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Ace— Another Rescue Heartbreak

We told you the story of the Goldens yesterday. Today we would like to share the story of the 7th puppy in the litter, a sweet little boy we named Ace.

When we got a late night 911 call from Terri Cooper at G.R.E.A.T. Rescue of NE Florida., we learned about two adult dogs who were locked in very small crates without food and water, alone in a house. The female dog had just had puppies and was rejecting them. The owner was hospitalized for an extended period, and the dogs were getting very limited, inconsistent care.

Bev and Chris, the two volunteers from G.R.E.A.T. and FUR, scrambled to get across town to get them, and they brought the mama and puppies to our neonatal foster Erin's house. Erin has extensive experience with bottle babies, both puppies and kittens, and she is nothing short of amazing.

When the litter arrived at Erin's home late that Saturday night, it was very evident that one puppy was struggling. He wanted to eat but just couldn't seem to latch. After trying to feed him unsuccessfully, Erin knew he needed to go to the emergency vet. Neonates are incredibly fragile, and it's always better to get them medical help sooner rather than later.

As Erin and Steve were rushing him to Capital Veterinary Specialists in the middle of the night, they realized that we needed to name him. It took only a few seconds to come up with Ace. If you remember, earlier this year we had another critically ill neonatal puppy named Dutton.

Erin and Steve fostered a litter of one day old puppies who had been dumped on the side of the road in an empty dog food bag. Dutton was in critical condition, and thanks to Erin and Dr. Apolo, he survived and thrived. Dutton was adopted into the most wonderful home and they named him Ace. It seemed fitting to name this struggling pup after our miracle dog in the hopes that it would bring him some luck.

When Erin and Steve arrived at the ER, it appeared that things were all falling into place — Dr Apolo, the doctor who saved sweet Dutton, was on duty and immediately evaluated Ace. Physically he seemed fine but she agreed that he didn't seem to be able to nurse. Just like with Dutton, Dr. Apolo offered to take Ace home to foster him and see if she could figure out what the problem was and stabilize him.

After a few days in her care, Ace was still struggling. He couldn't latch and therefore couldn't eat. We started to consider euthansia, as we would never want him to suffer. As a last ditch effort, Dr. Apolo decided to try a feeding tube and it worked! We were elated. We still didn't know what the problem was, but this bought us some more time.

Ace began improving, he gained weight, he was getting a bit more active, things seemed to be moving in the right direction.

When Ace was about a week old, he was finally big enough for Dr. Apolo to get a good look inside of his mouth and that is where she saw it, he had a cleft palate. Believe it or not, we were thrilled with this news— clefts are fixable! It wouldn't be cheap, and it would be a long road to get him old enough for surgery as he would need round the clock tube feedings but now we had a plan. We had never dealt with a cleft palate before, but Terri at G.R.E.A.T. was optimistic, having dealt with cleft palates in children. It was fixable.

When Dr. Apolo was working, her husband, Dr. Nichols took over tube feeding. It was incredible to have these two amazing doctors fostering our sick little puppy. Dr. Apolo and Dr. Nichols kept Ace for another week, tube feeding every few hours around the clock until they felt he was stable enough to go back to Erin's house. They gave Erin a crash course on tube feeding and everything seemed to be on the right track.

Ace was not able to be reintroduced to his mom for the fear he would attempt to nurse and aspirate through his cleft, but he was kept in an incubator with his heartbeat surrogate mom and his siblings were rotated in with him so that he wasn't alone. When Ace wasn't in the incubator, Erin or Steve were holding him.

Ace continued to gain weight with the round the clock tube feedings, but we started to notice that he seemed developmentally behind his littermates. He couldn't stand on his own, while his littermates were motoring around. At first we hoped it was just due to his rough start, but as time went on we started to worry that it was something more.

We were worried that he might have been injured when the mama and puppies were locked in a small crate during those first critical hours. We were also worried he might have a congenital problem. Either way, we know something was wrong, but we hoped he'd outgrow it as he gained weight.

At the next checkup with Dr. Apolo, we learned that Ace had a grade 1 heart murmur. Again, not great news but it was still something we could deal with.

A few days later Ace began having what we thought were seizures. At first they didn't last too long, but as time went on they began to increase in severity and duration.

On October 31st, we had a visit scheduled at Palm Valley Veterinary Center to get some routine blood work, and he had another consult scheduled later that week with Dr. Nebel, an internal medicine specialist at Capital Vet.

About 2 hours before his scheduled appointment Ace had another seizure, but this one didn't stop. Erin rushed him to Palm Valley Veterinary Center, calling ahead to let them know she was on her way. They were waiting at the door as she brought him in.

Dr Thivierge immediately got to work on him in an attempt to stop the seizures and stabilize him. After Xrays and blood tests, it was clear that sweet Ace was in a fight for his life and the odds were getting worse by the second. We all agreed that his best chance would be to go back to Capital Vet.

Erin quickly packed him up and headed to Capital Vet where once again, the staff was awaiting his arrival and whisked him into the back to try to help him. They were able to reduce the severity of the seizure with medication, but things just continued to go downhill for our little fighter. Listening to him crying while the seizures went on and on was heart wrenching.

It was at this point that we learned that Ace's heart murmur had increased from a Grade 1 to a Grade 3 or 4 in only a week. His heart was enlarged, he had a liver shunt causing elevated ammonia levels in his blood, and he had neurological issues that would likely never reverse. Poor Ace was suffering, and we couldn't help him.

After consulting with Dr. Apolo, Dr. O'Connor and Dr. Nebel at Capital Vet, and with Terri at G.R.E.A.T., we decided that the kindest thing we could do for Ace would be to help him cross the rainbow bridge peacefully and surrounded in love. Ace left this world in the place that he was most comfortable, the place where he had spent countless hours, in the loving arms of his foster mom Erin.

Yesterday, on the day when his littermates were adopted, we couldn't stop thinking of sweet little Ace. It is nothing short of soul crushing to have to euthanize a young puppy who should have had his entire life in front of him. We found solace in the fact that during his short life, he never knew anything but love and kindness. Even so, Erin took it especially hard, thinking of the sweet little boy she put her heart and soul into.

Goodbye sweet Ace, you fought a good fight. We'll see you at the rainbow bridge.


10/7/23 - 10/31/23


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