A trip to the shelter
If there’s one thing Chris and Mariesa understand, it’s the amount of work that goes into raising and training dogs. At this point in their lives, they’d repeated the process eight times! Therefore, this wasn’t a decision they’d be taking lightly. After lots of deliberation, they came to a decision.
The pair would foster another dog. Even with everything they had on their plate, the couple thought they’d be able to handle one more mouth to feed. So they hopped in their car and drove to Cuyahoga County Kennel. But when they got there, their plans hit a bit of a snag.
Following their passion
You may be wondering how two people can end up caring for eight dogs — and then deciding to take care of another. Well, Mariesa and Chris are passionate about man’s best friend, to say the least. The couple has practically dedicated their lives to providing caring homes to desperate canines.
They’ve been starring in a video series called “Life in the Dog House,” on the OnlyGood TV Youtube channel. The show chronicles what life is like with eight dogs — Gremlin, Sammy, Meatball, The Stig, Moses, Quinn, Money, and Tejas — living under one roof. But things were about to get a lot more interesting…
A misunderstood breed
Mariesa and Chris decided they wanted to adopt a pit bull. It’s important to understand that while pit bulls have gotten a bad reputation, most of these dogs live happily alongside their human companions without any incident. Much of the negative behavior that gets blamed on a dog is a reflection of their owner’s failings.
As long as the owner of a pit bull is equipped to train and raise these dogs with love and care, chances of misadventure is slim — something this couple knew very well. Having rescued and fostered several pitties, Chris and Mariesa are familiar with the breed and try to do what they can to help these misunderstood dogs.
Their devotion to their rescue dogs brought them together
While most couples bond over long walks on the beach or a mutual affinity for piña coladas, that’s not the case with Mariesa and Chris. When they met each other, they instantly felt a connection based on their love of man’s best friend.
Mariesa already owned Money and Tejas when she met Chris, and he brought Gremlin, Sammy, Meatball, The Stig, Moses, and Quinn into the fold. Fortunately, the dogs seemed to get along just as well as the two humans!
A change of plans
So there they were, at the Cuyahoga County Kennel looking for the newest addition to their home, when one animal in particular caught Mariesa’s eye — it was Storie, a (very) pregnant pit bull! Chris admits he was apprehensive at first. “I’m trying to think, is this going to work?” he said. “Is there any way to make this work?”
However, at this point Mariesa had already made up her mind — and soon Chris would be on board too. They may have a litter on their hands in a few days, but surely it couldn’t be anything they couldn’t handle, right? After all, there was a good reason for them wanting to take this dog home…
Giving birth in the shelter is hard on a dog
Chris and Mariesa put the safety and well-being of their dogs above practically all else. When the couple saw Storie in that shelter, they instantly became worried about her. What had she been through up until that point, and would she be able to handle the stress of giving birth in this environment.
In addition, how would her pups fare? The couple knew the staff at the shelter was doing their best, but Mariesa and Chris felt they were better equipped to give the young pups the love and care they needed. Judging by the size of Storie’s belly, the pit bull and her new family were about to have their hands full!
Lots of doubts crept into the couple’s mind as they weighed whether or not they’d be able to bring the dog home. They had agreed to adopt one dog — not however many they’d end up with after Storie gave birth. How would they be able to care for all these new dogs?
Puppies — as Chris and Mariesa well knew — require tons of attention. How would they be able to balance caring for the eight dogs they had at home along with several needy puppies and a new momma? But as Mariesa looked into Storie’s eyes, she found herself drawn in — and when she heard how Storie ended up at the shelter, her heart broke…
Part of what sealed the deal for Chris and Mariesa was Storie’s heartbreaking past. Kept by irresponsible breeders, the poor pit bull had been surrendered to the shelter after her owners decided they’d be unable to afford to care for her and her puppies. It’s hard to imagine how hard this must have been on the pregnant dog.
With tears welling in their eyes, the couple knew what they had to do — they were taking Storie home. “Let’s save the dog, that’s why we’re here,” Chris said. But even as he said the words, he worried about how they’d make it work.
How would the dogs at home react to their new housemate(s)?
For one, what would the eight dogs at home do when another guest arrived in the already crowded household. Chris and Mariesa knew they’d have to make Storie comfortable before she gave birth — but how would that be possible amidst the constant pattering of 32 paws?
The couple quickly put their doubts out of their minds. No matter how crowded their home was it had to be better for Storie than giving birth in the shelter. But on the way home, they needed to make a quick stop. They were going to the place that terrifies most dogs — the vet’s office.
The reason they needed to see the vet
Based on the size of her belly, Storie was a bit overdue to give birth. On top of that, it seemed like she would be having a big litter. Chris and Mariesa were concerned about the health of the new addition to their family. The staff at the shelter admitted they were worried about how distended Storie’s belly had gotten, but all these concerns did was strengthen Chris and Mariesa’s resolve to help this poor dog.
In addition to her swollen belly, Storie’s behavior just seemed…off somehow. It’s not uncommon for dogs to be nervous in that environment, especially when they’re worried about the safety of their pups. Mariesa had a feeling there was something else on Storie’s mind. Was she trying to tell them something?
They arrived at the vet’s office
Mariesa and Chris didn’t waste any time — they went straight to their vet. They needed answers — why hadn’t Storie given birth yet? Beyond that, Storie needed urgent help or she might lose her puppies. With a house full of dogs, the couple was used to making trips to the vet.
The couple didn’t know what to expect when they walked through those doors, but at least they’d have answers. However, nothing could prepare them for what they’d witness when they looked at the sonogram…
What they would see on the sonogram would cause their eyes to widen in disbelief — nothing could prepare them for what they were about to see. Even the vet was shocked and admitted they had never seen anything like it — she immediately pulled out her cellphone to snap a picture!
They counted the skulls on the screen — there were 12 unborn puppies in Storie’s womb! Mariesa and Chris had expected a large litter, but this was something else entirely! The couple’s heads began to spin thinking about bringing 13 more dogs into their home. But how could this be? Even large dogs like Storie typically give birth to only eight puppies at the very most.
The shock turned to concern
When the initial shock wore off, the couple became worried about their new friend and the puppies she was carrying. Would she be able to give birth to so many puppies at once — and would the puppies survive? Mariesa and Chris had hoped to get answers at the vet’s office, but they were left with more questions.
The vet on the other hand, seemed to think everything would be alright. As they studied the sonogram, the vet explained that all the puppies appeared to be healthy. The couple was sent home with instructions on how to proceed.
The hour was approaching
The vet told the couple to stay calm — Storie should give birth within the next 48 hours. If she didn’t by then, they’d need to come back in. Chris and Mariesa had hoped to be calmed by their trip to the vet, but instead they were more worried than ever.
Even so, the couple felt they had made the right decision when they brought Storie home. She was already having a rough and stressful time — at least they could make her feel at ease. As soon as they got home, they tried to make her as comfortable as possible.
A space of her own
Mariesa knew that in order for Storie to have a successful birth, she’d have to be as stress-free as possible. This is not the easiest task in a household with eight other dogs. Even though the other dogs were friendly, their energy levels might make Storie anxious.
Mariesa decided it was best to isolate Storie in a comfortable area. She made the pregnant pit bull a nook in their bedroom, complete with pillows and blankets. Storie quickly made herself at home. But would it be enough? Chris and Mariesa would have to wait and see.
The miracle of birth
Though they were stressed and worried about their new house guest and her unborn pups, Chris and Mariesa tried their best to get some sleep. At least Storie seemed to be comfortable. At the moment, there was nothing left for them to do.
When they woke up in the morning, they were greeted with a surprise — in fact, they were greeted with 12! Storie was nursing a dozen healthy pups in her comfortable bed they had made the night before. The couple was overjoyed. It had only been 18 hours since they had adopted the pregnant dog. Clearly, Storie just needed to be in the right environment.
The puppies grew strong
Storie made a great mom. After all, caring for 12 hungry pups isn’t easy — something Mariesa and Chris could relate to. After two weeks, the little puppies opened their eyes. Soon after, they began playing, barking, and reeking havoc around the house.
While the couple was elated to see the pups healthy and thriving, they knew they had to find homes for them. Even for Mariesa and Chris, 21 pups would be too much. They had a decision to make — and they needed to find a solution, fast. Fortunately, the couple had quite a platform to spread the word!
Finding their forever homes
While they had only intended to foster Storie and her puppies, the thought of keeping some of the pups definitely crossed Mariesa and Chris’s mind. They each had a favorite of the dozen and wrestled with the idea of keeping one or both.
Ultimately however, they decided to give them all away to make room for more dogs they could foster — dogs that needed their help. After they posted Storie’s amazing story on their Youtube channel, the adoption requests started pouring in. Now, all they had to do was make sure each of the puppies went to the right home.
Pibbles and More Animal Rescue helped out
Pibbles and More Animal Rescue (PMAR) is a New York based no-kill shelter that rescues all dogs and finds them happy homes. Their mission statement reads, “We dream of a day when we are NO longer needed. Shelters are empty, Puppy Mills NO longer exist & Humans & animals live together peacefully without abuse, torture & abandonment.”
While they take all dogs, they have a special affinity for pit bulls, since dogs of this breed are so commonly euthanized due to the misconceptions surrounding them. With the combined efforts of both Mariesa, Chris, and PMAR, they were confident the puppies would find all find good owners. With a couple of swift Facebook posts, the pieces started falling into place.
A happy ending to Storie’s story
It wasn’t long before Chris and Mariesa found forever homes for all 12 of the puppies. Of course, they had to wait a few months before they could be weaned and brought to their new families, but afterward, the puppies all adapted well to their new surroundings.
But what about Storie? After all, Mariesa and Chris had only intended to foster a dog — she needed a forever home as well. Fortunately, the couple knew just the place for Storie. Storie would go to Chris’s best friend, Ryan! Ryan is an experienced pit bull owner, who immediately had Storie spayed so she’d never have to go through a traumatic experience like that again.
Tying the knot
Shortly after the debacle of Storie the dodecadog, Chris proposed to Mariesa and the pair were married. Wow, this saga has it all — suspense, danger, and romance! No, they didn’t bring all their dogs to the wedding. However, they couldn’t keep Gremlin and Stig from attending the ceremony.
“I don’t really care what others think about Gremlin being at the wedding because I couldn’t imagine how I even lived without her before I met her,” Mariesa said. “I wouldn’t be able to do this without her.” The dogs went in style — Gremlin wore a lovely pearl wedding collar, a veil, and flower headband, while Stig’s bow tie was encrusted with blue rhinestones.
What’s next for Mariesa, Chris, and the dogs?
This news should probably come as no surprise, but the couple hasn’t slowed down on rescuing and fostering dogs. In fact, their happy family has grown quite a bit since Storie’s saga. Clearly, the couple wouldn’t have it any other way.
Currently, there are 18 rescue dogs in their home, of all different breeds and sizes. If you’re curious about how that’s going, there are a bunch of different ways you can keep up with what’s going on in their lives…
The Mr. Mo Project
Chris and Mariesa have been running a non-profit group called the Mr. Mo Project (named after their late dog, Moses), which connects senior dogs to good homes. Unfortunately, senior dogs that end up in shelters have a high rate of being euthanized since they rarely get adopted.
Mariesa and Chris want to change that — so they’ve created a program that not only connects owners and foster families to senior dogs, but also provides assistance with vet bills and transportation, as well as free and discounted toys, food, and nutritional consultation.
Keeping up with the big family
If you’re curious, you can see what’s going on with Chris and Mariesa Hughes (and their ever expanding house of dogs) on their Instagram accounts @barks_n_barbells and @mrmoproject, or on their Youtube channel, Life in the Dog House.
There’s something for everyone, from dog-related parodies of popular songs, to cooking recipes while dogs look on in anticipation, to the daily struggles and adaptations of living with so many dogs. Speaking of which
Bedtime in the dog house
Have you ever had a dog that you tried to keep off your bed and couch? It’s impossible (or at least really hard to stick to the rule). Apparently, Chris and Mariesa have the same problem — but it’s a bit more serious with 18 dogs in the house.
To make room for all their furry friends, the couple had to get creative. In this case, it meant extending their bed frame to accommodate two full size mattresses. The bed also has a storage unit to keep all the dog toys, and a miniature staircase so the senior dogs don’t feel left out. The bed even has a special meaning for the designer, who incorporated a paw print of his dog that passed away.