Right in the middle of bleak news locally, nationally, and abroad, came a ray of sunshine for a community in Wilmette, Illinois. While much of the world was shut down during the pandemic in March 2020, the Truskowski residence became the most popular sidewalk destination in town thanks to a litter of newborn foster puppies!
It’s not hard to imagine how these tiny puppies brought joy and hope to the community. Just look at the cuties above!
As word began to spread among friends and neighbors, the Truskowskis graciously set up their windows for easy viewing of the daily goings-on of these rambunctious pups and their loving mom. They drew many visitors from near and far, and soon, they found themselves in the news!
DogTime checked in with them a year later to see how the events changed the lives of their family, the dogs, and the community.
Where It All Began
AMANDA: This has been a whirlwind year for you! Thanks so much for taking the time to update us on your story!
JEN: You’re very welcome! I’m happy to share!
AMANDA: How did this all start for you? Why did you decide to foster?
JEN: It’s my husband, Bill’s, fault. We were just sitting around mid-March when everything was shutting down and the kids were home from school.
My husband said it would be the perfect time to foster. Our previous dog, Lulu, had passed away three years ago. We love dogs and thought it was a perfect idea.
AMANDA: That’s lovely. Was it a difficult process?
JEN: I called three different rescues, and I only heard back from one of them. So, I posted on Facebook and asked for suggestions, and someone recommended Wagging Hearts Rescue. I got a call from Martha, a transporter for them. They get all of their dogs from one kill shelter in Kentucky that’s always full. They go down and get as many fosters as they can.
AMANDA: Wow, that’s a wonderful mission!
JEN: It is! She called me back and said everyone had taken all the dogs, but the only one that was left was a pregnant dog. She said pregnant dogs pretty much took care of everything themselves. I was shocked no one had taken the pregnant dog, because it sounded so cool.
The Family Meets Nellie
AMANDA: How did your family react?
JEN: I told my two girls, ages 13 and 15, and my 13-year-old started crying, she was so excited. I told my husband the three of us had agreed we should foster the pregnant dog. He thought it was a bad idea, but he was overruled.
AMANDA: That’s so funny! Well, it was his idea in the first place.
JEN: Right? I had to let Martha know quickly, because the driver was going down soon. It was tricky at the time to cross state lines, with the pandemic restrictions. She actually got stopped by the police when they saw her Illinois license plates. But when she explained she was there to save dogs, they let her go.
AMANDA: Wow, what an adventure! I’m glad that worked out. What was it like when she came home?
JEN: We got Nellie, the pregnant dog, on Thursday, March 27. She literally didn’t know what to do with stairs.
She was terrified to come inside and wouldn’t come through the door, she was skin and bones, flea and tick-ridden, and she had definitely lived outside.
We carried her inside and gave her a bath.
AMANDA: That’s so sad. She’s lucky you guys opened up your home to her.
JEN: Thank you! She was really a sweet dog. I thought right away she could be a service dog. She’s so chill and sweet. But in retrospect, I think she was just malnourished. She’s full of energy now!
Nellie Gives Birth To A Litter Of Adorable Puppies!
AMANDA: That’s wonderful! How long before she gave birth to her puppies?
JEN: One week later, she gave birth. We took bets as a family, and the winning stakes were to name the puppies.
The highest guess was mine, at ten puppies, but she actually had twelve!
Eleven made it, and the other we gave a proper burial.
AMANDA: Wow! That’s a lot!
JEN: It sure was! I already had an Instagram page about renovating our Victorian-era house, but I began posting puppy updates on the page, too.
AMANDA: Pupdates? I love it! I’m actually already a huge fan of your Instagram page. It’s been giving me — and the world — a great dose of puppy adorable-ness this year!
JEN: I’m glad to hear it! So yes, I let people know on my Instagram that we’d be fostering these puppies and that people could stop by.
I thought a couple of my friends would humor me and visit, but — there were lines of people down the block!
People started saying that the neighborhood was so happy. They’d visit our window every day; we’d given them something to do.
Little kids would write cards and leave them. People would drop off presents, toys, treats, pee pads, even an embroidered towel with Nellie’s name on it.
AMANDA: That’s so beautiful.
JEN: It was, and is. It reinvigorated my faith in mankind. It was such a nice experience for the whole town.
People came in from suburbs all over the place. They couldn’t go to parks at the time, so they’d just come and watch the puppies all day.
People even came to walk Nellie for me, while I was busy with the puppies. Also, a vet lived around the corner, which was great. One of the puppies had a lump on their neck, which made me nervous. When you’re fostering, it’s kind of a no-man’s-land, because you have to take the animal to the rescue’s vet.
But my neighbor was so helpful. She came over and helped take care of him. Everyone was so generous with their time.
A Learning Experience For Everyone
AMANDA: What was it like for the kids?
JEN: My kids had a great experience, too, talking to people through the window. It was such great education for them, almost like being tour guides. They learned so much.
There was a little girl who visited twice a day, often bringing presents. One little boy, Owen, came by with a ton of questions every day. I think this was really valuable for kids. And for our family, it was so fun, so nice.
AMANDA: That’s wonderful!
The Pups Mingle With The Locals
AMANDA: I bet your neighbors got attached to the puppies!
JEN: One of my goals was for neighbors to fall in love with the puppies so they could stay in the neighborhood. From the eleven puppies, seven are here in Wilmette, two are in Winnetka, and one is in Kennilworth. Only one is farther than two miles away. The puppies all get together and have play dates.
AMANDA: That is wonderful! How did you figure out where the puppies would all go?
JEN: With our rescue, Wagging Hearts, we asked if we could have a say in who could have the dogs. They said yes, that would be great because it saved them time and effort with screening, and they knew we’d have personal insight on these people’s home environments and families.
That was great, because I felt like I was giving away my own children. It was very hard.
They were so much fun, but also very hard, emotionally, at the end. I was ready, but it was hard.
The Puppies Get On Television
AMANDA: How did you end up getting featured in the news?
JEN: Dina Bair, from WGN, was following my house-restoration Instagram, and when she saw the puppies I posted, she asked if we could do a segment on WGN. Then, once it was on the news, friends from everywhere started calling.
AMANDA: That is so cool!
Give Fostering A Try!
AMANDA: Do you have any advice about fostering, especially about fostering a pregnant dog?
JEN: I highly recommend fostering. Everyone is so supportive. Share it with your friends. Make it a community project, and it becomes ten times more rewarding.
Puppies are innocent, sweet, optimistic; they’re all about cuddly, fuzzy cuteness. I would definitely do it again. I loved doing it so much.
It’s a ton of work, but you love the baby animals so much that you don’t mind doing it for them. I’ve never handled so much poo in my life.
If anyone’s kind of considering it, they should totally do it. It’s great if they have the time and space.
AMANDA: That’s great advice!
The Pups Left Their Mark
AMANDA: How has this experience changed your life?
JEN: We didn’t really know what we were in for with the pandemic, but it was such a great experience. I realized how kind our town was, how good and kind people are. It made me appreciate our community even more.
Sometimes, you don’t get to see that, but I was inundated with it. It was the most heartwarming thing.
It was a depressing time, but this sunny, beautiful thing got us through it.
I think it was especially good for our kids. It was a great experience for our kids to interact with all ages. This made me love dogs even more.
AMANDA: That’s really beautiful!
Nellie Picks Pappy
AMANDA: How did you decide which dogs to keep?
JEN: We feel like our family is complete now with just the two; sometimes, even that seems like a lot now! We were not intending to adopt, just foster.
But as soon as we met Nellie, we fell in love with her and knew she wouldn’t be going anywhere.
With the puppies, we loved them all, so we let everyone else pick which one they wanted. When only three were left, we watched how Nellie was with them all. Nellie definitely favored Pappy. Pappy is the runt.
Nellie treated the others less gently and less patiently, and there was a marked difference with how she interacted with Pappy — much sweeter. So because they already had this very close bond, we thought it would be nice to keep them together.
AMANDA: That is so sweet!
Helping Other Foster Pet Parents Take Care Of Puppies
AMANDA: After this whole adventure of puppies and fame, did you have people you didn’t know reaching out to you from farther away?
JEN: Yes! There was a girl on Facebook who messaged me. They adopted this cute, little Doberman and named her Dina. They saw that her nipples started popping out all of a sudden. The rescue had no clue she was pregnant! They’d had her a week, and then eleven days later, she had ten puppies!
The fosterer was terrified, so she messaged me for advice. The rescue said they’d take the dog back, but this girl loved the pregnant dog so much that she didn’t want to give her back.
I gave her lots of advice about the whelping box, towels, how to help with the birth, etc. Her story ended up very similarly, where friends, family, and neighbors adopted the puppies.
We ended up meeting them in person later! She loved the experience, even though it was such a surprise. They’d wanted one calm, potty-trained dog, and they ended up with puppies.
I gave the same advice of how to choose which puppy to keep by watching the mom’s interactions with them and which was the best relationship.
AMANDA: That’s wonderful!
Puppies Are Hard, Rewarding Work
AMANDA: What was your day-to-day life like, with all these puppies?
JEN: It was a ton of work for us, making sure they were all fed and healthy. Besides poop and deworming — they all had worms; those were gross — everything else was sweet and joyful. Everyone pitched in and help.
The girls helped a lot, learned how to be selfless and take care of others. So many great lessons. So much good came from it. I didn’t sleep much, but besides that, it was great!
In regards to not sleeping — it was just like having human babies. In the beginning, we had to feed them every two hours. There were more puppies than nipples on Nellie, so we had to rotate [the feedings].
We took turns sleeping on the sofa, even the kids, for the first seven weeks. Nellie or the puppies had to wake us if they were hungry. Nellie was eating so much, for the puppies, so she had to poop a lot.
It was nice to see how willing to pitch in my teenage girls were. They rallied; they were great.
An Amazing Experience In A Tough Year
AMANDA: I just can’t get over what an amazing journey this was for your family, especially during such a dark time for the world. You truly saved these dogs’ lives, and it sounds like the experience changed your family forever.
JEN: Every day had something fun and new. It was such a rewarding experience from day one. In early May, the puppies were only four weeks old, and Sarah, my daughter, was 13 at the time. Sarah loved holding up to five puppies at a time and laying down and snuggling with them.
She said, “Mom, this is the happiest time of my life,” and I thought, “Wow, I won COVID! I won 2020!”
It was a major mom victory. I was so happy my kids were so happy.
AMANDA: What an incredible story. These dogs were as lucky to have you as you were to have them. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story with your neighborhood, with us, and with the world!
- To see what Nellie, Pappy, and the other puppies are up to, visit Jen’s Instagram.
- For more information about Wagging Hearts Rescue, please visit their website.
Are you happy to see puppies bringing people joy during the pandemic? Would you ever foster a pregnant momma dog and help her care for her pups like the Truskowski family did? Let us know in the comments below!