A black Labrador retriever and two of her puppies were shot in the head with a nail gun before they, and six more pups, were left on the side of a snowy country road in Quebec to die.
The cold, malnourished animals were found in Quebec's Eastern Townships on Dec. 22.
A 17-year-old who lived in the area spotted the canines early in the evening but the dog did not want her near the pups so she called neighbours Geneviève Sabourin and Ken France, who had experience in animal rescue.
It took about half an hour before the mother would let them place a leash around her neck and approach her young. She then led them to another pup, which was lying on its side and trembling.
"As I was petting the top of her head, I was feeling something hard," Sabourin told CBC News. "Then slowly the ice melted and I realized it was metal — metal in the head of that little puppy."
Another pup who had been shot in the head, and was already dead, was found in a rubbish bag nearby.
Société protrectrice des animaux (SPA) workers arrived and took the animals to the Granby shelter.
The seriously injured pup died during the drive and veterinarians later found that two nails had been driven into its skull.
They were able to remove a nail, which was about eight centimetres long, from the back of the mother’s skull.
"Obviously she's been extremely lucky because there are no aftereffects ... she was on antibiotics to make sure there would be no infection," the CBC quoted Sabourin as saying.
The other puppies, who are believed to be between two and three months old, were unharmed.
“In my opinion these dogs were abandoned the same day they were found, maybe just a few hours before they were found,” Serge Desmarais, manager of the SPA in Granby told The Montreal Gazette.
After a local newspaper published an article on the story hundreds of people called about adopting the animals and they now all have homes.
“I just keep thinking of that mother (dog), what she went through and the way she just kept focusing on protecting her pups even though she had a nail in her head,” The Montreal Gazette quoted France as saying. “That had to hurt, and she just went on taking care of business, being maternal. She is the real hero in this John Martin, director of the Granby SPA told La Voix de l’Est: " What we think is that whoever did this clearly intended to kill his animals, but, as it was not as effective as hoped, he decided to abandon them in a ditch. We can not let this crime go unpunished. "
The Montreal Gazette has several pictures of the dogs online and CTV has a video.