Our dog Fletcher is an extraordinary dog for many reasons. His story begins before we even met at the Animal Humane Society in St. Paul. He came into our lives at a difficult time. While my husband was deployed, our first dog, Brandee, passed away due to kidney failure at a young age. My husband and I grieved together from opposite ends of the earth. Our house became a hollow reminder of the happiness that was no longer there. Her clicking paws echoed in my mind of a time we would never have back.
Though I was unable to save Brandee, I prayed that maybe I could save another dog before it’s too late. I donated some money anonymously to help a local family in need of saving their cat, and thought about starting a non-profit to help others in need of saving their pets. But my grief was too heavy to start something just yet. I needed to heal first.
While some people might advise against adopting another pet so soon, I felt ready to honor Brandee by giving my love to another dog in need of a friend and a home. My husband agreed even though he was still a few months away from coming home. After several weeks of walking dogs at the Humane Society, I still did not feel that special ‘connection’ I was looking for. Perhaps it was too soon.
Then, one Saturday out with my parents, my dad saw a black dog in one of the kennels at the Humane Society. We were just about to leave, and he said, “Trina, you should meet this guy…he’s really nice”. When I looked through the gate and into his big brown eyes and smiling face I felt a warmth come over me. We took him into a little meeting room and he leaned right into me. We became instant friends.
We learned Fletcher was originally from a shelter running out of room in New Orleans. By the help of a volunteer organization, Fletcher and 50 other dogs and cats were transported north to the Animal Humane Society within the Twin Cities on a large truck.
Fletcher was around a year old and very much a puppy when we adopted him. He loved stealing laundry and collecting it in a pile. Pants were his favorite, until his daddy came home and he learned to chew dog toys instead. He loves to run! We go for walks around the neighborhood and he loves playing hide-and-seek with dad.
After several months, our vet discovered he had a heart murmur. She recommended we take him to the VMC at the U of M, and after a few tests, they believed he had a PDA. During surgery, they discovered Fletcher did not have a PDA, but something much more rare. After doing some contrast studies, they found he was born with marked arteriovenous malformation of the arteries around his heart. He basically has hundreds upon hundreds of arteries around his heart that shouldn’t be there. This malformation was essentially making his heart work harder to pump oxygenated blood to his vital organs. His blood was taking a long detour to get to where it was needed, and his heart was starting to get larger to compensate.
Our wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Stauthammer, met with a team of medical professionals including physicians from Children’s Hospital to discuss Fletcher’s unique case. They were very interesting in not only helping him in a minimally invasive way, but to use his case to learn about this rare condition in order to help other pets and people. They donated their time and tried several types of catheters, devices and coils until they found a combination that worked. After several months, Fletcher’s heart murmur is gone and his heart is back to a normal size. He no longer coughs while running, and he is healthy and happy. I know in my heart that Brandee watched over us during his surgery, and though we were not able to save her, my own heart has healed because I was able to help save him.
We are forever grateful,
Katrina and Josh
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