A four-month-old puppy arrived at the Durham County Animal Shelter looking not quite right – his poor belly was huge, like something was in there that shouldn’t have been.
Rescuers were shocked by what was making the little dog’s tummy so big.
Keep reading to hear about one little dog who just wanted to run and play with his friends and the rescuer who wouldn’t give up on making his dream come true.
A Belly Full of Secrets
Ernie’s little terrier mix body had a huge belly, too huge to be ignored.
He arrived at Durham County Animal Shelter, located in Durham, North Carolina, as a stray.
Most stray puppies have slightly enlarged bellies because of parasites. The vets had assumed this was the case with Ernie, but something seemed a little off.
They treated him and then treated him again, but his big belly was not getting any smaller.
The county shelter was doing everything they could, but they just didn’t have the resources to keep exploring what was really going on with little Ernie.
They asked local rescue Hope Animal Rescue to take the puppy with the mysterious illness.
Hope Animal Rescue agreed. Little did the staff know, everyone was in for a big surprise.
An Open Heart
Chellie LaPoint, a volunteer foster with Hope Animal Rescue, had recently said goodbye to her beloved dog.
On the mend from her heartbreak, she saw Ernie bouncing around from foster to foster and knew she wanted to help him.
In the back of her mind, she thought she might even want to adopt him.
Chellie accepted Ernie into her home as a foster to adopt setup. But, it was immediately clear that all was not well with Ernie.
“He wanted to play with other dogs, but he couldn’t. He had this huge belly that would get in the way and it would just make him so tired,” recalled Chellie.
The sweet 12-pound puppy just wanted to do puppy things with all of his puppy friends.
“I remember watching him trying to run in the backyard and he would fall down,” Chellie shared. “It would break my heart. I wanted to cry.”
Though he couldn’t play, Ernie still wanted to be friends with everyone.
Sweet Ernie would introduce himself to anyone he met by plopping down on his big belly beside them.
Everyone loved Ernie and they were not going to give up on curing his mysterious illness.
The Truth Revealed
After many trips to the vet, Ernie found himself at North Carolina State Veterinary Hospital being looked at by the one and only vet that knew how to save his life.
The cardiologist took one look at little Ernie and his huge belly and knew they needed to test him for a very rare condition of the heart.
“This condition is so rare that no one else at the emergency hospital would have known to look for it, would have known to test for it. No one at his vet was familiar with it,” explained Chellie.
Miraculously, the vet was right. Despite the love in Ernie’s heart, it was in fact not working properly.
Ernie needed surgery that would remove a membrane that was restricting blood flow.
“Hope Animal Rescue covered all of the costs,” said Chellie. “They take the dog in and whatever that dog needs, we do it. We don’t let medical expenses get in the way if the dog has potential for good quality of life.”
With this surgery, Ernie didn’t just have a chance for a good quality of life – he had a chance for an amazing life.
Back to Normal
“I literally picked him up two days after his surgery and he could run, he could play, he could do all of the things that a puppy can do,” said Chellie.
Chellie was amazed by Ernie’s quick recovery. She fell even more in love with this goofy puppy that could finally be his goofy self.
After months of not being able to run and play, Little Ernie can’t be stopped!
“We go to this field behind my house and he just runs and runs,” said Chellie.
Even when Ernie couldn’t run and play, everyone from dogs to cats to kids loved him – and that hasn’t changed.
“Ernie is a great friend to all of the foster dogs that come through the house,” shared Chellie. “There is nobody that is not friends with Ernie.”
Ernie’s friends include two kitty BFFs and kids that still find delight in Ernie plopping down on his not-so-big-belly next to them.
Ernie’s most special friend of all is Chellie, who officially adopted Ernie and never once considered giving up on him.
Happily Ever After
Watching Ernie run like any other dog on the beach, Chellie can’t help but be amazed at how far Ernie has come and all of the kind people that made it happen.
“It was an amazing series of events and coincidences,” said Chellie.
Chellie and Ernie, and all of Ernie’s friends, will be forever thankful for the support of Hope Animal Rescue and for the cardiologist who took one look at Ernie and knew exactly what he needed when no one else could.
If you’d like to learn more about the amazing work Hope Animal Rescue does, follow them on Facebook or Instagram!