Two years ago we rescued an adorable abandoned chocolate lab puppy. We named her Briar, as in "found in the briar patch." She charmed the hearts of all our volunteers. During a routine veterinary examination it was discovered that Briar had a heart murmur but we hoped it wouldn't cause any long term problems for her. She was eventually adopted by a family that we believed would give her a loving home.
We received several updates about Briar during the first months after her adoption, each describing what a wonderful puppy she was; loving and gentle with the baby, the 5-year-old, and the other family pets. All was well.
Recently, a man called our FFAA phone to report that his neighbors were starving their dogs and he recalled that the neighbor had said one of the dogs came from Faithful Friends. One dog had already died and the others were close to death. When he confronted the neighbor, he was told that he no longer wanted the dogs, didn't care what happened to them and was not going to feed them.
This man and his family started feeding the dogs but knew they didn't have the resources or the space to keep them indefinitely. After just a few questions we knew it was Briar. We wasted no time going to assess the situation and our hearts sank when we saw her. Her spine and ribs were grossly pronounced, but her sweet spirit, her glowing amber eyes and that long wagging tail let us know it was the same puppy we had all loved two years before. When she saw me she ran over and wrapped her long front legs around my waist in a big Briar hug! I made a phone call to the family that had fostered Briar as a puppy. They were so saddened to hear what had happened to her and were more than willing to give her a place to recover from her ordeal — again. Of course, our first stop was the veterinarian to update her vaccinations and make sure she didn't have any other underlying health issues aside from malnutrition. Things went fine until the doctor put the stethoscope over her heart. Briar's heart murmur had gotten much, much worse. The veterinarian explained that without surgery, Briar's life span would be quite short: she had two years or less.
It was heartbreaking to think we had failed this big, beautiful, amazingly sweet, chocolate Lab, by placing her as an innocent puppy, into the hands of people who treated her like this. Heaven knows what she'd suffered besides starvation. We try extremely hard to screen our applicants with a several step adoption process, but obviously we were fooled on this one. Now, we were faced with the awful facts that her life would be very short and she had just spent the majority of it being neglected and mistreated. We owed it to Briar to help her if we could.
Page 2 of 2 - We took her to the university veterinary teaching hospital in Columbia for a definitive diagnosis. Doctors told us that even with a valve problem as serious as Briar's, there was a vascular surgery that could actually fix the problem and give her a normal Lab life expectancy. She would require a sedate, three months after care, of leash-walking and no rough-housing, but following that, she'd be able to live like any other healthy young dog with no restrictions whatsoever! The hospital said they would give us a "rescue discount." We researched some grant monies but in the end, some fine, generous people who heard Briar's story gave her what she needed to have the surgery.
On Jan. 28, Briar received her gift of a new heartbeat. Being the sweetheart she is, she charmed the hearts of the whole hospital staff! Her two days in the hospital were chronicled on Facebook by our devoted volunteer who took time off work to make the long trip and be by Briar's side.
Briar is recovering at home with her fantastic foster mom, who is having a hard time explaining to her why she can't run, play and wrestle when she feels so darn good. It won't be long, sweet girl. It won't be long!
Leanne Williams is president of Faithful Friends Animal Advocates.