In Colorado, This Maternity Ward Just for Dogs Is as Sweet as It Sounds


Earlier this year while the devastating winter storm ravaged Texas and caused massive power outages, a mixed-breed dog named Addison faced her own crisis.

Deemed “aggressive,” Addison was close to being euthanized while she and her 14 puppies huddled in an outdoor kennel, slowly but surely freezing to death.

That’s when Moms and Mutts: Colorado Rescue for Pregnant and Nursing Moms (MAMCO) stepped in. The nonprofit transported a total of 117 puppies, dogs, and nursing moms from Texas to Colorado, including Addison and her litter. The group’s founder and executive director, Aron Jones, fostered Addison herself.

“She wasn’t every aggressive–she was terrified,” Jones told The Dog People. “Now she’s the nicest dog you’ll ever meet in your whole life. She just needed a little bit of love. It took me a good six weeks to get her to let me touch her without wincing like I was going to hit her.”

Addison. Photo courtesy of MAMCO

Just for Moms

Jones founded MAMCO in 2017 after fostering a pregnant cattle dog mix named Kady who gave birth to 12 puppies–and being horrified to hear pregnant dogs are often euthanized when they enter shelters. Since then, the group has saved nearly 8,200 moms and their pups.

“The moms–there’s something about them. They’re where my heart is. They’re so grateful to be safe and they’re so sweet and they just get this maternal piece that you can’t duplicate in any way,” she said. “I see a lot of moms that they deem aggressive, but it’s not that they’re aggressive–they’re protecting their babies. They’re doing their job.”

Aron Jones, founder of Moms and Mutts: Colorado Rescue for Pregnant and Nursing Moms. Photo courtesy of MAMCO

About 90% of the dogs come from Texas, though MAMCO also transports rescues from Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Alabama. Jones relies on an “amazing” staff of 18 and around 480 active fosters. Some fosters take in pregnant moms and help them during birth, while others take in puppies who need bottle feeding every two hours because their mother has been killed or couldn’t be found.

Litters are named for the moms–such as Mama Addison’s litter–or whimsical names Jones chooses for orphaned litters, such as the Game of Bones, Cabbage Patch, Cereal Spillers, Crate Escapes, and 6 Pack litters. All breeds are a guess, and it’s obvious when litters have different fathers, such as a Mastiff or a Chihuahua.

“We get some really, really weird litters but they’re all cute,” Jones said with a laugh. “They’re all sweet.”

MAMCO has saved nearly 8,200 moms and their pups, like Kevin. Photo courtesy of MAMCO

So. Many. Puppies.

Adoption fees include spay/neuter, microchip, vaccinations, deworming, a bag of transition food and other support. For instance, if someone adopted a puppy from another organization that died of parvo, MAMCO will provide cleaning supplies and resources to help make sure the home is clean of infection before adopting one of its own dogs to the family. The idea is to take care of adopters as well as they take care of their dogs.

“We really care about our adopters too, because we want these adoptions to be long-term, successful placements of our dogs,” Jones explained.

Though MAMCO revised its lengthy application at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic to include questions about how potential adopters would continue to care for puppies after stay-at-home orders lifted, Jones finds it concerning that people have begun returning dogs, saying they no longer have time for them. Right now, about three to five dogs are returned each week.

“The adoptions have just stalled because the world’s opening up again. Between them and the returns, it’s been really challenging,” she said. “We have 180 available puppies this weekend. It’s out of control ridiculous.”

Adoptions have begun to stall as society reopens during the pandemic, but there are still many dogs and puppies looking for forever homes. Photo courtesy of MAMCO

Foster Families Are the “LifeBlood”

Donations also plummeted during the pandemic, but MAMCO soldiers on in the mission to save moms and babies. Before the organization agrees to take puppies from owners who have an “oops litter,” the people must sign a contract to get the mama dog spayed to avoid future accidental pregnancies. They work with the South Plains SPCA in Lubbock, Texas, to sell deeply discounted spay vouchers for $100 to area residents; when the dog is spayed, MAMCO refunds the money.

“One of the biggest problems down there is access to spay and neuter, and there’s a lot of poverty,” Jones said. “If you have to choose between feeding your family and spaying your dog, you’re going to feed your family. That’s just the long and short of it.”

She’s grateful to the network of fosters in Colorado that cares for 50-100 moms and puppies transported from Lubbock to Denver each Tuesday, calling them the “lifeblood” of the organization.

Maternal Instincts Are Allowed to Shine

With so many puppies being born and needing care, new volunteers are often surprised to learn that pregnant mama dogs do most of the work. Though the staff is available 24/7 to support fosters during births, only one dog has ever needed a C-section.

“I think it’s easier to take a mom with puppies than it is to take a litter of puppies, personally,” she said. “Because the mom takes care of them. She teaches them how to behave like dogs, she teaches them bite restraint and how to play appropriately.”

A dog nurses her puppies. Photo courtesy of MAMCO

Denver resident April Sanders and her husband started fostering two and a half years ago after meeting a beautiful dog on a hiking trail who was adopted from MAMCO; their first night, they fostered four puppies.

In May of 2020, Sanders channeled her grief over her father’s recent death into fostering a special case: Presley, a mama whose puppies had been adopted, but was still feral and needed a patient foster or adopter to work with her.

Rescuers had found the little Rat Terrier/Chihuahua mix in Texas with her sister and 10 puppies.

“They weren’t sure whose puppies were whose, because they were both taking care of each other’s puppies and bonded together,” Sanders told The Dog People. “So they were the ‘Pitter Patter’ litter.”

Sanders fell in love with Presley and the couple adopted her. She’s still timid, but is also sweet and loyal–she loves to be close to Sanders whenever she’s home, and lies right next to her on the bed. She also plays with the other family dogs: Harley, Riley, and Dakota.

Presley (center, top), a former stray, enjoys life at home in Colorado. Photo courtesy of April Sanders

All in the Family

“Every time I bring puppies home to foster, Presley always is the one that plays with them, and nudges them and kind of teaches them,” she said. “It’s pretty cool to see that mom instinct come out.”

Sanders believes so strongly in MAMCO’s mission that now she and her daughter both work for the organization. Last fall she even did her first whelp with a mama, named Athena, who gave birth to six puppies.

“It was just the coolest thing to help mom break the puppy out of the sac, and rub the puppies to get them dry and then give them to her,” she recalled. “It was just amazing to watch them and how she instantly became protective of them. She was friends with all of my dogs until those puppies were born, and then it was her job to protect them.”

The only dog Mama Athena allowed in the pen with her puppies was a fellow mom: Presley, who wanted to be around the babies. MAMCO found good homes for all of the puppies and their mom. Sanders loves when adopters share photos and videos of the dogs on the group’s active social media pages.

“Once someone adopts from us, I always say they’ve become part of the MAMCO family,” Sanders said. “The highlight of our day is when people send us pictures of their puppies. It just makes it all worth it.”

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