We have had Bellissima (Belisa) from the very first day she was born because we also were parents to her mummy. She has three siblings which were all given to our friends so that they would be in good hands. We also had new parents for Belisa, but we felt that we belonged to each other so we kept her.
She is typical terrier, excited about everything, angry at everybody, and so much energy - crazy like a puppy. We had to have her spayed because she was suffering from false pregnancy (or pseudopregnancy). She was mothering her toys and having problems with her mammary glands. Our doctor told us that after being spayed, Belisa would be calmer and not so interested in sex with her toys… but that was not true at all. She wanted to have sex with everything and was even crazier than before.
After that she started to limp on her left back leg and was diagnosed with a luxating patella. We found a specialist from Croatia, Dr. Dokič, who gave her a titan implant in her leg. Unfortunately she had to have an additional operation because the titan implants are made of two pieces and they split up. She also had a groin hernia which was the first time we saw her crying in pain. She had never cried in pain before that.
In 2014, she had her first epileptic seizure. We were shocked because at that time we didn’t know about epilepsy in dogs. We read a lot of information about epilepsy and learned that there is no true cure. We finally decided not to visit doctors who would only give her drugs and scare her more. Every time a seizure was coming she came to us and let us know that something was happening to her, so that we could hold her, talk to her, and try to distract her from what was happening, which worked quite well.
Also in 2014, our doctor told us that she had a heart murmur but it was nothing to worry about. We didn’t know any better and believed our doctor. In October 2015, Belisa was put on Vetmedin (Pimobendan) and Furosemide. Again, our doctor told us there was nothing to worry about. In August 2016, we were visiting our doctor and he told us everything was still fine.
In December 2016, our doctor told us that Belisa was getting worse. Of course, we thought, because she had started to cough during the night and we didn’t understand why. We asked him how much time she has left and his answer killed us. 6 – 12 months. He told us that there was one person in the world that might be able to help us, Dr. Uechi, but it's too expensive. Nothing is too expensive if our love has just a few months of life left. We didn’t know the price, but we knew that we could sell our flat, our cars, our company, even my kidney, anything, just to save her life.
We googled Belisa's condition and Dr. Uechi, and thanks to Kaori and her story of Ralph, we found this amazing group of selfless people. Of course we didn’t believe or understand why there is only one person in the world who could help us. It seemed so strange to us. So in January, we flew to France to meet Dr. Sabin Bozon to discuss the surgery and assess whether we were doing the right thing. We have never ever met a doctor this kind. She is an angel. She explained everything to us and spent a lot of time emailing us answers to all of our questions. This was the most helpful thing during this time, when you are losing all hope.
We did all the tests in our country, including magnetic resonance because of Belisa's epilepsy, to ensure that her brain was fine, and then we had to decide whether to do her surgery in March or May. We knew the risk of the surgery (every surgery is a risk, of course, however, this is not like her leg, it's her heart!), and preferred May. However, we decided to take Belisa to visit Dr. Sabine so that she could see Belisa and give us better advice about when to do the surgery. We selfishly wanted May, but this was not about what we wanted, it was about what Belisa needed.
Dr. Sabine gave us advice to go in March because she was not sure if Belisa would stay stable until May. She told us during that visit that there was another problem called Myocardial thinning, which is another risk with Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease. She gave us another type of medication for Belisa. From that visit until the surgery we were giving her multiple medications at specific times of the day. We were very tired because some of them were very late in the evening, some of them very early in the morning, and most of the time during the night we were not sleeping because we were checking on her to see if she was fine and still breathing.
On March 17, Belisa had her last recheck with Dr. Sabine and she told us that all the numbers of the tests were much better. On March 21, the day of surgery, I told Belisa in the morning that we belong to each other; we will stay together forever no matter what. We will be waiting for you in the front of clinic, be strong girl, we know you will come back to us. I am certain she understood us.
If Marla, Michael, and Dominique were not also at the clinic in the days after Belisa's surgery, we would have just sat quietly for the whole time of post-care (which is seven days normally, and we paid for one extra day to be sure) in the car in front of the clinic. Car? Yes, the journey to France by plane takes about 1.5 hours, but we went by car so that Belisa could go pipi anytime she needed to and she wouldn't be as scared of all the people.
After waking from anesthesia post-surgery, Belisa had some problems with breathing because she also has a collapsing trachea. Even today her breathing is not 100% better, but I am sure it will get better. Dr. Sabine explained to us that an enlarged right ventricle is not as life threatening as the left side. The left side is already smaller after the surgery. The right side will get slightly bigger and it will take some time, but it will get smaller again.
Our journey back home was also not easy. We left France at 1:30 am because we knew Belisa would be calmer at night. When we were about 400km from France, and 600km from our home, Belisa started to cry and kept her right back leg (the healthy one) up. We turned the car around and drove back to Dr. Sabine. She gave Belisa some drugs for pain and we started our journey again.
When we arrived home, she was not able to walk normally. Even the front leg was bad. Today, we don’t know exactly what happened to her (all the doctors we spoke to about it have different ideas – orthopedic, spinal, neurologist etc.), but she is now walking almost like normal and we are sure it will just take some time to be 100% good.
This is our big story of one small cute girl and the big love between us forever.