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Tiny, Homeless Lab Puppy Makes Cross-Country Trek for Life-Saving Surgery at Angell Animal Medical Center

“Valentina” Unable to Keep Solid Food Down Due to Esophagus Condition

BOSTON, Mass. Feb. 16, 2023 – The prognosis for the 12-week-old Chocolate Lab known as Valentina was bleak until she arrived at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. The puppy was surrendered by an Arizona breeder to a local private veterinary practice because the breeder was unable to handle the pup’s medical needs—Valentina was sick and could not keep food down.

The veterinarian, Dr. Meghan Barnes, diagnosed a suspected vascular ring anomaly, which is a disorder that results in entrapment and constriction of the esophagus and requires surgery to correct in order for the dog to eat food normally.

As a private clinic, the Arizona practice did not have the funds to help a homeless animal like Valentina, the specialty surgeons required for her level of care, nor the bandwidth to help with her post-operative care and eventual adoption. Thus, they were forced to consider humane euthanasia for the sweet puppy, when Dr. Barnes reached out to her former classmate, Angell Surgical Resident Dr. Katie Heidgerd, and the MSPCA-Angell for help. Recognizing Valentina’s plight, the organization jumped in to assist.

Cross-State Coordination and Teamwork

“As one of just a few organizations in the country that’s capable of handling diagnosis, surgery, post-op recovery, and adoption, we’re in a really unique position when it comes to helping animals like Valentina,” explained Mike Keiley, MSPCA-Angell director of adoption centers and programs. “We immediately knew we were going to do everything we could to get her here and get her the help she needed, whatever it took.”

Dr. Barnes flew with Valentina to Boston on February 9, where they were met by the MSPCA’s Community Outreach team, who set the puppy up to complete the state-mandated 48-hour quarantine necessary before she could undergo testing.

“It was quite a journey for such a young puppy, but Valentina is unstoppable,” Keiley added. “She’s been friendly, sweet, and wiggly since she arrived. She won’t let anything get her down.”

A Bright Future

Valentina is scheduled to undergo advanced diagnostic testing on Friday, February 17, to confirm her condition before she’ll undergo corrective surgery on the same day. The procedure will be done by Dr. Sue Casale, an Angell surgeon who specializes in orthopedic and soft tissue surgery.

“Valentina’s condition is not common, but it is treatable,” explained Keiley. “We expect her to live a full, happy, and healthy life following surgery, which would not have been possible if she hadn’t been brought to Angell.”

Valentina’s recovery is expected to take several weeks, and she’ll be monitored closely in foster care to protect against illness. Those interested in keeping up with her journey may follow the MSPCA on social media for updates.