This story belongs to Lisa and Gigi:

In 2017 Lisa decided to get a companion dog for her pup, who was about a year old. She went to the local shelter website and combed through the pictures of all the babies. There were two chihuahuas on the website that caught her interest. They had both just been rescues from a puppy mill in Kentucky. Both were pregnant, so she thought she would take one of the babies when they were born. Lisa reached out to the foster mom, who had Gigi. She was informed that Gigi was about to give birth any day and she would receive pictures of them.

The puppies were teeny tiny, and Lisa had a very hyper pup already, so she decided to take Gigi after the weaning was complete. Gigi was amazingly well-behaved, great with other dogs, great with people, house-trained, and all around fabulous.

Sweet Gigi
Gigi at home

Lisa got Gigi and it was quite the opposite of what the foster said originally. It was great at first and Gigi loved Lisa right away. After a few days, Lisa learned Gigi had severe emotional issues, separation anxiety and was not house-trained. She hated everybody and every dog. But after months and months of love, socializing and training, Gigi did a complete 180. She turned out to be a perfect little dog. Now she is a very loving dog to every person and every dog.

Gigi girl at home
Sweet Gigi

Life went on as normal until April of 2023. On a typical day of Lisa returning from work, would include Gigi running and jumping into her arms upon walking in the door. In April of last year, Lisa walked in her house and Gigi did her run and jump thing, but then promptly collapsed and passed out in her arms. After about 10 seconds, she came out of it. Lisa was highly perplexed and worried.

Sweet Gigi at the vet
Gigi at her vet appointment

The next day, it happened again, except she was out for a bit longer. Gigi was rushed to the emergency vet immediately. That vet diagnosed her with an enlarged heart, a heart murmur and she had fluid in her lungs, which was causing the fainting spells. She also had mitral valve disease and a Stage B. This is a heart condition that affects small to medium sized dogs as they age. It is somewhat common. The mitral valve degenerates and changes causing either prolapse or thickening, which then prevents the valve from closing, in turn causing leakage.

Gigi was put on heart murmur medication and given a prognosis of 6 months to a year to live. Not very good and unacceptable to Lisa. She fell apart, and then quickly regrouped and started researching everything about this disease and a possible fix. That vet recommended an echocardiogram to find out exactly what was happening with the heart.

This vet had a doctor come in from a facility in Arizona come in to do the echo on Gigi. They faxed Lisa the results, but she didn’t understand the results. When they explained it, she still was confused, and they just basically said it boils down to “not much time left.”

Through research, Lisa found a team at Purdue Small Animal Hospital in Lafayette, Indiana. The best in the tri-state area. Gigi got an appointment and a full work-up. Lisa got all the information and answers she was searching for. Finally! And another amazing fact, there is a surgical option. But, it’s expensive. The prognosis with this option: dogs can go on to live a normal, long, happy life with medication.

The cost of the surgery would be around $20,000. Lisa was sure she wouldn’t be able to get it done. So, she went back to her keyboard. Research, research, research, for 3 days non-stop. Eventually, she came across a Facebook page called The Mighty Hearts page. It’s a full community of people who have dogs with mitral valve heart disease. It is full of people who are looking for options for their dogs and people who already had the procedure. She joined and got so much needed information. Lisa learned that she could try to raise money for the operation.

She found out that there are three facilities in the world that do this procedure. The GoFundMe was started even before she knew where to take Gigi. The facilities were in England and Japan. Lisa contacted the first one in England and sent her records over. Well, within a few days before they were supposed to contact her back, the program shut down completely, without explanation. Again, Lisa was back to square one.

By now, it’s November, so she sent the records to Japan. She found out that the quarantine time in Japan is 180 days from the time the dog has a second rabies shot and the titer test, which is a test by the agriculture administration of Japan to determine if the dog has rabies. After those requirements, you wait 6 months to get into the country. Gigi may not make it that long.

At this point, she had already advanced. Something needed to happen quickly. Gigi had gone into full respiratory failure and her whole body filled with fluid. She was rushed to the emergency vet, who recommended euthanasia. Lisa was told Gigi would not recover. But Gigi and Lisa were determined, and so she was given the necessary meds to find out if she would respond. Gigi was in the hospital for 7 days and continued to get better every single day. Gigi was the best patient!

Pretty Gigi
Gigi at home

Fast forward a few months and a few more episodes and hospitalizations. Lisa never heard back from the Japanese hospital. They were just not getting a response on their inquiries. Lisa decided to send Gigi’s records to the last option, RVC in England. They responded immediately to schedule a phone consultation with the surgeon.

https://www.rvc.ac.uk/small-animal-vet/specialist-referrals

Wonderful news! Gigi was determined to be an excellent candidate for this operation. Her success rate was deemed 90%. This hospital was pleased to accept her. Lisa’s family was overjoyed. The last resort and the absolute best. Gigi has her surgery date scheduled for March 5th.

Lisa has to raise another $15,150 for Gigi’s operation, but the good news is, she has enough for the initial down payment. Please, if you can spare a few dollars to help Gigi live out the rest of her days, happy and healthy, Lisa, Gigi and Free Animal Doctor would be forever grateful.

Gigi's hospital bill
Deposit for Gigi's heart surgery

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