This is the update I haven’t been able to write.
We lost Vinnie in surgery on Wednesday 3/2/22. He was 114 days old. 8.2#. Happy and healthy. He brought so much joy and hope to so many people. We are shattered. His family’s hearts are broken into 10 million pieces. He was truly a miracle. The entire RMFBR community is in shock and mourning.
I spoke with the specialist surgeon on Thursday evening after we all had some time to decompress and they had been able to work through what happened. I am going to discuss cause of death so please, skip the next paragraph if you are not ready.
Notes from the specialist surgeon with consult from cardio, neuro, critical care, and the anesthesiologist: If you read below, you can see how very deep Vinnie’s cleft ran. Surgery had to be performed. We had to wait until he was old enough that he could handle the anesthesia. We did. We had to do it soon enough that he didn’t suffer further bone loss. We did. Surgery was performed at exactly the right week. He was chunky and well-nourished. Bloodwork and full physical Monday and again by the specialty departments on Wednesday all indicated a very healthy puppy who could handle surgery like a champ. Honestly, our biggest concern was how he would eat the next few days – would we need to tube him again around the sutures? Would he be able to eat his mama-invented jello? There were no concerns of him struggling during surgery. Vinnie’s surgery began at 11:30 and he did exactly as expected: no struggle, normal heart rate, all perfect. The surgeon closed his entire hard palate – it took just over an hour. They needed to roll him to close the soft palate. When they rolled him dorsal to ventral, his heart stopped. “Like a switch flipped”. It just stopped. For 23 minutes, a highly trained team of vets did every life-saving heroic measure possible in a very coordinated effort to save him. The consensus is there was a congenital, electric glitch. A “switch” flipped off – the switch that told his heart to beat. The anesthesia may have made this happen faster because of his body compensating. But it is very possible this switch may have flipped a month from now or a year from now while he was playing or running or being a happy little boy. Often cleftie babies have more than one defect. The vet team assured us we did everything possible exactly right. This was an abnormality no one could have found even if we had run MRIs and EKGs and random tests that no one would have thought to run. There was no physical indicator of an electrical/neuron issue. On a personal note: This is NOT FAIR.
Vinnie did not struggle. He was not in pain. He went under as a happy playful puppy. Vinnie knew love for 114 days – time he would not have had if not for his mama. He was a puppy. He had snuggles and play and warmth and all the very special love and devotion every puppy deserves.
Vinnie has left an enormous hole in our hearts and souls. This was a devastating loss like none I have had in the eight years of directing RMFBR.
Always remember, this amazing life he had. Always make every day The Best Day Ever.
From his heart mama in those empty hours between 3/3 and 3/4
The update nobody wanted: My sweet Vinnie Velcro, the little 5oz, 3 day old puppy who has brought immeasurable joy to my family, and to all of you for the past 114 days, did not make it through his surgery today. My heart is shattered into 10 million pieces. They tried so hard to save him, I begged them not to stop, but he did not respond to their efforts. We were able to see him and love on him one last time this afternoon. This was the hardest goodbye imaginable. He was so very special to our family, we are devastated. I don’t have words to properly articulate my heartache, but I know many of you anticipated an update.Thank you all for loving him the way you did, most of you from afar. He brought joy to so many in his short life. I am broken. This was our last photo before we walked into the hospital for his surgery today. I will forever cherish the time I had with this tiny miracle dog. He made me a better person and made me realize how much every single day matters. Please send our family all your good vibes in whichever way you prefer. We are deeply hurting. How many tears can you cry before you just run out? If you want to honor Vinnie, and the joy he brought to you, please consider a donation in his name, in any amount, to Rocky Mountain French Bulldog Rescue; so that when my heart begins to heal from this I can help them save another baby who needs me, which will be the only real way for me to heal my soul from this tremendous loss.
Every night for exactly 16 weeks, when our house got quiet for the night, Jeff and the boys in bed, I would feed little Vinnie his midnight snack and soak up his love, literally sometimes for several hours. He loved to lean in, onto my chest, while standing on the table and then present his perfect fuzzy little snout to me for kisses. If I executed his demand perfectly, he would thank me with kisses of my own and snuggle into me harder. When he was tiny this was also our pep-talk hour where I would ridiculously speak positive affirmations to him, trying to convince myself and him that he would live until the next feeding while I got a short nap. I cherished those moments, just me & Vin, so smitten with each other, both of us determined to grow him into a real dog some day. Now it’s so silent in here that it’s loud. And I remember that Jeff has fed Vinnie breakfast every morning since he could eat his jello on his own, and my heart aches for him to wake before the rest of us tomorrow morning and not find his favorite tiny breakfast buddy waiting for him.I haven’t stopped uncontrollably sobbing for over 10 hours. This isn’t how the triumphant story of little Vinnie Velcro was supposed to end. The little dog who beat the odds, spread joy, captured hearts, and was loved by so many. My sweet favorite tiny guy. It’s just not fair. I want day 115 and thousands more.
Vinnie’s first surgery is Wednesday!
We met with the surgeon and his cleft is quite severe. She doesn’t think he even has a soft palate- it is all one big hole. She will need to take tissue from his cheeks in order to create a palate there. Additionally, because so much bone is displaced, his cleft in his hard palate is actually growing larger as he grows. Often, palates will close on their own but his is simply too deep and too big.
He can beat this!
This will take two or possibly three surgeries in the next few months. Vinnie will never be able to eat “normal” and will also be a special needs baby as far as types of food and consistency. And his guardian will always need to watch him eat to ensure he doesn’t snuffle up food into his sinuses.
But the surgeries will give him the best chance. They will close the hole as absolute much as possible. While most of his nutrition comes in the form of foster-made jello, he still cannot drink well and does need water tube fed as well as some nutrients to be sure this growing baby stays healthy. He needs the surgeries to live.
Each surgery is estimated at close to $4000. We need to get $12,000 (!) to save his life.
Can you help save Vinnie?
Vinnie came to us at only three days old. He has a severe cleft in both hard and soft palates so he cannot eat as other puppies can. If milk or food enters the cleft, he could choke to death or develop aspiration pneumonia. The good news: at 16 weeks, the cleft can be surgically repaired.
Many puppies are euthanized when they are born with a cleft – especially one as severe as Vinnie’s. But his wonderful breeder wanted to give him a chance so she called us. We called in our neo-natal specialist foster.
For more information on the intense care that goes into cleft palates, GO HERE.
Vinnie had to be tube fed every two hours for the first few weeks. His food had to be special made and special found to ensure he received the nutrients he would be missing from not having his mama’s milk. He also was given plasma to help with his immune system.
Vinnie lived in an incubator for the first few weeks aside from when he was being fed. This incubator gave him oxygen, heat, and humidity. After a few days with us, foster noticed he had some abscesses. This was most likely from his mama knowing he couldn’t survive and making room for her other babies to survive. This is not unusual in these cases. But he did need medical intervention for his wounds.
Vinnie continues to thrive thanks to foster mama’s very very hard work. He is still tube fed and does also eat a handmade jello of soaked kibble, canned puppy food, and a special order food for “dog babies”. This jello has to be molded by foster mama and a very specific consistency so it does not get stuck in his cleft.
Vinnie just had his second round of vaccines. He is 12 weeks old now.
Vinnie acts just like any other puppy – he is a Frenchie! and has developed the side eye and snark. He is funny and silly and loves his family and everyone he meets.
Vinnie’s surgery consult with the specialist is 2/7. After that, we will know the full extent of his cleft and how we can repair it and save his life.
For an overview on cleft surgery, GO HERE. TW: GRAPHIC photos
Can you help Vinnie?