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Mowgli and his broken heart

In the fall of 2015, Alison was tagged in a post on Facebook with a puppy with the most adorable, yet ridiculous looking face. He was urgent because he had a terrible heart murmur, and was surrendered by a breeder because they couldn’t afford further work up, and had gotten advice to put him to sleep due to the severity. He was only about 5 months old at the time.

Alison went and scooped him up, with my warning that depending on how bad his murmur was and what was causing it, this might be one that we cannot fix. However, we are always willing to try, and giving him a chance with us was better than no chance at all, and we knew we could get him a further work up to see if there was anything we could do to help him.

The first time I met Mowgli I remember thinking – this is the ugliest, cute dog I have ever seen. His pictures don’t do him justice – the lower part of his jaw is just….not there. He has the WORST overbite I have ever seen in my life! His mandible is so small and set so far back from his upper jaw that he doesn’t have much of a bite to speak of (which is a good thing, because as an adult he can be…rude, at the vet – to say the least). If you have ever seen ‘The Simpson’s’ there is a character in there, a racing dog that they adopt, and his name is ‘Santa’s little helper’ – that dog has a crazy overbite, and Mowgli puts him to shame!! He also has a very smooshy face, with eyes set kind of wide apart – in an adorable kind of a way. He is a very special looking dog, and one whom we all came to adore.

Generally speaking, Mowgli is a genetic nightmare. Likely coming from horrible inbreeding, this poor guy got the short end of the genetic stick with his anatomy overall, but especially his heart. When I examined him his heart murmur was also the loudest I have ever heard – a grade 6/6, for sure. This is really bad. The fact that he was standing in front of me, playing with toys and bouncing around, was a miracle. We started him immediately on heart medications, and those first few weeks were a little scary as he had a few episodes of collapse that totally freaked myself and Alison out! But every time, we would take xrays, and give him injectable medications (holding our breath), and he would bounce right back! He truly is a little miracle dog.

He had a cardiologist consultation (two actually), and we diagnosed him with a very rare combination of heart defects called Tetralogy of Fallot. Poor Mowgli has a total of FOUR major heart defects that he was born with – a ventricular septal defect, pulmonary stenosis, an overriding aorta (or abnormal opening in the aorta as well), and ventricular hypertrophy (or thickening of the wall of the ventricles). This is a rare, and very serious, combination of heart abnormalities that is usually fatal, or requires immediate pediatric surgery in humans, but in dogs we are more limited with how aggressive we can be with correcting these major defects, so are often left just managing their symptoms the best we can. I will forever remember as I spoke with the second cardiologist about his condition and his heart her words – she literally said, ‘Being that this is a rescue dog, and this is so severe, I think you should consider culling him.’ After a stunned silence, I thanked her for her opinion, hung up the phone, and vowed to keep Mowgli with us for as long as I could.

Alison and I talked for a long time about him and how bad his odds were, and decided that though we would put him up for adoption, we kind of knew this was going to be a hospice case, as we didn’t think he would see his first birthday. However, once again, we wanted to give him the chance that we could.

Enter the amazing Marybeth and Roger. Marybeth was one of our pharmaceutical reps for Pennridge, and we had become very good friends with her over those first few years of getting our practice up and running. She followed Mowgli’s story, and reached out to me about him. I laid it all out – how bad his heart is, how we don’t expect he has long, how his anatomy is really abnormal so he struggles some to eat. She took it all in and wanted to meet him. Well, once they met that was it. She was in love, and wanted to love him for the time he had. We agreed to cover his medical costs, so he could at least know love and it wouldn’t be a huge burden – since he is on MANY heart medications. He settled right into the farm life, and loves frolicking with her other dogs, and even likes the horses.

Let me tell you – as a reminder, he was adopted by them in December 2015, and was given loosely 6 months to live by two separate cardiologists. Well, he is coming up on his sixth birthday this August, and just celebrated his 5th adopt-aversary this past December, and he is still THRIVING. He is totally a jerk as an adult – every time he comes to Pennridge he tries his damnest to attack me, but thankfully his face doesn’t work for that. I do remind him that I saved him all those years ago, but he doesn’t seem to remember, and is content instead to love his family, and hate me (and most others to be honest). I forgive him though, because seeing him here, 5 years later, still happy and loving life, always makes me smile. I’m so thankful Alison saw his picture that day, and that we could give him the very best life with MB and Roger. Despite his defects, he is the happiest boy, and definitely is a testament to always giving them a chance, even when the odds are not in their favor.

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