Robbie - WestieMed Recipient


Robbie is a sixteen-month-old Westie boy who came to Canine Friends Foundation (along w/his little brother, Roy) from a local commercial breeder on 5/11/07 after her vet diagnosed them both with Grade 3/6 heart murmurs during their puppy checkup. The breeder contacted me to see if CFF would take them into rescue since she had no use for the puppies and planned to euthanize them.

Robbie was found to have a Grade 5/6 heart murmur by my vet the following Monday when I took them in to be neutered. She and I decided to get the puppies to the VA Tech Teaching Hospital’s Dept of Cardiology ASAP for evaluation due to the severity of the murmurs. Robbie had an echocardiogram on 5/23/07 with the diagnosis of moderate valvular/subvalvular pulmonic stenosis  (a deformity of the pulmonic valve leaflets which control blood flow from the right ventricle of the heart into the pulmonary artery). Pulmonic stenosis makes the heart work too hard and enlarge and it eventually progresses to congestive heart failure and death without intervention.

Due to the fact that Robbie was not showing signs of clinical heart failure at the time of the initial evaluation, it was recommended that he be allowed to grow up and be monitored closely for any changes in condition. Robbie has been living w/me as a foster and spends endless hours playing tag w/his favorite foster sister, two-year-old Katie Westie, and every stuffed animal he can grab!

Robbie was seen at VA Tech on 2/13/08 for re-evaluation and echocardiogram. It was found that his heart murmur has worsened to Grade 6/6 left-sided systolic murmur. His pulmonic stenosis has worsened to where his pressures are high enough to benefit from having balloon valvuloplasty performed. Balloon valvuloplasty will open up the stenosis, decreasing the pressure across the pulmonary valve and hopefully prevent Robbie from developing congestive heart failure and subsequent death. Although it does not have to be done immediately, Dr. Abbott, our cardiologist, has advised that the sooner it is done, the less damage will occur to Robbie’s already overworked heart and the more likely the surgery will be successful which will help him be able to live a long and normal life.

Robbie - WestieMed Recipient March 2008
Robbie – WestieMed Recipient

Thanks to assistance from Westie Med, Robbie is scheduled for pulmonic balloon valvuloplasty on 4/10/08 at VA Tech.

We will be looking forward to having Robbie’s surgery and his recovery, so this sweet and spunky little boy can then find his forever home with a wonderful Westie loving family. He will be hanging out here, playing with his Westie foster brother and sisters and enjoying the spring sunshine, until then. 

Again, a big THANK YOU to WestieMed for giving Robbie the opportunity!!!!

With deepest appreciation, 
Susie Branham, 
Canine Friends Foundation Small Dog Rescue and Robbie

Update April 12, 2008

Robbie - WestieMed Recipient March 2008
Robbie – WestieMed Recipient

Robbie returned to VA Tech’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital on 4/9/08 in preparation for his scheduled pulmonic balloon valvuloplasty to be done on 4/10/08. He quickly made friends with Ashley Davis, his assigned senior vet student, and the hospital staff by asking for the thing he loves most in the world-tummy rubs. An echocardiogram was done that afternoon which confirmed that Robbie still had high pressures across his narrowed pulmonic valve and surgery was necessary to save his life.

Robbie’s surgery started early Thursday morning and a catheter with a small inflatable balloon on the end was inserted into his jugular vein. The balloon was passed through Robbie’s heart into the stenotic pulmonic valve and the balloon was inflated several times. This procedure widened the narrow valve and decreased the pressure across the pulmonic valve. With decreased pressure, Robbie’s heart does not have to overwork itself to get the oxygenated blood that it requires. Robbie was awake and in the recovery room by noon–I was the happiest person in the world when I got a call from Dr. Gentile, cardiology resident, advising that his surgery had gone very well and that he was alert and hungry!

Robbie’s pressure gradient was re-evaluated on Friday morning and it was found the pressure had come down even more from the previous day. Prior to surgery, the pressure gradient had been above 90mmHg; on Friday morning, his pressure gradient was 38mmHg. Decreasing the pressure gradient by more than 50% was the goal of the surgery, thus Dr. Abbott and Dr. Gentile consider Robbie’s surgery a complete success!!!

I picked Robbie up at the VTH yesterday afternoon and his tail still hasn’t stopped wagging! He was happy to see me and even happier to get home and see his Westie friends-Rowdy, Katie, Darby, and little Emma. Now, the biggest challenge is going to be keeping him quiet for the next week while his neck incisions heal-he is not supposed to run, jump, or play (all I can say is, we are trying….).

Although pulmonic stenosis cannot be truly “fixed”, Robbie now has a great chance at having a normal lifespan and the opportunity to be adopted into his forever home. He will return to Tech in mid-June for another echocardiogram and re-evaluation by the cardiologists. If his pressure gradient is stable at that time, he will be ready to be adopted into a Westie loving and owning family who will be required to live close to VA Tech (or other veterinary teaching hospital) and be financially able and willing to take him there on a regular basis to monitor his heart for the rest of his life.

Robbie - WestieMed Recipient March 2008
Robbie – WestieMed Recipient

I cannot begin to thank WestieMed enough for the financial help that allowed sweet Robbie to go ahead and have his surgery-he is such a good boy and so worth saving! I am eternally grateful and feel so lucky to have found them. CFF is a small rescue and we operate solely on our adoption fees and occasional donations-not enough to be able to pay for these big surgeries and continue w/the day to day cost of rescue (Robbie is our third heart surgery this year-one PDA repair and two pulmonic valvuloplasties).

The ability to have the surgery before his condition started deteriorating meant that Robbie went into surgery with significantly less heart damage and a much greater chance of survival and success-that was proven by his good result!! I will look forward to telling his ongoing story as he recovers and begins looking for his forever home in the near future. Meanwhile, the other Westies and I will continue to enjoy his company until his adoption day! WestieMed-you all are the best!

With great joy and sincere thanks, Susie Branham, Canine Friends Foundation and Robbie

Update June 26, 2008

Sweet Robbie returned to VA Tech’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital yesterday for re-evaluation and repeat echocardiogram to determine if the pulmonic valvuloplasty he had on 4/10/08 was truly successful. Robbie loved being able to have his foster mom all to himself for the hour and a half trip to Blacksburg, alternately playing with his favorite squeaky toy and then climbing in my lap to snuggle.

We were met by our good friend, Dr. Jessica Gentile, cardiology resident, and Robbie’s senior vet student, Steve Garnett. Robbie quickly made himself at home, giving kisses to everyone and then doing the “Robbie Rollover”, presenting his belly for all present to rub!

Robbie’s echocardiogram showed that his pressures have remained low (48 mmHg) and that means the surgery was successful in lowering the pressure gradient across the pulmonic valve. According to Dr. Gentile, Robbie’s pulmonic valve pressure should remain about 50 mmHg since it has been stable for the past two and half months. This means the procedure has been of long term benefit to Robbie’s quality and quantity of life!!! He will continue to be monitored by the VA Tech cardiologists every six to nine months in case any rare changes do occur.

I am so happy for Robbie and so grateful to WestieMed for helping to get us to this time and place. He is a wonderful little Westie boy who is just lovin’ life! The best news is that Robbie has been adopted and is going to his forever home tomorrow, June 27. His new mom, Lisa Morgan, actually came to look at Robbie to adopt last year prior to his diagnosis of severe pulmonic stenosis. The adoption was contingent on the cardiac eval, thus she ended up adopting a beautiful little pug mix puppy, Lola. Lisa and Lola are looking for a new family member and they have decided they want to share their lives w/Robbie after falling in love w/him for the second time during a visit to my house last weekend! They live only 1/2 hour away from VA Tech, so it will be easy for him to go back for his return visits to see Dr. Abbott and Dr. Gentile. I think it is the perfect match for Robbie, Lisa, and Lola!!

I cannot begin to express my gratitude to Westie Med for the support they have given CFF’s special “Heart Westies”-Robbie, Roy, and Emma- this year. Lisa will remain in close contact w/CFF so we can ensure that Robbie continues to do well w/his recovery and sees his friends at VA Tech VTH Cardiology Dept on a regular basis.

Robbie’s story is truly a wonderful, uplifting one-he is so deserving of the second chance given to him by the VT cardiologists with the help of WestieMed. I will continue to provide updates as he begins his new life w/Lola, the little diva, and new forever mom, Lisa. I am really going to miss Robbie-he is my little shadow-but I am so excited he is going to have a family of his own…

With the deepest of appreciation to WestieMed, 
Susie Branham,
Canine Friends Foundation,
and Robbie

Update June 27, 2008

Robbie - WestieMed Recipient March 2008
Robbie – WestieMed Recipient

I came home this afternoon and low and behold, Robbie was curled up in the metal water bowl that I keep out in the yard for the dogs to drink from…they usually do like to stand in it, but he had curled his little 14# body right into it and was enjoying a good soak!!

By the time I grabbed the camera, he had hit the bushes to dry off… He is celebrating his new life…and I know I am going to cry my eyes out when he leaves this evening…he is such a little love and has been my constant companion for the past thirteen months…this picture is Robbie being Robbie!!!!

Hugs, Susie and the pups

Update March 3, 2009

Robbie came back to my Canine Friends last week to spend a couple of days before going back to VA Tech’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital for his nine-month cardiology follow up.  Since he was adopted in late June 2008, Robbie has been doing great and actively enjoying life with his new family. Lisa Morgan, his adoptive mom, dropped him off on Monday and he walked into my home like he had never been away. The resident Westies greeted him with kisses and “request to play” bows and then they all dashed out the doggie door for a big game of chase in the yard.

Robbie - WestieMed Recipient March 2008
Robbie – WestieMed Recipient

Robbie and I drove down to Blacksburg on Wednesday where we were greeted with open arms by our friends, Dr. Jonathan Abbott (cardiologist), Dr. Jessica Gentile (cardiology resident), and the cardiology staff. Robbie was his usual self, greeting everyone with exuberance, wiggles, and lots of Westie kisses. 

Robbie was introduced to Tom Blaszek, the senior student who was assigned to him and was then whisked away for his exam and echocardiogram. Dr. Abbott and Tom met with Robbie and me after the exam and advised that Robbie is doing great–his echocardiogram was consistent with the one done in June 2008, which means his pressure gradient has remained in the acceptable range. Dr. Abbott also advised that Robbie’s ventricular septal defect has not progressed or altered the pressures in the ventricles. Bottom line–Robbie is doing GREAT almost one year after his pulmonary balloon valvuloplasty procedure. We were all THRILLED to receive this good news, as I always hold my breath when I return with one of my “heart puppies” for a re-check.

Robbie - WestieMed Recipient March 2008
Robbie – WestieMed Recipient

Robbie will need to return to VA Tech VTH for re-evaluations and echocardiograms every six to nine months for the rest of his life. However, this is a small price to pay for him to have a normal life. AND, all of this would not have been possible without the financial assistance from WestieMed to help pay for his surgical procedure last spring.

To watch Robbie run (more like a big hop!!) through the yard, carrying a stuffed animal and turning to see if anyone is chasing him, is wonderful to watch, knowing his medical history and everything he has been through in the two years of his life. He is a very lucky boy!

Robbie is staying here with me for a few weeks while his mom cares for an ill family member. We all love having him back – he enjoys hanging out and playing with the resident Westies and we all enjoy his sweet presence and playful antics. My forever thanks to WestieMed for giving Robbie the true “gift of life” – he is certainly enjoying every minute of it!!!

With love and appreciation, 
Susie Branham,
Canine Friends Rescue, and Robbie