Big Hearts Fund: Young girl's determination gives foster dog second chance

Big Hearts Fund: Young girl's determination gives foster dog second chance
Pepper relaxes at Tilles Park.

During the holiday season, I’ve asked my rescue friends and contacts to share their heartwarming stories involving pets that they’ve rescued or adopted. Today’s story shows what happens when a little girl’s determination and a collaborative effort between several groups paves the way for a foster dog to get lifesaving surgery. Thank you Big Hearts Fund for telling Pepper’s story.

By Kaitlin Bishop, Executive Director, The Big Hearts Fund

In January of 2013, The Big Hearts Fund was contacted by The St. Louis Senior Dog Project regarding an adorable and “bossy” 2 year-old mini-schnauzer/yorkie named Pepper. She had recently been turned into Animal Care and Control because her owner no longer wanted her. A young man came across her kennel, immediately fell in love, and put in an application to adopt her. However, she had a brief fainting episode that day and ACC expedited her transfer to a rescue, but did not inform the young man where she was going.

PepperShe quickly found her way into a loving foster home, and life seemed to be looking up for her. Unfortunately, her foster family soon discovered something was terribly wrong. After several instances in which Pepper would lose consciousness for up to 30 seconds at a time, it was discovered that she suffered from Pulmonic Stenosis, a severe heart defect that would prevent her brain from receiving sufficient oxygen whenever she exerted herself or simply became too excited.

If Pepper did not undergo a balloon valvuloplasty to correct this defect soon, she would faint and never wake up. Unfortunately, this curative surgery costs at least $2,500, an expense The St. Louis Senior Dog Project simply could not afford for a single procedure. As a homeless animal, Pepper had little time and little to no hope of being adopted by a forever family due to this condition.

Enter Pepper’s 11 year-old human foster sister, Sydney. Refusing to accept Pepper’s fate, Sydney immediately sprang into action, creating a fundraising campaign called “Change for Pepper,” wherein she asked local St. Louis businesses to set out baby bottles to collect change from their customers. Sydney’s amazing efforts were a great start to raising the $2,500 needed, however they still had a long way to go.

Pepper is happy in a forever home after lifesaving surgery.

Pepper is happy in a forever home after lifesaving surgery.

After learning about Pepper’s story and her amazing foster family, The Big Hearts Fund could not let her down. In addition to the $750 pledged from the BHF Financial Aid Program, a fundraising page was set up on BHF’s website to collect an additional $500. We also reached out to the Trio Animal Foundation, an amazing Chicago organization that provides funding for medical care to homeless animals, for additional support.

In less than 24 hours, all the needed funds were raised and then some. Over night, Pepper’s fate was decided by the generosity of hundreds of strangers from around the country.  On February 4, this sweet little bossy pants underwent a balloon valvuloplasty and has since made a full recovery.

Shortly after Pepper’s surgery, a St. Louis Sr. Dog Project volunteer was telling a friend about Pepper’s story. As fate would have it, this “friend” was none other the exact same man who had tried to adopt Pepper month’s prior when she was still at Animal Care & Control. They were soon reunited and he immediately adopted Pepper. They now live together in a spacious downtown loft in St. Louis.

Pepper relaxing at the end of a fun day.

Pepper relaxing at the end of a fun day.

The story of Pepper brings a great deal of pride and satisfaction to the Big Hearts Fund for many reasons. While most of our applicants are pets with families, we know that so many animals in shelters and rescues with heart conditions are unlikely to be adopted due to the overwhelming expense it could pose. The Big Hearts Fund believes all animals deserve quality veterinary care, and is committed to helping those with no one to advocate for them.

Pepper’s story also demonstrates what is possible when a single person, in this case an 11 year-old girl, refuses to give up when life presents a challenge. Pepper is a very special dog, and The Big Hearts Fund is honored to have been able to work with so many amazing individuals and organizations to offer her a second chance in her young life.

Writers note – Learn more about Big Hearts Fund online ar help their mission here

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    Raining Cats and Dogs

    I am a crazy cat lady and puppy mill warrior that blogs to advocate and educate about pet issues. In American animal controls, millions of pets are abandoned each year and an estimated 4 million die just because there are not enough homes. It truly seems like it’s Raining Cats and Dogs.

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