One of nine puppies whose owner tried to bury them alive at a construction site in western North Dakota has been hospitalized.

One of nine puppies whose owner tried to bury them alive at a construction site in western North Dakota has been hospitalized.

“She’s a trooper, and I know she has a will to survive, which is why we do not want to give up on her at all,” said Ashley Kurtz, founder of Coco’s Heart Dog Rescue.

Helen, a black and white pup whose breed remains unknown to her rescuers, was brought to the Animal Emergency and Referral Center of Minnesota in Oakdale, Minn., at 6 a.m. Thursday after her health started a rapid decline early that morning, said Kurtz, whose organization took in Helen and three of the other puppies.

As of Friday afternoon, Helen has shown some interest in food and was showing signs of improvement, though she remained in an incubator at the center as vets and technicians worked to get her rehydrated.

“She’s doing pretty well. She’s showing some pretty steady signs of improvement,” said Dr. Alex Molldrem, a veterinarian with the center. “... She’s able to prop herself up a little bit. She’s able to take a bottle, which is good.”

When Helen was brought in, she was severely dehydrated, weak and in a state of shock, Molldrem said. To stabilize her, he said, she was given “an awful lot of fluids” to improve her blood pressure and heart rate.

She was also given anti-diarrheal medicine and fed through a tube.

Should Helen’s health continue improving, she may become stable enough to be released Sunday -- along with a $2,000 bill for the around-the-clock veterinary care that saved her life.

“We just need all the support we can get right now. We obviously weren’t expecting that veterinary bill to be so expensive,” Kurtz said.

The four puppies Coco’s Heart is caring for will likely cost the organization at least $3,500 when their spaying or neutering, blood work, vaccinations and microchipping are taken into account. That leaves the rescue organization short on cash, as it has raised only $635 -- less than 20 percent of what will be needed, assuming all the pups stay healthy until they can be adopted.

And that’s only the cost for the four puppies that Coco’s Heart took in. The other five have been cared for by other rescue operations -- Happy Tails in Maple Grove, Minn. and Rescue Pets are Wonderful in Anoka, Minn. -- which will also need to pay their puppy-related bills. Then there’s Prairie Paws Rescue of Jamestown, which spent money on gas to help get the pups to the Twin Cities area.

“Hopefully, with continued veterinary care, (Helen will) stabilize and go back to her foster home,” Kurtz said.

Puppy health is delicate

Puppies, Kurtz explained, are very fragile, and even a single minor problem can send a puppy spiraling into decline. Helen, for example, had just a bout with diarrhea before she became disinterested in eating, which put stress on her tiny body.

Her caretaker, Leah Seiberlich, is a veterinary technician and recognized Helen’s distress quickly and knew to bring her in for emergency care.

Seiberlich is also bottle-feeding and caring for another of the puppies, named Hank, who remains healthy -- as do the rest of the pups in the litter.

Two more of them are with Brittney Anderson of Stillwater, Minn., a former rescuer with bottle-feeding experience. Her puppies have visited the local veterinary clinic for check-ups, and have had some supportive care, such as fluids and anti-diarrheal medicines, but they are doing well.

Meanwhile, three of the pups are being nursed and cared for by surrogate mom and beagle Missy.

“They have doubled, almost tripled in size,” said Missy’s owner, Jodi Anderson of Isanti, Minn. “She’s feeding them away, and still cleaning them and she’s doing very good.”

Anderson calls them “the miracle puppies,” and has named them Honor, Faith and Hope. The pups’ older surrogate siblings have been weaned and separated from their smaller brethren because they kept trying to wrestle and play with them, but Honor, Faith and Hope themselves still stick together.

“They all like to cuddle in a ball,” Anderson said. “They all cuddle together and everything.”