Makayla Grijalva | News-Bulletin photos
LOS LUNAS — It all started with the Chihuahua next door.
Joanna Gallegos said her schnauzer, Rosie, fell in love with the small, white Chihuahua, who belonged to a neighbor and soon gave birth to a colorful litter of eight puppies in early December.
However, tragedy struck just two days later. Rosie had to go outside to do her business, but she slid out of the gate while barking at a pedestrian. A school bus sped down Edeal Road, hitting the 1 1/2 year old pup.
“I went to go and make sure the gates were closed, and she just slid right through. I called the bus compound mad at them,” Gallegos said. “I don’t know what they could do, bring her back or something, but they did say they GPS monitor all the buses and they would talk to the bus driver and let me know, but nobody really said much. They never called back or anything.”
She and her daughter, Grace Lyke, were devastated. Gallegos said they adopted Rosie shortly after moving into their home in Los Lunas — she was their first pet together.
Gallegos said Grace stood strong and after losing her first dog, looked down at the puppies and said, “Well, at least we have eight little pieces of Rosie.”
“I think I would have been more devastated knowing that I had given all of Rosie away in those few days,” Gallegos said, comparing her situation to a similar one she saw on Facebook.
A woman’s dog passed away shortly after having puppies, so the woman turned to social media for help fostering the litter.
Raising the puppies
Since Gallegos has been out of work for the past couple months, she decided to take on the challenge of rearing the puppies herself with the support of her family.
Not knowing the first thing about raising newborn schnauzers, Gallegos began to research with the hopes the puppies grow up happy and healthy.
What came in the next couple weeks were many sleepless nights of feeding all of the eight pups every two hours. Some were too small to take a bottle, so Gallegos and her niece, Ava, had to feed the puppies formula with a syringe.
“I would basically feed them all, get up, boil the water to clean the (bottles) and feed them all again. It was three weeks no sleep,” she said. ‘I was worried they were going to pass away or something bad was going to happen, and I was going to be asleep and not know about it.”
Those fears came close to reality when the runt of the litter, Lovey, became seriously ill not once but twice.
“When this one was dying, I got really scared, thinking, ‘Maybe I’m not doing a good job. Something is going wrong, what do I do?’ I called my family and they are my village.”
Like the scene from “The Green Mile,” when life was blown back into the mouse, Mr. Jingles, after he was stomped on, Gallegos said her dad picked up Lovey and breathed air back into his lungs.
“Now he is the feistiest of them all. When food is out, he won’t stop,” Gallegos said.
Despite the challenges, all eight puppies lived and are nearing 8 weeks old.
“The hardest part for us at this point is realizing that some of them might have to go live somewhere else,” Gallegos said. “Although I want to make a puppy farm and not let any of them go, but the more poop I clean, the more reality that sets in. Maybe I don’t want to keep them forever.”
Gallegos said she had originally intended to transition them into new homes when they hit 8 weeks old, but now as their birthday rounds the corner, the reality of letting them go has been tough to deal with.
“It’s just hard to decide who’s going to stay and who’s going to go. I’ve loved Rolly since the beginning. He’s the big boy,’ Gallegos said pointing to the largest of the bunch. “He was always so easy to love on and always hungry so, I spent a lot of time with him, but it’s too hard to choose.”
Rolly was named after the hungriest character in the Disney movie, “101 Dalmatians,” who looked at his own mom and would say, “I’m hungry mother. I’m hungry.”
“They are going to be very humanized. They are in our arms all the time. The runt gets bullied. They all got teeth before him so he gets babied,” Gallegos said. “I’m kind of their mom, so whenever I’m here, this is what they do to me.”
As the pups crawl up Gallegos’ lap and into her arms, she says, “They want to treat me like a jungle gym.”
Gallegos wants to keep at least three puppies, but lately she is leaning towards four. Her sister wants to keep two, and the neighbor, whose dog is the father, also wants the pick of the litter.
Gallegos definitely wants the puppies to be rehomed with people she knows because of the connection she has formed with each one of them.
“Everyone is like, ‘Who can we have?’ and I’m like, ‘None of them.’ I don’t necessarily want to give any of them to strangers. They are like my children. I stayed up with them through the nights.”
As her journey raising the litter comes to an end, she said she is most grateful to have been able to expose her daughter and her niece to the experience as well.
“A lot of kids don’t get to experience puppies this way, this small and then them being born, so I have let them be involved in all of it,” Gallegos said. “I think if anything, it’s just going to bring them kindness and learn to be caring.”
Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.