The nine puppies that narrowly escaped being buried alive this month are in good hands, thanks to the efforts of multiple rescue groups, volunteer bottle-feeders and a welcoming beagle family.

The nine puppies that narrowly escaped being buried alive this month are in good hands, thanks to the efforts of multiple rescue groups, volunteer bottle-feeders and a welcoming beagle family.

“They seem to be strong and they’re eating well, and the ones that were brought up by the other rescues are doing well as well,” said Sarah Page, a rescue coordinator with Happy Tails in Maple Grove, Minn.

The black-and-white pups were saved after their owner tried to bury them alive Saturday at a construction site in western North Dakota.

From there, they traveled across the state, in a sort of puppy relay — first to Minot, then to Harvey, N.D., then -- via Prairie Paws Rescue -- to Jamestown and finally to the Twin Cities and the surrounding suburbs.

There, the pups were distributed among several rescue organizations, including Happy Tails, Coco’s Heart Dog Rescue in St. Paul, Minn., and Rescue Pets are Wonderful in Anoka, Minn.

Three of them are in the care of Jodi Anderson of Isanti, Minn., and her beagle, Missy, who is serving as a surrogate mother for the puppies.

“I brought them in the house in the kennel, and before I even introduced them she was scratching at the kennel wanting in,” Anderson said. “I opened up the door, she laid down and she started cleaning them and she started nursing.”

Missy’s four puppies, who are 4 weeks old, have also taken to the newborns, cuddling them and helping to keep them warm and happy.

All of the puppies in the North Dakota litter are black and white, and they were likely just born when they were rescued, as at least one still had its umbilical cord attached upon arrival in Minnesota.

“They’re too young to kinda tell what their personality is,” Anderson said. “So far, they’ve been very good.”

As newborns, the puppies are still very small and quite fragile, Page said.

The pups need to eat every hour and a half to every three hours, around the clock, which makes bottle-feeding them a huge commitment.

That’s what’s happening to the puppies without a surrogate mom.

“We have four of the puppies,” said Ashley Kurtz, founder of Coco’s Heart Dog Rescue. “They are with two very qualified foster families that have experience with bottle feeding newborns, and as of right now, all four are strong and eating well.”

One of the bottle-feeders is a technician with an animal emergency clinic, and the other is an experienced foster mom for rescues, Kurtz said, so they know how often and what to feed the pups, how to stimulate their digestion and what health problems to watch out for.

“It’s important to keep these puppies in a very clean, safe, warm environment, so we’re being as careful as we can to make sure that they’re strictly handled by their bottle feeders,” Kurtz said.

The pups who are being bottle-fed are likely at a disadvantage compared to other puppies.

“A dog mom is going to pass some antibodies along in the milk, whereas puppies on formula might not get that same immune stuff,” said Dr. Dawn Entzminger, veterinarian at Dr. Dawn’s Pet Stop in Jamestown. “They still get all the proper nutrition.”

The milk formula is nutritionally very good, and will keep the puppies healthy and strong, she said.

Additionally, the milk produced by a mom has the most antibodies right after she’s had the puppies -- so Missy’s will be more diluted anyway.

However, provided bottle- and surrogate-fed puppies are isolated from possible sources of infection and get plenty of nutrition, they have a good chance at survival.

“As long as you have dedicated feeders of the puppies it can be very successful. The thing they might lack, a little bit, is in the transfer of the immunity you would get from a live dog,” Entzminger explained.

Bottle-feeding a puppy requires a great deal of time, care and patience, Kurtz said.

“The actual people that are doing that are so dedicated and they’re just a blessing in general for the animals of the world,” Kurtz said.

It’s not clear yet what breed the black-and-white puppies are, or even if their fur is long or short. They could be border collies, pit bulls or any of a number of other breeds, but they do seem to be from a larger breed, Page said.

In four to five weeks, they will be weaned, and then they’ll spend another three weeks in foster homes before being spayed or neutered.

There is an application and screening process for anyone wishing to adopt one of the pups, Page said, and those who can’t adopt but wish to help can make a donation, as each dog rescued costs a couple of hundred dollars.

“We are always in need of donations to help put towards our veterinary bills, and we are all in need of foster families and volunteers,” Kurtz said. “… Any amount is greatly appreciated.”