Three Manitoba police officers have won the unofficial title of Cutest Animal Rescue of 2018, after digging five puppies out of a tunnel near the community of Rivers earlier this week.
Two constables and an auxiliary cadet were on an unrelated call to a rural property Monday when the owner asked them for some help unearthing the three-week-old pups.
It appears the mother dog had dug a complex network of tunnels and buried the puppies more than a metre deep after they were born, Rivers Police Chief Bob Futrell told HuffPost Canada.
"One of the puppies crawled out of the tunnels in really bad shape, which got the owner worried about the state of the others," Futrell told HuffPost Canada.
The officers quickly got to work, and after about two hours of careful digging, they rescued the entire litter.
"We've never had anything quite like this," said Brian Simard, acting assistant manager at the Brandon Humane Society, where the puppies are now being cared for.
Simard said while it's not unusual for mother dogs to birth their litters in isolation, he's never heard of a dog digging such an expanse of tunnels or burying puppies so deep.
Simard told HuffPost Canada that all the puppies are doing well, especially the lone female pup — nicknamed "Pickles" by the rescuing officers — who was initially very dehydrated when she emerged from the tunnels.
The puppies, which Simard said are likely a small, mixed-terrier breed, will be available for adoption through the Brandon Humane Society in approximately four weeks.
Simard, channeling his inner Bob Barker, said the rescue is a good reminder for animals owners to have their pets spayed or neutered.
"These pups were lucky. If there hadn't been an intervention it could have been a much less happy outcome."
This marks the second high-profile puppy rescue to make headlines out of Manitoba this summer. In July, a "Gilligan's Island" crew of seven puppies were rescued from an uninhabited island near Cross Lake.
Learn more about how the puppies were brought back to civilization in our video below: