Hachi’s Miracle

San Jose, CA

The woman was gaunt with a face haggard from a lifetime of self-inflicted abuse. She stood on the Wal-Mart parking lot holding a basket of Shi-Tzu/Tibetan Spaniel mix puppies.

Marie knew the puppies would be cute; puppies are always cute. But all those faces staring up at her like a bunch of spring flowers? She melted.

Unable to resist, Marie picked up the smallest of the litter and immediately fell in love. That’s when Hachi came home to live with her and her family. Playful and loving, Hachi was a perfect addition to a growing family.

But in another six months, a happy, carefree Hachi would face a life-threatening condition. It began when Marie noticed Hachi’s front legs would fold under him as he ran, causing him to fall forward. Concerned, she talked to her vet about it, but he passed it off, saying Hachi’s short legs and tiny size was most likely the culprit. Marie wasn’t convinced so she got a second opinion.

It was a good thing she did. That vet was very concerned and referred her to a veterinary neurologist. Before Marie could get Hachi to his appointment, the little dog took a dramatic turn for the worse. He was unable to stand at all.

The veterinary neurologist saw Hachi immediately, and the news was not good. X-rays showed that Hachi had a rare birth defect called atlanto-axial subluxation. The bone between the first and second vertebrae was missing.

Hachi Amato with daughterThe condition was gradual, which explained why Hachi had no symptoms initially. But the really bad news was Hachi would die without treatment. The specialist placed him on prednisone and Tramadol for pain. That worked for a time, but then his condition again worsened.

If, untreated, the little dog became wobbly, losing his balance when trying to do the most basic tasks like going to potty, eating and drinking. Each day, Marie was a caretaker for her three-year old daughter, who had cerebral palsy, and her puppy.

Finally, Hachi reached a point when he could no longer stand. The specialist increased Hachi’s pain medication, but Marie knew that was not the answer. “I am a firm believer that when you have pets, you love them like they are your own kids. It’s painful to see them not be able to move, to constantly fall, to be in pain, to be on medication, and not know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

Marie and her husband wanted answers. That’s when they decided to contact the University of California Davis Veterinary School. The caring staff at UC Davis told Marie about the severity of Hachi’s condition. The reason Hachi couldn’t stand was because he had no feeling in his legs.

The little dog would continue to deteriorate until the vertebrae would snap and break. It was already beginning to happen. Hachi’s condition would not wait any longer. If it weren’t corrected soon, her family’s puppy would die.

After the shock wore off, Marie was devastated. The school had just handed her puppy a possible death sentence. Worse, the price tag for saving his life was well beyond what she and her husband could afford.

UC Davis gave Marie a list of organizations to call to get financial aid. That was the motivation Marie needed. She spent days applying online for financial aid. Each time she hit “send,” Marie said a little prayer, hopeful that this email would be answered.

But no one responded. Each email she sent felt like another dead end.

Marie held garage sales and sold candy bars to raise money to fund Hachi’s surgery. And while each sale brought her a little bit closer, it wasn’t nearly enough, and time was running out.

Hachi Amato, San Jose, CA“Every time I reached out to someone, I kept thinking there was hope, but no one responded. Then I got The Mosby Foundation’s call and realized there was a light at the end of the tunnel,” Marie said. “We couldn’t have gotten the surgery without your help.”

You bet we wanted to help! This precious little dog had no chance for a life. Offered up for sale in a Wal-mart parking lot by a woman with questionable integrity, Hachi was lucky to have found Marie. Without her, he most assuredly would be dead. It was Marie’s love and devotion that had kept Hachi alive for over a year.

The six-hour surgery gave Hachi’s body what nature had neglected. When Dr. Kathryn Winger, the surgeon, came out of the operating room she was in tears. Yes, there was some tissue between the vertebrae, but there was nothing to support the vertebrae. At any given moment, his neck could have snapped.

“I don’t know how Hachi survived this long,” she told an equally tearful Marie. “I have never seen such a bad case of atlanto-axial subluxation. I honestly don’t know how he ever got around.”

Hachi came out of the surgery very well, but he had difficulty breathing. For the next 24 hours, he stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit before he was finally taken off oxygen.

Hachi was then allowed to go home. There were some rough days when he had difficulty breathing, but the bruising of the esophagus finally began to heal.

Through it all, Hachi was not only a trooper, he remained loving. Not once did he ever have an accident in the house. He would simply whine and Marie knew it was time to take him outside to potty. By this time, she could hold him under his back legs so that he could balance himself to go.

hachi says thanksWhen Hachi wanted attention, he would wiggle his back legs, and Marie would quickly pick him up and hold him close to her.

“I am honored to know that so many care and love my little guy,” Marie said. “I am forever grateful and will always say that without The Mosby Foundation and those that donated, his surgery would not have been possible.”

And without Hachi’s miracle doctor, Dr. Kathryn Winger, this surgery would not have gone so well. The love and compassion that guided her hands made a lifetime of difference for him.

“I am so blessed,” Marie said. “I never actually thought I’d see my dog move again. Hachi is part of our family. He’s our child and every time I look at his transformation—the new pain-free Hachi, I can’t help but tear up. It’s hard for me to believe.”

We teared up when Marie wrote to us that for the first time in a year, Hachi stretched out his front paws and touched her face; the same legs and paws that had been frozen, now reach out and beg for love.

Marie has tons of that.