Generous vets save Middleburg family's puppy

Vets, charity help family cover cost of expensive, life-saving surgery

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MIDDLEBURG, Fla. - A Middleburg family is sending praise to a team of veterinarians for saving the life of their 10-week-old puppy.

The Fisher family said if it wasn't for the fast action, expertise and generosity of the vets at Wells Road Veterinary Medical Center, Saint Francis Animal Hospital in Jacksonville and a group of veterinarian specialists in Tallahassee, their puppy, Sumo, wouldn't be alive.

The Fishers adopted two puppies, Sumo and Meatball, when they were just 5 weeks old. The playful boxer-American bull dog mix puppies fit right into their family. But it wasn't long before the Fishers realized there was something wrong with Sumo.

"We noticed that he started eating and he would start gasping for air," Vivian Fisher said. "He would regurgitate and we thought, 'Well, maybe he's just eating too fast.'"

But Sumo wasn't gaining weight and soon Fisher noticed an incredible difference between Sumo and his brother Meatball -- so the Fishers took Sumo to Dr. Michal Harris at Wells Road Vet in Orange Park, looking for answers.

"Sumo had a congenital heart defect," Harris explained. "That means he was born that way."

The defect meant that Sumo's blood vessels weren't growing in a normal location, and as he grew, a vascular ring anomaly was forming in his body (pictured below). Harris told the Fishers that if Sumo didn't have surgery, he wouldn't live past 6 months old.

When Fisher heard the price attached to saving her young pup, her heart sank. Affording the nearly $3,500 surgery to fix Sumo was going to be a challenge for the Fishers.

"We definitely didn't anticipate it being such a life-or-death diagnosis," Fisher said. "I took him there and they immediately whisked him away, so I knew that there was something wrong."

Harris and her team acted fast and contacted the Saint Francis Animal Hospital in Jacksonville for help. Saint Francis Animal Hospital raised enough money to cover the surgery and then Capital Veterinary Specialists in Tallahassee offered to perform the surgery on Sumo at a discounted rate.

"We're just so humbled, because we made the trip there, (and) they were so quick to take care of him, such compassion from the doctors," Fisher said. "And then they call and say, 'Oh, well, he's ready to come home.'"

Not only did the vets in Tallahassee save Sumo's life, they also brought him back home to the Fisher family.

"Him and his brother would be lost without each other," Fisher said. "They have to stay separated right now because he can't get too excited."

"Sumo, now that he's had surgery, has an excellent chance of leading a perfectly normal life," Harris said.

Sumo will have a special diet for about six months. As long as Sumo's esophagus repairs itself, the veterinarians say he should be able to live a normal, playful life. Harris said the worst case is that Sumo may have to stay on the special diet.

"These are like miracles," Fisher said. "This stuff doesn't just happen, and we never would have expected it to happen for him. It's just still like I can't believe it."

Wells Road Veterinary Medical Center 

Saint Francis Animal Hospital 

Capital Veterinary Specialists, Tallahassee, FL 

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