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The story of Ema, a French Bulldog Puppy bought from a back yard breeder

Reposted with permission and encouragement of Carol Gravestock-Bullmarket Frogs and Charlotte Creeley-French Bulldog Rescue Village.

Sadly Ema's story plays out across all breeds. This is WHY it's so important that people do their research and buy from REPUTABLE breeders. By buying from REPUTABLE breeders who show and health test their dogs and live up to a higher Code of Ethics,  you help to end the suffering of precious little beings like Ema.  Back yard breeders can be very tricky and can, on the surface look to be reputable if you do not understand the "catch phrases" that they use to deceive the public. Reputable breeders are here to help you navigate through these deceptive websites and catch phrases to help you find a HEALTHY puppy from someone who truly cares about the breed. Don't buy on impulse,  RESEARCH RESEARCH and reach out for advice.




You know you are facing something serious when your puppy is in ICU before you’ve even checked in at the front desk of the vet clinic.

We’d barely walked into the front doors of the Veterinary Referral Clinic when a passing tech took one look at Ema and shrieked “Get that collar off of that puppy!!!”. Startled, I asked why and was told, “Because she’s turning blue!”. Sighing, I said “Yes, I realize that – she’s always blue. It’s why we’re here”. I’m not sure that the tech still didn’t think I was an idiot, and she snatched up Ema and said she was taking her into the back to ICU, to put her on oxygen. I’d only just had time to agree before Ema was rushed away from me and into the back.

When I saw her again, twenty minutes later, Ema was perched on the examination table, looking just slightly more pink than she normally does. She was in the middle of a crowd of adoring techs and vets, all of whom were cooing at her. Ema tends to have that affect on people.

The diagnostic testing Dr. Minors and her staff did on Ema gave us an answer for what is wrong with her – in fact, it gave us two answers.


Ema has two separate issues, the main of which is she has severe pulmonary stenosis. “Stenosis” is a fancy way of saying she has a constricted opening (think “stenotic nares”). In this case, the constriction is impeding her blood flow into her heart. So, she gets excited, her heart pounds, and she faints.

The second issue is that she has an atrial septal defect, which is a fancy way of saying she has a hole in the septum diving the two sections of her heart. This is what is causing her to be cyanotic almost all of the time, except for when she’s asleep. Ema is, in essence, a “Blue Baby” (although I suppose “Blue Puppy” would be more accurate).

In Ema’s case, her pulmonary stenosis is making her septal defect much more dangerous. Her heart pounds because of the stenosis, the pressure builds, and the non oxygenated blood spills through the shunt into the other chamber of her heart, mixing with the oxygenated blood, and flowing through her body. Since the blood isn’t properly oxygenated, she’s blue.

When she’s asleep, her heart slows, the pressure lessens, and the blood does not spill across the shunt. This is what we hope the surgery can accomplish – by opening the stenosis, her heart will be better able to function, and the effects of the shunt (which might get smaller with time) can be lessened. Her heart will never be ‘normal’ – the surgery can’t ‘fix’ her – but it can give her something much closer to normality, and a life span that can be measured in years, rather than the months she has now. As she grows, the strain on her heart grows as well, and her life span lessens. Without surgery, she has months, maybe. With the surgery, we hope she’ll have years.

She will never have a fully normal life. She will always need to live in a calm environment, and avoid excessive strenuous activity. There is no agility in her future, but perhaps there can be a lifetime as someone’s beloved pet and companion. For most Frenchies, I think that can be enough, don’t you? I hope so, at least.

Dr. Minors, who diagnosed Ema (and who waived her entire consultation fee to do so), is trying to get us a spot for her surgery as soon as possible – within the week, because she’s not sure that Ema has much more time than that. I basically have to sit and wait for the phone to ring, and get there when they tell me they can fit us in. It’s s simple procedure, actually – they’ll go in through her neck, and enlarge the stenosis using something like a balloon. The wonders of modern technology – ironic, really, because when my family vet first said she was sure it was a heart condition, I’d said “Well, then they can’t do anything, can they? It’s not like they do open heart surgery on dogs”. Turns out that I was wrong – they DO do open heart surgery on dogs, or something like it, at any rate.

I have debated the merits of doing a $3,000+ surgery on a little tiny rescued Frenchie, of no known pedigree and from heaven only knows where. Practicality says that spending that kind of money on one little dog is a ‘waste’, when it could, theoretically, help 6 dogs who need $500 surgeries. I would say, in our favor, that time spent with Ema will quite quickly convince you that $3,000 is a reasonable price to pay to save her life. She is a winsome, loving, sweet little creature, who desperately wants to make one person the center of her world. She loves her people with a fierceness that can make you throw all of the practical reasons for not spending $3,000 on one surgery out of the window, especially in a world where you can just as easily spend $3,000 on a single purse or pair of shoes.

Ema’s diagnostics have cost about $850 so far, and we’ve raised about $2,000, which means so far we have $1,200 or so to contribute to her surgery. I’m hopeful we can raise the rest before she goes in, but French Bulldog Village has kindly agreed to pay the difference, if we can’t. Ema is a joint rescue between Eastern Canada French Bulldog Rescue, and the French Bulldog Village (which has made rather a career out of helping the misfit Frenchies of the world).

To date, Ema has had almost 65 donors, which I find just staggering.  I think when we start to burn out on rescue and on all those horrid stories of the cruelties that have been done to animals, we need to remember things like this – that there have been 65+ strangers willing to send Ema money, including one donation that had a paypal note as follows:

“Our ten year old daughter reads your blog because she has been asking us for a French Bulldog for over a year. We’ve said not yet so she reads about your puppies. When she read about Ema she asked me to send you the $25 she got for her birthday money because she says that everyone needs someone to love them. We hope little Ema gets better soon”.

If you can’t afford to donate to Ema’s care, please do the next best thing, by helping us to spread the word. Share her story on Facebook, on Twitter, or on your blog. I know she’s just one little dog, and, worse still, she’s one little dog that most of you haven’t even met yet. However, to paraphrase an old saying – you can’t change the whole world, but you can change the whole world for Ema.


Ema's story and chip-in on Carol's blog

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