Beethoven's 16th

UPDATED 05/22/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/22/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

The first two arrived at a little after 11 a.m. on April 7. In the course of the day, they just kept coming: Block Head, Diamond Head, Diamond Back, Dot. Also, Hank Parker, Spacey, Lucky Pup, The Rock, One-Eyed Willie, Wussy Pillow. Not to mention: Casper, Cow, Zee, Disco, River. And, smallest of all: Pee-Wee. "Every time I went to check, there'd be another one!" marvels Gregg Howard, who watched in wonder as Ariel, his 2½-year-old purebred, delivered 16 Saint Bernard puppies in the laundry room at the Philmont, N.Y., home he shares with wife Renee Wendover and the puppies' dad, Chewy.

It's the second litter for Ariel, and although it's not the largest ever, it's close: There are only two litters on record that outnumber Ariel's. (An American foxhound who had 23 puppies in 1944 in Pennsylvania holds the top spot in The Guinness Book of Records; next comes a yellow Labrador who gave birth to 18 last year in Utah.)

Mother and puppies are doing fine, thank you, making their home on the couple's enclosed front porch. But feeding time has been hectic. The pups, arranged and choreographed by Wendover, 29, have nursed in two shifts of eight. "That way," says Wendover, a waitress who has been married since 1993 to Howard, 42, a state highway worker, "they didn't have to scramble."

Still, what does one do with 16 Saint Bernard puppies—go on large-group Alpine rescues? Actually, Wendover and Howard are planning to sell 15 of them, at $1,000 each; so far, nine are spoken for. And the 16th? "Whoever is left," says Howard, "is ours."

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