and the four other puppies are staying with DeCaprio, who’s serving as their foster mom.

“Our hope is that Beyoncé and her miraculous story of survival helps spread awareness about the plight of rescue dogs,” DeCaprio said. “Most people are not aware of how many dogs and pups are euthanized each year because shelters do not have the capability of holding onto them until they are weaned and able to be spayed and neutered. In the last year we have taken in hundreds of animals that are in animal control agencies ... and would have been euthanized.”

As for a Guinness World Record attempt, DeCaprio has submitted a fast-track application but hasn’t received any feedback yet. “We will let you know as soon as we hear anything,” she said.

To learn more about The Grace Foundation, visit its website. To see even more photos of Beyoncé and her litter mates, who also will be available for adoption, see four additional images below and check out this photo gallery on Grace’s Facebook page.

Image: Small dog
Lisa Van Dyke / El Dorado DOG Photography
Image: Small dog
Lisa Van Dyke / El Dorado DOG Photography

TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey has read lots of “Clifford the Big Red Dog” books with her son, and she just knows that Beyoncé will grow and grow in the right human’s heart. Here’s where to find Laura on Facebook and Twitter.

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