Updated: Jan 15
Willow's journey with us started on 6/24/22, after we were asked to help with some dogs from another nearby shelter. They were in a crisis situation and were trying hard not to euthanize. We agreed to help and took Willow and her six siblings who were then about 4 months old. Willow was by far the smallest of the group - just 11 pounds at the time. She was so sweet and loving, not to mention adorable, with her slighly wavy mostly black coat and longish hair around her ears. She had the softest, sweetest puppy eyes and was not overly active.
Our amazing adoption team found a home for her in short order and we began to get her ready for her new family. who was super excited to have her join them. It was during this time that we picked her up and happened to feel a strong vibration from her heart. Since she already had an appointment for a health certificant which would allow her to travel across state lines to her family, we made sure to bring this to our veterinarian's attention.
The news was not good. He believed Willow to have a heart defect called Patent Ductus Arteriosis, which means that a blood vessel that should have closed when Willow was born, did not. As a result, blood was being pumped in a circular motion and her heart was having to work overtime to get the blood supply needed to other parts of her body. Little Willow was living on borrowed time and would need heart surgery if she was going to live.
We were referred to a veterinarian in Columbia who does that type of surgery for a consultation. Willow's diagnosis was confirmed through an EKG and ultrasound and we were told that she would not live beyond one year old with this defect. Her only chance was to have the lifesaving surgery to correct this condition. The bad news continured - the cost of the surgery was expensive - almost $10,000. Fortunately, the cardiac surgeon in Columbia informed us that she felt Willow was a candidate for a less invasive surgery. Rather than being open chest surgery, the alternate procedure would instead involved inserting a catheter up through her leg and implanting a device that acts like an umbrella to close off the blood vessel that should have closed at birth. Although less expensive, this surgery would still total around $7,000 - a lot for us to handle. And that vet did not do that particular type of surgery. So, Willow's journey would continue to the state of Georgia.
There was a lot of discussion about how we were going to raise the money to save this little girl's life. We knew we wanted to, but didn't know if we could in fact get the money together. $7,000 goes a LONG way in rescue and a lot of dogs could be saved with that kind of money. But Willow was now our responsibility. She had a great prognosis and a whole lifetime ahead of her, not to mention a family who already loved her from afar. Thankfully, this family contributed part of the money and the rest was raised through some big time begging and telling of Willow's story. Once again, the fabulous supporters of our shelter came through, and not only did we raise enough for Willow but we were able to pay for an FHO surgery needed by another dog and some heartworm treatments for some others. Without these contributions, we would not have been able to allow Willow to have this surgery and we would be looking at a very sad outcome.
We were referred to a cardiac surgeon at the University of Georgia and her records were sent there. So, off to Athens, Georgia I went, with Willow in tow. She was super good and quiet for the four hour ride up there, and that doctor, again, that the surgery was needed and the sooner the better. So, she would have it the very next day - July 26, 2022. The staff could not believe how cute and inquisitive she was, and I left her in their care. She did have the surgery the next day, and I picked her up the day after that. And just like that - Willow's heart was fixed! She no longer struggled with fatique, which was a good thing and a bad thing because she would need a full month of crate rest. It was super important that the
device stay put and those next weeks would be critical. Willow, now feeling good and at the age where she wanted to be a regular puppy - to get out and run and play like normal, was not a fan of the crate. In fact, she had to be put on medication to take the edge off. Our hearts went out to her and we lavished her with every kind of bone, treat, chew toy, food puzzle we could think of to help her pass time while she endured the long recovery in her crate.
Finally, the day came when she went for her follow up check and was given the green light to have some limited activity. Finally, whe was able to go outside for some monitored playtime which increased over the next few weeks. FINALLY, she was able to go home to loving parents who had waited so long for their new little puppy. A puppy who had had overcome this serious birth defect and could now be a normal puppy.
Willow is doing well in her new home - loved by all, including her canine sibling. She's had a three month follow up with her new cardiologist and has been given the "all clear". We're told she can be a live wire. We think she is probably making up for lost time. But she cannot be happier and neither can her family. Willow now spends her days like any other adolescent pup - playing, eating, sleeping, loving and playing some more. We are so very thankful for all those who believed in her cause and chipped in to help this little one. She is one of our many success stories and we hope to be able to continue to help those who need us most.
Godspeed little Willow! May the force be with you!!!