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Sheepdog gives birth to huge litter of 17 pups

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Posted at 2:49 PM, Mar 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-06 18:22:31-05

A Maremma Sheepdog named Stella recently gave birth to a huge litter of 17 puppies in California, according to the dog's veterinary team.

Stella -- who guards and protects livestock for Napa Grass Farmer -- gave birth on Jan. 29, according to Heidi Schwartz, a veterinary technician for Barney and Russum Animal Clinic in Fairfield, California.

Stella had given birth to two puppies on her own, but then needed help with the rest, Schwartz told ABC News today.

"We did C-section, and it was just one puppy after another, after another," she said. The newborn litter was "the largest" she and the lead doctor had ever witnessed, she added.

Even more incredible than the litter's size was the fact that all the puppies survived and that all of them were "happy, healthy and strong," Schwartz said.

The dogs' owners, John Costanzo, told ABC News today that the puppies just turned a month old and are happily playing and growing on his farm.

"Their personalities are just starting to come out now, and you have some more rambunctious, others more reserved and others that are very loud and boisterous," he laughed. "They're all being trained to sip milk out of a bowl now."

The farmer added that he plans on keeping one or two of the puppies. He said he plans on having the others adopted out to other responsible farmers in the area who rotate their cattle and livestock and keep them in the open air.

"It's really important to us that the pups go to farms and not suburban homes," Costanzo said. "They're bred for protection and work and if they're just in a home setting, they will get bored and restless easily. They love keeping busy and thrive in a farm setting."

The largest recorded litter of puppies is 24, which were born to a Neapolitan mastiff in the U.K. in 2004, according to Guinness World Records.