Kirsten Willis could have been forgiven if the four puppies she took into foster care in March had not survived.
She was told that the four siblings, the runts of a litter of 10, were six weeks old, but they weighed just 600 grams, and were so weak that they couldn't stand.
One died a short time later but the other three made, and now the rat pack, as they were originally known (because they looked like drowned rats when Kirsten took them on) are full of beans and ready for homes.
The puppies, the offspring of a Staffordshire terrier-type mother, which had simply found raising 10 puppies beyond her, and possibly a shar pei father, had largely been confined to the laundry at Kirsten's home at Ahipara until last week, when they were let loose on the lawn, and on Friday they had the rarest of experiences, meeting a stranger.
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That gave rise to great excitement, and an insight into the kind of homes that Kirsten hopes they will find.
They would make lovely pets, she said, but Labradors they were not. They would need plenty of room and opportunities to live life to the full, and "they'll be dogs with attitude," she said.
All three were sufficiently different in appearance to easily tell apart - two had inherited their father's distinctive rolls - but were very different in nature. Boo was "super-chilled, a bit of a doofus really," Puffin was always happy, even when being reprimanded, and Ren was shy.
All three were in riotous good health, but Kirsten accepted that, depending on their taste in dogs, some would find them irresistibly gorgeous while others would see them as not making the oil painting category.
She had fostered the pups for the Kaitaia SPCA, and anyone who might want to adopt one (or more) of them would have to arrange that through the office in Kaitaia.