Dedicated to raising funds and awareness
for dogs and cats diagnosed
with heart disease.
Tiny Needs Your Help! -
We're (sort of) Back in Action!!
Catching Up With Duncan!!
#GivingTuesday: Helping Hearts & Saving Lives
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday?
A Brief Interruption in our Regularly Scheduled Programming Rescued English Bulldog Vinnie needs your help!
Thanks for featuring us, @MistyWooEngle!
@brontyman Thank you for your support earlier! We are addressing the issue. Our servers are secure - the breach was not with us!
@FishingLynn we’re sending you an email about this. Our system is secure so I don’t think your credit card was compromised by us.
@AxelsonCenter Thank you! We are thrilled that Kaitlin gets to attend your excellent program ;).
@AxelsonCenter @bigheartsfund
Catching Up with Lily...
Learning from Nobi
Liz & Duncan's Unexpected Journey
Gypsy's Story
Godric's Story
Catching up with Caesar!
Catching Up With Sadie!
Status Update
By Christy Drackett

The Big Hearts Fund is currently seeking anyone interested in taking this dynamic organization we’ve built over the last six years, and taking it to the next level. While we do still exist as an organization, we currently do not have anyone who is able to run our programs or operations.

When I founded BHF six years ago, my goal was to create an organization that would help animals with heart disease live the good lives they deserve. Over the course of six years, we have assured good lives for over 80 pets, all across the country. Last year, we passively (that is, without any active physical fundraising efforts) raised upwards of $30,000. Big Hearts is alive and thriving! My dream and the wish of our board is to pass this organization on to the veterinary cardiology community somehow so that it can keep doing good in the world. We want to continue to offer you hope.

If you are interested, involved in the veterinary cardiology community, or think you know someone we should talk to, please reach out to me: I would love to talk to you!

We're (sort of) Back in Action!!
By Kaitlin Bishop

First of all, thank you, from the bottom of our Hearts, for your patience while we’ve worked to restructure The Big Hearts Fund Financial Aid Program. Yes, we wanted to have the new Program up and running at the beginning of the year, but per usual, building what is essentially a brand new program, with brand new policies and procedures, using a brand new technological platform, all while a certain Program Director enjoys her maternity leave, takes time. More time than we had anticipated. But.

We’re almost there!

While we still finalize some details and documents regarding the new Volunteer Case Management Program, The Big Hearts Fund is now accepting new applications for SURGICAL CASES ONLY!!! If your pet is in need of medication or diagnostics, please, sit tight! We will send out another announcement when the full Program is open for all applications!

Thank you again for all your patience, and understanding while The Big Hearts Fund undergoes this major, exciting, and slightly scary change! This new volunteer managed Program will allow for more cases to be accepted into the Program, more pets to receive life saving care, and more families to look forward to more years with their best furry friends.


We would not be in need of this change and growth without your support and commitment to our mission! Thank you!

Yours in Service,

Kaitlin R Bishop Executive Director, The Big Hearts Fund

Catching Up With Duncan!!
By Kaitlin Bishop

Remember Duncan? Here’s the latest on the ADORABLE chocolate lab as he and his mom navigate a new world of living with Congestive Heart Failure:

“I am happy to report that Duncan continues to do great! When visiting with his cardiologist this summer, she outlined a best-case scenario as one where Duncan would be receptive to the treatment and his congestive heart failure would stabilize. I was so proud of my little guy when he received a “better than best-case” report: Duncan’s heart has shrunk and his condition improved. We will be visiting with the doctor again in the coming weeks and if all looks good, she will lift any limitations on his lifespan.

Judging by his state today, it amazes me that eight months ago Duncan was in the ICU and given just nine to twelve months to live. Today, Duncan continues to do all the things that make him happy. We go off-leash in Central Park every morning (albeit a shorter loop) and he spent the summer swimming, hiking and hanging out at our neighborhood’s outdoor bars and restaurants. We’ve had a lot of adjustments over the past eight months and I’ve learned a lot through this experience. If I could offer up any advice for those facing the same challenges, it would be:

1 – Shop around for medicines. Duncan takes nine pills a day, which gets very costly. I now use a combination of online discount sites (my vet recommends Vet’s First Choice), my local CVS pharmacy and had the cardiologist prescribe a larger dosage pill I can cut in half. I now pay just 25% of what his first refill cost me.

2 – Pumpkin treats. I couldn’t find any treats that were low in sodium or disclosed sodium content on the package. Instead of calling every dog food brand out there, I started making a big batch of Pumpkin Oatmeal treats each month and he goes NUTS for them!

3 – Crib Pads. Duncan was having accidents at night in his sleep, which I later found out is very normal as his body adjusts to the diuretic. After spending a fortune at the Laundromat washing my bedding on an almost daily basis, sewing crib mattress pads together to cover the bed was a lifesaver – and now we are thankfully accident free!

Duncan and I have nicely settled into our new normal. Although his life is very different from what it was prior to his diagnosis, he is as happy as ever and still wins over the heart of everyone he meets! High five to Dunc for being so awesome and to the Big Hearts Fund for all the great work they continue to do!"

#GivingTuesday: Helping Hearts & Saving Lives
By Kaitlin Bishop

As The Big Hearts Fund closes the book on another year, we cannot help but reflect on our many triumphs and heartwarming experiences, as well as the challenging and heartbreaking situations beyond our control. It can be a struggle to not be discouraged by such elements, but we are all the more motivated when triumph comes out of a heartbreaking situation.

One such triumph is the story of Frosty. Frosty plays an extremely important role in the lives of two little boys who love him. One day, the boys’ mother dropped Frosty and her young children off at their grandmother’s house because she was going away for a few days. She never came back. Through the tears, anger, and sleepless nights following their abandonment, these little boys held on tight to Frosty. So did their grandmother, Ellen.

“Frosty is their world,” she explained. “He reminds them of what was. He loves the boys and guards them. We had months of anger and crying and Frosty was right there through it all. Now, we are ok. We struggle, but at the end of the day when I’m tucking them both into bed with Frosty it all feels right.” It was during these moments carrying Frosty, when Ellen first noticed his abnormal heartbeat. She could feel that something wasn’t right, so she took him to the vet.

Like many other BHF sponsored dogs, Frosty had a PDA that required surgery to correct; if he didn’t receive the surgery, he would not survive more than a handful of months. Frosty’s grandmother works hard to support her grandchildren, but having not anticipated taking care of a second family in later life, she was ill-equipped to handle the additional expense of Frosty’s surgery. She set about looking for help. She found The Big Hearts Fund. In addition to a grant from the Financial Aid Program, BHF set up a fundraising page for Frosty, successfully raising an additional $1,000 to cover the cost of his surgery. The surgery went through without a hitch, and he was back to acting as guardian and playmate to his two brothers in a matter of months.

Frosty’s is not the only story of a family’s triumph over adversity. In the past 12 months, BHF has awarded $24,000 to 29 pets whose families depend on them through tough times as well. You can read their stories at The Big Hearts Fund website.

As BHF continues its mission of raising funds and awareness for pets with heart disease, we have learned that not only are we saving pets’ lives, we are offering something critical to the families who love them. These pets are sources of comfort, stability, and hope in difficult times, and seeing these families rally behind their beloved pets has only encouraged BHF to reach more pets and families in need. In order to accomplish this goal, we invite you to contribute to BHF’s “Helping Hearts” Annual Pledge Drive.  Your year-end contribution or monthly pledge can provide medication to manage a heart condition ($50), allow for an echocardiogram ($350), or fund 100% of a BHF grant for curative surgery ($1,000).  


The Big Hearts Fund website has a simple and secure Donation page through which you can submit your tax-deductible contribution. Simply click the DONATE button on any page, and complete the donation/pledge form.

So many have been integral in The Big Hearts Fund’s impact, and we hope you are able to continue on this journey with us as we strive to help all animals in need receive the care they deserve.


On behalf of The Big Hearts Fund staff, Board of Directors, and most of all, Keeva, Roscoe, Frosty, Diamond, their loving families, and so many more, I thank you for your unwavering support and spirited generosity.

Yours in Service,

Kaitlin R Bishop Executive Director, The Big Hearts Fund

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday?
By Kaitlin Bishop

As someone who, from the day after Thanksgiving through the day after Christmas, will listen only to the Christmas Stations on Songza, Sirius, Pandora, and yes, even the radio, saying the holiday season excites me is quite obviously, an understatement. Lights, decorations, music, baked treats, time with friends and family, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Elf….you get the point. This ED clearly loves it all. While I refuse to be bogged down by the marketing ploys and fixations on commercialism of the retail industry during the holidays, I have many friends and family members who cannot help but turn into varying degrees of Mr. Scrooge when the stories of chaos in a Toys “R” Us at 4am on Black Friday hit the news waves. Perhaps you’re one of those?

In response to the ever expanding and overwhelming focus on buy buy buy and me me me during the holiday season, an idea was born:


Stores have their Black Friday events. Websites have their Cyber Monday sales. And now, nonprofit organizations have their #GivingTuesday campaigns. The first Tuesday after Thanksgiving marks an opportunity for all to truly embrace the holiday spirit and give to a cause(s) they hold dear. This year, The Big Hearts Fund will be launching its Helping Hearts Annual Pledge Drive. We are so excited to be joining the #GivingTuesday movement, we hope you join us on this adventure in giving this holiday season. Stay Tuned!

A Brief Interruption in our Regularly Scheduled Programming
By Christy Drackett

Hello Fans, Followers, Donors, and Supporters of BHF!

It is Christy, your humble founder and program director here! And, I am very excited to tell you about a significant change happening within BHF’s financial aid program.

Up until now, I have been personally handling and responding to ALL requests for aid submitted through this website. We used to average about one-per-day, which was pretty manageable, especially when I was working on BHF every day. Then I had a baby, who has now grown into a two-year-old. When she was born, I dropped down to working two days-per-week, which has been sort of manageable for a year-and-a-half. When I say “sort of manageable,” I mean, the program has been sustaining, but not necessarily growing in capability.

And you know what they say! As soon as things get comfortable, they will soon change! BHF is currently averaging about 50 inquires a month (sometimes more), and I am expecting another baby at the end of the year. I can officially say – without a doubt – that handling all of the financial aid program by myself has become quite unmanageable! Those of you anxiously awaiting word from BHF about whether your beloved pet might be one of our next grant recipients deserve so much better than a week-late response from me. So LET ME TELL YOU about our plan to grow this program into something much more self-sustaining and thriving!

VOLUNTEERS (aka: more manpower). At the beginning of 2015, the management of all active cases will be handled by a group of well-qualified and dedicated volunteers. These special individuals will be personally responsible for each active case as it comes in, so that each applicant has someone who is intimately knowledgable about their pet’s individual case and can answer questions and respond in a timely fashion. A “point person,” if you will.

In other words: If you share the load, everybody wins.

Because of this large internal change, the vastly increasing demand for help, and limited funding we have regrettably had to stop accepting new applications for the time being. I am using all of my time and energy to develop a comprehensive training manual for volunteers (along with my generous attorney brother who makes a living out of being thorough in writing!), and planning how exactly to execute this change with as little disruption to our programming as possible. And also, with the hope and expectation that this change will actually bring about growth.

Ultimately, the goal for this program re-vamp is a direct outgrowth of our vision of a world where NO dog or cat with heart disease has to go untreated. Taking this brief time away from case management to develop our program will allow us to be able to help even MORE pets upon re-launch.

So, stay tuned – and follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter for the latest news, and to be alerted the very minute we begin accepting our first applications under this new program!

Thank you for reading this, and thank you for your continued support of The Big Hearts Fund. I know I sound like a broken record, but we could not do this without the support of our generous friends.

Catching Up with Lily...
By Kaitlin Bishop

In November of 2012, BHF received an application for funding diagnostic tests for an 8-year old Chihuahua, Lily. After diagnostic testing showed the Lily’s heart murmur was not as severe as originally feared, she was able to undergo surgery for severe dental disease. Since her surgery, Lily has never looked back. Here is what her amazing owner and best friend had to say.

“The first pic was less than a month after her teeth surgery (10 teeth!). She had her first trip to the beach after a few weeks of recovery. In fact, we found a park near our house {when} trying to find alternatives that were less crowded. Lily appreciated her alone time from other big dogs, but now when they come around she definitely puts them in check. I think her new look makes her appear more fierce than when she actually had teeth.

Our neighbor introduced us to an Island near the Bay where dogs get together and venture from bush, to dirt, to mud, to ocean. Lil’ has a keen sense at finding anything stinky to roll around on. She makes an effort to ensure she gets a bath when she gets home (though hasn’t put two and two together, I think).


But the reality is our Boo has been growing a lot more gray than tan hairs and can’t take long walks without walking on three legs (vet said she has minor knee problems, but not an issue or causing her pain, just getting older). Even though she enjoys her time in nature, she is an undercover animal. Bed time seems to be her favorite time as she now brings toys up the homemade bed-stairs, plays tug-a-war to the best of her ability, and then persists to crawl under the sheets.

We were always concerned about her health because of the comments we received about her heart murmur and never thought she would have been able to have the treatment she needed to live like a normal doggie. We were so fortunate to have the results of the test conducted and acted just in time to ensure she had a greater quality of life. After all, eating is what she’s best at (our friends call her “The Vacuum”). Thank You Big Hearts and all those who contributed at a time of need! We were in a really tough situation and without your help we would have relied on opinion and never been able to give her the medical attention she needed."

Learning from Nobi
By Christy Drackett

This story was written by loving pet owner and cake artisan Ashlee Perkins, and originally published on her blog: Cakes are Serious Business.

Last night, my 3 year old cat, Kenobi, lost his battle with heart disease. It hit quickly and my husband and I had little time to prepare, and even less time to say goodbye. I wanted to read about other cat owners’ experiences with feline heart disease, but found few resources. I would like to share my own experience to hopefully help others who find themselves in this unfortunate situation.

Kenobi was born in April 2011. We picked him up from the humane society when we moved into our first home as a couple, and our older cat, Ace, was lonely. Kenobi was quickly a great companion for him.

Nobi was generally very playful and curious, but we noticed when he was about a year old that sometimes he would wake up in the night and cough. It sounded almost like he was trying to cough up a hairball, but no hairball ever came. The older cat, being long-haired, gets hairballs all the time though, so we assumed he was getting a little extra fur and didn’t think much of it.

When he was about 2 and a half, my husband took him to the vet for his yearly exam. At that time, the vet discovered he had a very mild heart murmur. She explained that next he would need an EKG and a few other tests to determine the cause of the heart murmur, but since it was so mild and he was otherwise behaving, eating and drinking and pooping and playing, normally, it wasn’t that dire of a situation.


Fast forward to March of 2014. Kenobi is about 3 weeks away from turning three years old. We had previously fostered a few dogs, and one of them needed to be returned to its foster home after its new “permanent” home didn’t work out. Kenobi wasn’t used to a big dog, though. I could tell within 24 hours that he was visibly stressed. The biggest concern was that he was pulling his hair out and scratching excessively, making little sores and scabs on his body.

I took him to the vet for the scratching, but when the vet was checking his vitals, he paused for a long time while listening to his heart. I have seen the same vet for a while, so we had been chatting and joking around, but when he started listening to Kenobi’s heart, his face fell serious.

He said Kenobi’s heart murmur had progressed to what he considered to be a 3 on a scale of 5. I mentioned the foster dog, and he said it wasn’t unlikely that the foster dog was adding stress that both worsened his heart and caused the hair pulling. I also mentioned that he had lost weight lately, and the vet weighed him to find that he lad lost about 4 pounds in the last 6 months. I did note that he had been eating less, but we had been asked to put him on a diet, and I just assumed it was working.

He surmised that the hair pulling was likely due to allergies and would need to be addressed but he stressed that the more pressing concern right now was to get Nobi’s heart looked at. He gave him a mild short-term steroid injection to address the scratching, and explained that usually they would give a stronger dose, but Nobi’s heart wouldn’t be strong enough.

Nobi seemed to feel much better when he had the steroid injection. As much as it pained us to do, we transferred the foster dog to a different home to alleviate his stress. Nobi was doing better already, it seemed.

We brought him back to the vet the next week for some heart tests. They ran an EKG and an echocardiogram at my local vet’s office, and sent the files to a Charleston feline cardiologist to be examined. He stayed the day at the vet’s office, and I picked him up in the evening. The vet said he was a delight, and she loved spending the day with him. They had to shave off a patch of hair from his side to get the readings, but he was otherwise chipper and happy when he came home.

I was so anxious to hear the results when the vet called the next day. She had good news and bad. The bad news was that Kenobi did, indeed have heart disease (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). She called it mild, and explained that the problem was that one of his heart valves opened properly, but did not close properly, which could cause backup of blood flow in his heart and an irregular heart rate. She said it was likely that he was born with the disease – cardiomyopathy is often congenital – and that it was not unusual to discover it at this stage. It usually appears in cats around age 2.

She said she was optimistic about him. Usually this is a serious diagnosis for a cat, but since we caught it so early, she said it was highly likely he would live a long and happy life. Sometimes cats live to 10 years old with this condition, she explained.

We were told to pick up a prescription for him – a beta blocker called “atenolol”. We were told to give him a 1/4 of a pill twice a day and to reduce his stress. We bought the Greenie’s “Pill Pockets” with which to give him the pill, and he took them easily, never purposefully spitting out the pill.

I was shocked at how much he improved when he was taking the medicine! He was like a kitten again, tumbling over his brother and running through the house. I was so glad we had found the problem and it seemed like we had found a solution.


However, he was still pulling his fur out. We worked hard to switch him to a low-allergen food and a no-dust litter to help with the problem, and he seemed to improve. We marked the growth of his fur he was pulling out against the patch the vet had shaved for the EKG. He seemed to be on the up-and-up.

Yesterday, we went about our morning routine. I woke up to Kenobi snuggled up close to my side, and he kneaded my side for a while as I woke up (he was taken from his mother too early and “suckled” for a few months as a kitten. He always retained the “kneading” as a comfort in that regard). When his brother Ace woke up and left the bedroom, Kenobi hid behind my legs to pounce him as he walked by. He waited for me by the bathroom door when I got out of the shower, and chirped when I came out, like he did every morning. I gave him his morning medicine and some food and left for work.

When I came home, Kenobi met me at the door and followed me to the kitchen for his afternoon dose of medicine. He was eager for the treat it was packed in, and danced around my legs like he always does. He took the treat easily and went to sit on the screened-in porch which is his favorite spot in the house.

I made dinner and noticed he was sitting strangely in the center of the porch looking in the house. I went to pet him, and he was appreciative, but almost shied away from my touch. This was unusual, but I didn’t think much of it. Maybe he was distracted by a bird outside or something.

However, not 20 minutes later, as my husband and I sat on the couch eating dinner, we heard a crash from the porch. My husband jumped up to see what the problem was. Assuming it was Kenobi chasing something outside, I stayed where I was. But when my husband asked, panicked “are you okay, Kenobi??” I knew something was wrong. I went outside just in time to see him making the same dry-heaving noise that he used to make as a kitten. He was convulsing. My husband scooped him up in his arms and I ran for my phone to call the vet. I didn’t know what to do or think. I ran in circles as my husband ran outside towards the car with Kenobi, telling me to get my keys. I scrambled for my shoes, and it was then that I heard my husband say “he’s gone”. He stood on the front lawn with Kenobi limp in his arms.

We took him to the emergency vet, not knowing if he was unconscious or what. The vet rushed him into the back room, and emerged only a couple minutes later. she confirmed what my husband had said – Kenobi was gone.

I was in shock. This was not how I expected my Tuesday to go. I thought he was doing better. Was it the medicine? I didn’t know what to do or think.

The vet explained that it was highly likely that he just gave in to his heart disease. She felt him to feel for urinary blockage, but found none. We blamed ourselves, but the vet said that we had truly done everything we could. She brought him back out for us to sit in a quiet room. We held him and rocked him for several minutes, wrapped in a towel. He seemed so peaceful, and I suddenly felt much better knowing his suffering was over, and he was with me.

We are still hurting very much. We will receive his ashes in a couple days, and I’m sure whatever healing we have done at that point will be torn open again. But I hope we helped him to live the fullest and happiest life that he could have had. He undoubtedly made our lives happier and more fulfilled.

We will miss him everyday.

I hope that this will help someone else to see the warning signs of heart disease. Please do not hesitate to follow your vet’s instructions if you find signs of heart disease. Bring your cat to the vet often. Do not ignore weight loss and coughing.

I hope Kenobi’s story can save just one other cat’s life. Hug your pet everyday.

Liz & Duncan's Unexpected Journey
By Kaitlin Bishop

BHF was recently contacted by a remarkable young woman coming to terms with the diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure in her beloved chocolate lab, Duncan. BHF is humbled to be able to share Liz & Duncan’s story and provide support during this unexpected turn in their life together.

Liz & Duncan

“Duncan entered my life in March of 2009, and it was love at first sight. After months of attempting to adopt a dog, The American Lab Rescue paired Duncan and I together, and for the past four years we’ve been inseparable. Duncan is truly my sidekick. Living in a very dog-friendly NYC neighborhood, he runs most of my errands with me, and when the weather is nice he joins me at the outdoor bars and restaurants. True to his breed, he has an incredibly friendly disposition, and everyone who meets him quickly falls for his friendly personality and excitable nature. He will run for miles, fetch for hours, and is in a perpetual state of happiness. I’ve always said that Duncan just loves life too much – it is the only way to explain his excitement over anything and everything. This all made Duncan’s diagnosis in March 2014 all the more shocking: Congestive Heart Failure. I couldn’t fathom how my happy puppy with endless energy could be given just 9-12 months to live.

Duncan has always been a healthy dog so his diagnosis came out of nowhere. After two weeks of an unrelenting cough, the vet had diagnosed Duncan with an upper respiratory infection. Four days later I came home late at night to find him unable to breathe, and I rushed him to the emergency room. A chest x-ray showed that his lungs were full of fluid and his heart was enlarged. The next day a cardiologist diagnosed that what we thought was severe pneumonia was actually congestive heart failure due to mitral dysplasia, a heart valve that never fully formed at birth. The dysplastic valve was allowing fluid to flow back into his heart chamber, causing the heart itself to enlarge. It turns out that all the years of intense exercise actually put an immense strain on his heart and has accelerated his condition. In total, Duncan spent 3 days in the ICU on oxygen to improve his lung capacity and was heavily medicated to reduce the swelling in his heart. The doctors informed me that his condition could be managed with a cocktail of pills (nine a day!), but that his activity level would need to be severely limited to reduce any unnecessary exertion on his heart.

The day of Duncan’s diagnosis I decided two things: First, Duncan needs to keep being Duncan and doing the things he loves. He needs to continue to run, fetch and explore even if it means it will shorten his time left with me. Second, Duncan is just too amazing of a dog for everyone not to benefit from his energy and spirit. I needed to turn our misfortune into someone else’s fortune, which is where the Big Hearts Fund comes in!

BHF has been generous enough to allow Duncan and me to share our story, and we hope to provide periodic updates as we adapt to our new normal. We’ve been learning something new everyday: how far we can walk without getting too tired, how long Duncan can hold it as his bladder adjusts to being on a diuretic, what foods are allowed on a low-sodium diet, and when are the best times to count his breathing rate, which has to be monitored and recorded twice a day. We’ve had our setbacks too: Duncan developed a blood clot in his leg, which put him back in the hospital a few days after his initial discharge. It rendered his leg useless for about a week, and it was ice cold to the touch, but I am happy to report that he seems to have worked through the clot. I’m hopeful he will regain full mobility and we will get back to our walks soon!

I feel very fortunate for the medical staff we found that will be managing Duncan’s care and the support we have from our friends and family during this trying time. Organizations like the Big Hearts Fund are crucial for those pets and pet owners who find themselves managing their conditions under different circumstances. One BHF pet, Diamond, has been diagnosed with the same condition as Duncan, but her owner is unable to fund the necessary care Diamond needs. My hope is for Duncan and me to generate awareness that will help others, Diamond in particular, to get proper medical care and funding for their medical needs. If you have had the joy of meeting Duncan or his story has touched you, please visit the Help! page and consider making a donation to sponsor Diamond or any of the BHF pets in honor of all our lovable pets whose hearts are literally too big for them to handle!"

Gypsy's Story
By Christy Drackett

The following story was written by Gypsy’s owner Andrea, who found BHF online while searching for help for her cat. Like many caring owners, she would like to share Gypsy’s story in hopes of spreading awareness about feline heart disease.

“In November as colder weather was setting in, I prayed for an animal to be put in my path that I could help save. Little did I know what I was actually asking. No less than one day later, my prayer was answered.

Driving home in the dark after dinner, I was passing a wooded area on a busy stretch of road when a little black bundle at the tree line caught my eye. I drove back by it three times because it was hard to tell if it was litter or a cat.

Pulling over to investigate, I found out it was definitely a cat. I slowly walked up to her, and she slowly started to walk toward the woods. I thought that was that and started to leave. As I did, I heard loud crying. I pulled out my iPhone and turned on the flashlight app. She was standing there staring at me and then hesitantly made her way back toward me. I started petting her and then just as easily picked her up and took her back to the car.

With my significant other, we spent the next few days looking for her owner – putting up flyers, sending out emails and posting to Facebook. With three rescue dogs and two rescue cats already living under our roof, we decided we’d need to find her a new home when her owner didn’t come forward.

Our search was brought to a grinding a halt when we discovered her Saturday afternoon in, what we found out later to be, congestive heart failure. We couldn’t believe it. We had just found her on Monday, and she seemed so young, healthy, loving and energetic.

Late that night the ER vet talked to us about euthanization. We couldn’t do it. If she had more life to live, we decided we’d give it to her. It’s been a financial strain – she has gone into congestive heart failure four times since then. She bounces right back every time and is living a quality life today. We’re hopeful that we’ve found a good balance in her medication, and that she’ll have many months more to live.

Our time with her has been incredibly rewarding even though we’ve given much more money than we thought we ever could, and in three short months, Gypsy has become a very special part of our family. My hope is that others would be able to make similar sacrifices to keep these wonderful animals alive."

Godric's Story
By Christy Drackett

Just a little background about this sweet guy: When Godric was in the hospital, fighting for his life and in congestive heart failure, his owners found BHF and applied for a grant. His moms would like to share his story to “give Godric’s death a purpose” by reaching other pet parents, increasing awareness of heart disease, and hopefully saving lives. Our heartfelt thanks to Krysta and Sera for sharing this story with us.

“We had recently lost a female kitty that we had had for 13 years and without really knowing why exactly, we suddenly felt a pull to go look at orphan kitties at Petsmart and there was Godric. Godric started out life by being discarded in a cardboard box, along with his brother. They were not old enough to be weaned when they had been rescued, but ‘Zeke’, as he was then known, was at the door of the cage trying to pick the lock! It was love at first sight and after a long night of waiting for the adoption people to show up, we took him home. Once in our home, it did not take long for him to show how special he was, and to wiggle deeply into our hearts. As a kitten, he often slept on the tops of our heads. We called him our ‘cat hat’ and he showed affection by running his nose into ours with his much loved ‘nose bumps’.

We took him to his first vet appointment within 2 weeks and were told that he had ‘a significant heart murmur’. The vet then suggested that we might be able to exchange him. Not surprisingly, we chose to remain a family. We took Godric home and promised to love and care for him all his days. And he quickly repaid us by sharing his loving, quirky personality. He was a very intelligent boy, and preferred to be near us at all times. He nearly always joined us in the ‘pride bed’ and seldom did one or both of us come in the door that he was not sitting there waiting to meet us. Although until recently, Krysta went to work every day, Sera has health problems and is usually home. She and Godric played together every day, and when she didn’t feel well, Godric just laid near her.

He, too, had problems with fatigue and shortness of breath, yet he was always interested in interaction and play. He loved it when Sera would fold a blanket into a strip and he could surf by standing on the end of the blanket while Sera would pull him around the house. To show his enthusiasm for play, he would deliver his favorite toys to us by carrying them over in his mouth and dropping them at our feet. Or on top of us if we were in bed. He knew his left paw from his right and would ask for treats with the appropriate one and then ‘nose bump’ to show affection. He loved to play fetch, especially with straws and pop catnip bubbles that Sera would blow for him. At only three-and-a-half years old, he was physically beautiful, too. A lean 15 lbs. with four white paws, a bib, and a coat that did not shed, but was tiger-striped, shiny and pelt-like. Every day we reminded him how much we loved him. Sera would daily whisper in his ear in a special voice, ‘I love you, I love you!’ Even his Gramma seldom left her house without picking up a little something special for Godric.

Then one day he started vomiting. After a few days our boy also quit eating and began drinking very little so we bundled him up and took him to the vet. An x-ray revealed nothing obviously wrong with tummy or bowels, but did show a chest full of fluid that, along with his bad heart seemed to indicate congestive heart failure. The doctor prescribed a diuretic to help get rid of the fluid even though he was already somewhat dehydrated. Two days later he was so weak and low on fluid that we took him to the local animal ER where he was admitted with both the CHF and now kidney failure. This was a tough situation because the kidneys need fluid, but fluids would overload the heart which ultrasound showed to be in far worse shape than we had ever imagined. Adding to the stress were the quickly mounting vet bills. Krysta’s job had gone away with government cuts, and even the unemployment had run out. The bills were being handled by Sera’s mother who is on a fixed income.
It was about this time that we discovered The Big Hearts Fund and the very compassionate and supportive Christy who was trying very hard to help us save our beloved kitty’s life with some much needed financial aid and emotional support.

Unfortunately, in spite of the superior care provided by the staff at Animal Emergency & Critical Care Center of Brevard, much improving kidneys, and the fact that Godric was trying so very hard to get well, he passed away shortly after the surgery that we absolutely believed would bring him back home. His big, loving heart had lost the battle. However, we will be forever grateful to, and supportive of, Christy and her wonderful organization. We believe Godric would too. Please help give his death meaning by donating to save another beloved pet’s life. Meanwhile, we will give another orphan a ‘forever home’, but are still crying an ocean of tears, missing our boy."

Catching up with Caesar!
By Kaitlin Bishop

This past fall, Caesar was given only weeks to live. Like so many of BHF’s applicants, Ceasar was born with PDA and required immediate surgery. Also like so many of BHF’s applicants, Caesar’s owner is disabled and lives on a very limited budget, preventing him from being able to afford such a costly surgery. Unlike many of BHF’s applicants, Caesar’s doctor was already familiar with The Big Hearts Fund and referred Caesar to us for help. With a grant from BHF, this lovable little guy underwent lifesaving surgery on November 6, went home the next day, and hasn’t looked back!

Below is a little update from Caesar’s dad:

“Caesar went into surgery on November 6 and came home on the evening of November 7. He currently is running around playing with our other dog, Beethoven. He wouldn’t be here today without your charity. We cannot thank you enough for giving us more time with him. He’s a precious little guy that we love dearly. We had originally thought we’d just be giving him the best life possible until we found out his heart murmur was curable. After scrambling to find help from anywhere, you guys were able seal the deal for us.

It’s amazing how quickly animals become a family member and seeing them in distress is something no one wants to see. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for allowing us to spend a happy healthy, heart murmur free life with Caesar.”

We love you Caesar!

Catching Up With Sadie!
By Kaitlin Bishop

Who better to kick off our “Catching Up With…” series than Sadie (formerly known as Melanie), BHF’s first grant recipient!

To read Sadie’s complete story, beautifully written by her owner, Martha, check out her Happy Hearts page!

In short, immediately after adopting 18 month old Sadie, Martha noticed her heartbeat was not what it should be. A visit to the vet confirmed that Sadie had a Grade 6 heart murmur, a significantly enlarged heart, and would likely go into congestive heart failure within weeks. A veterinary cardiologist then diagnosed Sadie with patent ductus arteriosus, PDA, which, while curable with surgery, can cost between $2,000 and $5,000! Martha immediately set about looking for financial assistance and after several dead ends, found The Big Hearts Fund. Needless to say, shortly after contacting BHF, Sadie received the needed funds, underwent surgery, and came through with flying colors.

Since her surgery, Sadie has made a full recovery and continues to bring warmth and joy into home that saved her. Below is the latest update from her mom, Martha:

“Sadie is now like a new dog and is experiencing the puppyhood she couldn’t have due to her illness. She plays and runs and jumps like her legs are made of springs! She loves sunning herself on the porch, and her most favorite thing to do is chase and chew up balls of paper like it’s her job. It’s difficult to get a non-blurry picture of her as she is almost always in motion now! She has also breathed new life into my senior Chihuahua, Molly, who was grieving the loss of her best friend when Sadie entered our lives. She’s a wonderful companion and cuddle buddy for Molly. Plus, she has turned out to be a blessing of another type. Molly has suffered from seizures most of her life, and we’ve discovered that Sadie can tell when a seizure is about to occur, which gives me time to prepare medication for Molly. Sadie is a miracle in many ways, and I am so grateful to the BHF and its supporters for helping to save her.”

Thank you Martha, for your commitment to Sadie’s life, and THANK YOU to BHF’s amazing supporters for making her surgery and new life possible!

Welcoming the New Year with the Big Hearts Fund (and Pets)
By Alanna Tritt

It is a new year. 2014. All shiny and keen with possibility. At BHF, we are reflecting on our hopes for the new year and imagining our pets’ New Year’s resolutions.

Q: What are you, your family, and/or your pets looking forward to in 2014?

Christy: Our pets are all looking forward to nicer weather next July, when it finally stops raining in Seattle! None of them like to be sprinkled on, and all of them like to play outside.

My husband, my daughter and I are all simultaneously dreading and looking forward to our home remodeling project, which will begin and end in 2014!

Des: I think the cats are looking forward to not having to move ever again, so far as their conception of time goes. I’m looking forward to some time to relax after a thoroughly busy, borderline hectic fall. And getting books in shelves and art on walls.

Kaitlin: Spending time in Michigan with the whole family, running around and exploring the beaches and parks!

Kaitlin’s dog, Jax, enjoys a nap

Katie: We are looking forward to welcoming home a new baby this spring, just in time for lots of family strolls in the park and cookouts in the backyard!

Laura: My pet is a Siamese named Shumai (after the small Asian dumpling, which he resembled when a kitten, but he is now huge). He is most looking forward to the opportunity to hunt more feet and mice in the new year.

Melissa: For this upcoming year, we are looking forward to spending more time together as a family. With Roscoe [a puppy] new to us (adopted in October), we are looking forward to learning more about one other and communicating better. One of our goals this year is to spend more time exploring the world and we would like to include our dogs in this as much as possible.

Charlie and Roscoe having a blast 

Alanna: Bella Donna, my house’s cat, looks forward to sitting in the sun and avoiding my friends. I look forward to relaxing as well, but I’m also very excited to be building on all the great opportunities that came up at the end of 2013.
* *Q: If your pet or pets had a New Year’s resolution, what would it be?

Melissa (whose pets are two dogs: Charlie, grey, and Roscoe, black): Charlie’s resolutions for this new year would be for him to be more patient and tolerant of his new younger puppy brother Roscoe. He would also like to strive to receive more snuggles from his humans-because he can never get enough and he has a daily required amount of snuggles that he needs.

Charlie and Roscoe, all tuckered out

Roscoe’s New Years resolutions would include the goal of not chewing on any more baseboards and furniture in the house. He would also like to spend more time sneaking into mom and dad’s bed after they fall asleep and curling up between them.

Christy (whose pets include a yellow lab named Lucy, a cat named Halifax, and a cat named Sgt. Pepper): Lucy’s New Year’s resolution is to try to be a better leash walker… although this is probably more a resolution for me to more consistent in my training efforts!

Halifax resolves to bring in more dead birds, much to the dismay of everyone else.

Sgt. Pepper resolves to hiss at everyone less… at least I hope so.

Des (whose pets include a black kitten named Farious and an older orange cat named Beastie): Farious probably doesn’t believe in resolutions, but she might come up with something like forcing the humans to stop spraying her when she’s just trying to eat a plant. Beastie’s might be something on the order of stop Farious’s terrorism.

Jax (Kaitlin’s dog): [My resolution is to] finally catch that stupid squirrel that lives in our backyard. He keeps teasing me.

Lulu (Katie’s dog): Convince mom and dad to install a doggie door so I can have unlimited backyard time!

Laura: [Shumai’s] new year’s resolution is probably to continue his staunch defense against bears, for which he had a 100% success rate.

Bella Donna (Alanna’s feline housemate): I resolve to tackle my vacuum-phobia so that I can clean up when I shed

What would your pet resolve to do this year?

12 Days of Christmas: Marley Mae's Story
By Christy Drackett

Marley is this 4-year-old boxer sweetheart, who was diagnosed with Arrhythmatic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC) or “Boxer Cardiomyopathy.” (Yes, it occurs so much in Boxers that it has been so nicknamed.)

Marley’s mom is the working mother of her 6-year-old son, her dog Marley Mae, and three kitties. She is a professional counselor and works with very troubled children. Sometimes, Marley comes to work with her. At the time BHF was helping Marley Mae last year, her mom had Marley on a waitlist to be officially certified as a therapy dog.

Though young and healthy looking to the casual onlooker, Marley’s mom knew that something wasn’t right. When she took Marley back to the cardiologist, they determined that Marley should have a Holter Monitoring test to assess the level and severity of her disease. The only problem was that this test, recommend twice, was going to cost $1,200, or $600 each time. And any prescribed medications would add to that cost.

It would only take $350 more dollars of charges and Marley’s mom’s credit cards would all be totally maxed out. She was making just enough to cover necessary bills, and sometimes had enough to make payments on the significant debt she had accumulated through her own medical bills and student load debt. Like many owners we meet, she was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The receptionist at Marley’s cardiologist’s office, Cornell University Animal Medical Center, told Marley’s mom about The Big Hearts Fund. She submitted an application in October, 2012. We were able to grant Marley Mae $500 towards the cost of the Holter monitoring procedure, and we also helped Marley’s mom set up a fundraising page for Marley on our website which yielded another $300.

Marley got her Holter test in January, 2013. She is back on track with her treatment and is living life comfortably and happily. Today, Marley’s mom reports that knowing Marley Mae has ARVC makes her cherish every moment she has the privilege of sharing with her.