February 04, 2020


A teenage girl holds a dachshund in her lap


If AMC hadn’t saved Willow’s life, she wouldn’t have been here that night to save Rebecca.

-Willow’s owner, Kathie.

You can never predict the impact of a life saved.

Kathie’s family already had three dachshunds when her brother called her to ask for help with a litter of tiny dachshund puppies his rescue group had taken in. One of them, named Willow, had a very bad heart and, at just over one pound, she needed more individual care than the group could offer.

“She sounded like a washing machine,” said Kathie. “You could hear the blood whooshing through the hole in her heart.”

Willow desperately needed a life-saving heart surgery.

Thanks to a special program at the Animal Medical Center called “AMC to the Rescue,” which provides subsidized specialty care to animals whose health has become an obstacle to their adoption, Willow was able to receive the heart surgery she needed.

AMC cardiologists took the little dachshund into surgery, where they went in through Willow’s femoral artery and repaired the hole in her heart. Within a couple of hours after surgery, Willow’s enlarged heart was back to its normal size, and she was feeling fine. Well, better than fine.

“I called her a ‘circus dog,’” said the cardiologist, “because she was so wiggly and wanted to climb up around my neck.”

Though Kathie and her family hadn’t intended to adopt Willow after she recovered, Kathie’s son Daniel had become very attached. “It was another foster fail,” laughed Kathie. “We couldn’t let her go.”

And it’s a good thing they didn’t.

One year ago, Kathie’s 13-year-old daughter Rebecca came home from school on a Thursday feeling under the weather. She was achy and had chills, and couldn’t do anything but lie on the couch. By Saturday morning, Rebecca had a fever and it hurt to breathe. After a quick trip to Urgent Care, she was diagnosed with the flu and was sent home with medication.

Finally able to sleep, Rebecca slept all day and into the night. Kathie let her sleep, because she knew her daughter’s frail body needed the rest. But the strange thing was, Willow wouldn’t leave Rebecca’s side. She wouldn’t get off the couch to eat, to go outside – nothing would make Willow move, and she whined when anyone came near.

Willow knew that something was very, very wrong with Rebecca.

“I realized at that point that Rebecca was burning up,” said Kathie. And she was – her fever had soared to 106, and she wouldn’t wake up. Kathie and her oldest daughter Julia loaded Rebecca into the car and rushed to the ER.

Rebecca was diagnosed with four strains of the flu, a collapsed lung that had hemorrhaged one-third of the blood in her small body, and severe septic shock from the bleeding in her lungs. The flu had caused her heart and lungs to fail and seriously impaired her kidney function. Doctors told Kathie that her daughter would not survive.

But, though her months-long road to recovery was very rocky, this honor student is alive and thriving today – and it all started with a warning from a little miracle “circus dog” called Willow.

“If AMC hadn’t saved Willow’s life, she wouldn’t have been here that night to save Rebecca,” Kathie said. “She was dying that night, and I would have just let her sleep. And she never would have woken up.”

A teenage girl and a dachshund on a couch
A girl kisses a long-haired dachshund
A young woman in a hospital with her dog
A dog lies on a kitchen floor