ROLLA, N.D. (KXNET) — The Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue has seen all kinds of cases. Every month, Keith Benning and Wanda Gonzalez rescue 60-100 animals out of their garage. However, one particularly frightening case proved to end in a Christmas Miracle as a puppy with an iron heart and a will to survive captured hearts all across the globe.

On December 21, the rescue received a call about a mother dog and her pups trapped in a precarious position. As they worked frantically to save the family, one of the rescue team members livestreamed the occasion, showcasing the horrible situation they found the dogs in to their audience of over 450,000 Facebook followers.


“It was -24 below and I had gotten a report about a mom that had puppies under a porch,” recalls TMAR’s Keith Benning. “The ground was frozen, the people that reported it tried to coax mom but she wouldn’t come out. After picking up a bunch of other dogs that night, me and Brian (another member of Rescue Staff) went over there with pick axes and shovels. We chipped away at the frozen ground, it was hard like concrete. Every time I swung the axe I had to close my eyes cause ice crystals sprayed my face.  It was slow going and took 5-6 swings just to break loose a half inch of ground, about the size of the quarter. When we chipped away enough room for me to get half my head and one shoulder through, I was able to get a lead on mom and coax her out. I had one of those grabber arm/trash picker things and with that was able to tell that all the other puppies were dead, frozen, but one puppy was standing up in the corner.”

When the single surviving puppy was recovered, she was hypothermic, heavily wounded, and barely moving. Her unsteady feet and sunken eyes were making people wildly concerned whether she would make it through the next few nights. When TMAR posted videos and updates on the dog’s condition, they were met with overwhelming support from commenters all over the world — all of which were hoping for a holiday miracle to save the little pup.

“This puppy has been through the worst I have ever seen,” reported Benning in a video update. “Bite marks, a bad infection, dehydrated and hypothermic. I honestly have no idea how she survived this long. I don’t know if she will make it or not, but if she doesn’t, she will pass warm and loved. Everyone say a little prayer.”

Shortly after TMAR began taking care of the puppy, Sarah Foraud — a supporter of the organization from the United Kingdom — shared the fact that her mother had passed away. The woman, named Roma, was described as “a wee petite lady of five feet… but she had the heart of a lion and a lot of FIGHT!” As it would happen, many of these traits also applied to the brave rescue pup, and so she received her name: Roma.

As the time passed, over 300,000 people kept tabs on Turtle Mountain Rescue’s Facebook page for updates on Roma’s condition. Eventually, four days after her rescue, a video was shared of Roma wagging her tail before walking across the floor. This was the confirmation everyone wanted to see — Roma was happy and healthy, on Christmas Day of all days.

“The whole team was surprised and grateful for the outpouring of support. We realize Roma’s story is meaningful to people in different ways,” said Benning. “Maybe the Christmas miracle is that she was rescued in order to bring eyes and help for the others that still need to come in.”

For now, Roma and her mother are currently staying at the rescue before making a total recovery. We hope that in 2023, the puppy and mom will be able to return to full health, and eventually find new forever homes!

If you’re interested in seeing Roma and the other animals Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue have saved, visit their Facebook page or website.