A proud mama dog in Northern California recently gave birth to what experts say could be the largest litter of puppies ever recorded in the state.
Stella, a Maremma sheepdog charged with watching over livestock for the Napa Grass Farmer in Fairfield, birthed 17 puppies about a month ago--but the congratulations are only just rolling in.
"We had an excellent vet deliver them because it was way more than we thought,” John Costanzo from Napa Grass Farmer told NBC Bay Area. “They all made it and are healthy."
Jon Costanzo of Napa Grass Farmer shows off his litter
The doctor said it was five more than he has ever seen in his years of practice as the biggest litter he had ever delivered was 12."
According to Constanzo, 17 is the largest litter he's been able to find for the herding breed.
All of the puppies are going to farms, Costanzo Costanzo told InsideEdition.com, because the Maremma is unsuitable as a pet.
"Maremma's aren't bred for the home," he explained. Originally from central Italy, the breed's true name is Maremano Abruzzese.
Constanzo said he's no breeder and the litter came totally by accident. In fact, the father--a big cuddly guy named Orso, who they call Orsoino, or "little bear"--managed to leap over a 4.5 foot fence and squeeze into a closed barn to get to Stella while she was in heat.
Costanzo has posted several photos of the adorable litter, as well as a video in which he demonstrates how he bottle feeds the puppies. He says he fed the pups himself to take some of the strain off three-year-old Stella.
"They've recently started drinking milk from the bowl," the undoubtedly relieved Costanzo told IE.
According to their website, Napa Grass Farmer is a "regenerative" farm, which they say means "putting more back into the land then you are taking out, making it better then it was before for future generations."
The farm raises chickens, turkeys, lamb and even water buffalo. They sell the meat from these animals to San Francisco Bay Area families through a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture.
Constanzo wants all the people who've become so enamored with this hardworking breed and their puppies to know how valuable they are to his and his fiancee's way of life.
"For this type of farming, you need a dog to protect the animals from coyotes, skunks and sometimes possums.
"For families in the Bay Area who want quality meat, we are here. We'll love the animals; all they have to do is love the meat. And our sheepdogs are our partners in making that happen."
You can read more about Napa Grass Farmer on their website.