My little Bella Rae, we just call her Bella,  came into my life on January 1, 2009 when I went with my mom to look at puppies we saw advertised in the local paper.  My mom chose a little boy, and I chose his sister, Bella.  They were only about six weeks old, so we had to wait a couple weeks to bring them home.  Mid January, Bella came home, and our adventure began.

Bella was a “quiet” puppy.  I thought I got lucky because she was so well behaved…didn’t bark, didn’t need a leash when we were outside, didn’t get into stuff she shouldn’t around the house.  She went through all of the normal puppy vaccinations with no problems; everyone thought she was a healthy little girl.  She wasn’t keeping up with her brother’s growth rate, but she was continuing to gain weight and grow through each vet visit, nobody would have guessed how sick she really was.

When Bella was about seven months old, I took her in to get spayed.  I dropped her off, and about an hour later, our vet was calling because Bella’s pre-anesthetic blood work came back abnormal.  We decided to hold off on the spaying, and the vet did the acid bile test.  A few days later, when those results came back, it was recommended that I take Bella to UW-Madison because the vet had suspected Bella had a liver shunt.

We went to Madison, where it was confirmed that Bella did indeed have a liver shunt.  She was doing so well and not having any symptoms, we decided it would be okay to hold off on the surgery for a short time while I did some research and decide what to do.  For the next month, I researched a lot on the internet, and spoke with the surgeon at Madison, and my regular vet.  Friends and family all thought it would be best to just enjoy the time I had with Bella, but she was already such a huge part of my life, I couldn’t let her go without doing everything I could to give her a long, healthy, happy life.

It was terrifying the day I dropped Bella off for her surgery.  She spent the night at the hospital, and they were going to perform her surgery the next day.  Surgery was Wednesday morning at 9:00, and by around noon, they had called me to tell me that everything went well, and that they had placed the Ameroid Constrictor and had also spayed her.  What a relief, she had survived, and was doing okay. 

At about 4:00 that afternoon, the surgeon called again, Bella’s blood pressure was continuing to drop, and she was rapidly losing blood.  They were giving her blood transfusions, and taking her back into surgery.  I was told they would call me when they got out of surgery again.   

I was so devastated, but I couldn’t just sit home and wait for the next phone call, so I got in the car and drove the two hours to get to Madison.  I wanted to be there one way or the other.   By the time I got there, they had finished with the second surgery, and Bella was in the ICU.  Against policy, the surgeon let me sneak back in the ICU and see my little one.  To this day, I tear up just thinking of her in that cage hooked to all the machines.  She had lost over 80% of her blood, and was so weak.  She did manage to raise her head and look at me when she heard my voice though.

Bella did well post surgery, and was able to come home on Saturday.  Within a couple weeks, there was such a dramatic change in her.  She was so much more energetic, she wanted to play with my other two dogs, and seemed a completely different dog.  The first time I heard her bark, I cried.  Even though she had never seemed sick, just the difference in her personality made me realize how sick she really was.  

When we returned for her three month check-up, all of her blood work came back within normal range, and her acid bile tests were also normal.   I know that I did get lucky when I found Bella…even though my quiet little puppy is now a naughty, feisty one year old, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  She has brought so many smiles and so much happiness into my home.  I am thankful everyday that she not only survived her liver shunt, but she is thriving.  She is a true blessing in my life; my little fighter made it through, and hopefully will be with me for many, many years to come.

Music: Bella by Carlos Santana

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