LANCASTER, Minn.-Kelli Hewitt's standard poodle looked like any other pregnant dog, the dog breeder from Lancaster said.
But she and her family couldn't believe how many puppies were coming as the poodle named Crystal Diamond RD-Crystal, for short-gave birth Aug. 28 at their farm. When Crystal's labor was over, the registered, purebred poodle had 16 puppies squirming around.
"She didn't look really bigger than average, so we were pretty shocked when she kept having babies," Hewitt said.
The Hewitts believe the birth has tied a record for the largest standard poodle litter. Another poodle named Charlie from British Columbia previously gave birth to 16 puppies in 2008, with the owner, Deborah Bridgman, saying she was up for 23 hours helping with delivery, according to a report from The Province, a newspaper based in British Columbia.
The record for the largest litter for any dog breed goes to Tia, a Neapolitan Mastiff who had 24 puppies in 2004 by Caesarean section, according to Guinness World Records. The owners, Damian Ward of the United Kingdom and Anne Kellegher of Ireland, said the dog gave birth to nine female and 15 male puppies.
Though Tia lost four puppies, all of the Hewitt puppies from Crystal survived the natural birth and are healthy, Hewitt said. The mother is doing fine as well.
Crystal didn't have any complications as she gave birth to her first litter, Hewitt said. The family watched over the poodle as she gave birth over a 24-hour period, doing everything they could to make the puppies comfortable, making sure they were properly fed and ensuring they survived.
"We didn't lose one baby," Hewitt said.
The Hewitts, who started breeding dogs five years ago under the name Rockadoodles, are used to having a lot of puppies running around since they are licensed through the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, but they have never had this many in one batch.
"It never crossed my mind," Hewitt said when asked if she would ever have a dog with that many puppies in one litter. "It was a shock."
Miniature poodles average five puppies in one litter while standards typically give birth to six, according to allpoodleinfo.com.
Crystal was bred via artificial insemination to a miniature poodle named Rusty of Rockadoodles, making their offspring moyen, or medium, poodles. The Hewitts also cross poodles with sheepdogs, Australian shepherds, golden retrievers and other breeds.
Not only that, but they have a big family of their own.
Hewitt and her husband, James, have 10 biological children and 18 adopted children-15 from Haiti, one from Ethiopia, one from China and another from Ukraine. Twelve are adults with some in college, Hewitt said, and an 11th grandchild is on the way.
The children help with the business, Hewitt said, adding they put a lot of love and care into the operation.
"The reason that I (started breeding dogs) is it just went really well with our family," Hewitt said. "We have so many children and they just love the puppies so much that they help a lot. The puppies get a lot of attention and playtime with our kids."
The Hewitts had to put the 16 puppies-11 female and 5 male-on a schedule for feedings to make sure they all nursed, Hewitt said. They would tie strings around the pups to tell which ones were on which schedule, she said.
The Hewitts' puppies are kept and raised in their house, but the family is building a nursery for the Rockadoodles business. Some of the dogs they previously raised have gone to homes as therapy animals for traumatized children and those with special needs.
"The amount of love and attention in our home make (the puppies) very people-oriented and friendly," Hewitt said in an email. "They have been very healing for many of our own children who have experienced past trauma, as they learn to reciprocate love and care for an animal."
As for Crystal's puppies, they will be sold or go to the Hewitts' grandchildren.
"My granddaughter next door has already picked hers," she said.