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WAG dog makes history as B.C.'s first canine open heart surgery

Vet clinic foots most of the $25,000 bill; WAG donations specifically for Taylor cover $9,000



Taylor, Whistler Animals Galore's (WAG) seven-month-old Doberman-German Shepherd cross, is on the road to a full recovery after groundbreaking open-heart surgery to save his life.

It was the first of its kind in B.C., performed at Canada West Veterinary Specialists (CWVS) in Vancouver, last week.

"This puppy really touched a lot of people," said Catherine Mazza, events, marketing and communication coordinator for WAG.

Taylor arrived at WAG a few months ago by way of a wellness clinic in Mount Currie, where he was surrendered. Soon, however, his caregivers realized he was not well. Taylor was born with a congenital heart defect, in which an additional separation in one of the chambers of his heart was blocking his blood flow, ultimately putting pressure on his abdominal organs.

He went through a series of diagnostic tests and then a less-invasive procedure to try to correct the problem, to no avail. Surgery was his only option.

"Without it he would not have been able to survive in the long term," said Dr. Michael King, a veterinarian with CWVS, who performed the procedure of cutting out the separation within a tight two-minute window.

"We had a chance to effectively cure him with this surgery."

The procedure would have cost about $25,000 — but CWVS donated its services — and some of the remaining costs, about $9,000, were covered by WAG after people touched by the story donated money just for this cause. The rest of the fees were covered by a fund from CWVS to assist animals that would otherwise be euthanized.

"It was all from donations from Taylor-specific supporters and fundraisers," said Mazza. "So it was all really from the community."

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she was conflicted over Taylor's story and the money spent. WAG received $80,000 in municipal funding this year through its fee for service program. It is one of the biggest sources of the shelter's revenue, which raised $260,000 through various channels, according to its 2014 financial statements.

"You're asking a person who is conflicted because I am a dog owner myself and have spent a considerable amount of money on my daughter's dog whose leg was just about ripped off by a terrible accident this summer," said Wilhelm-Morden.

"I am definitely conflicted."

King said the group at CWVS was eager to go ahead with Taylor's surgery, willing to donate their time and materials to do the procedure.

"It gave us the opportunity to prove that we were able to do this in British Columbia, so that hopefully we can offer it to other patients in the future as well," he said.

But there was another reason, too.

"He's an amazing little dog," said King. "That was one of the reasons why we were willing to go ahead with it."

Taylor is now at home with his foster family, with his new dad and new doggie brother. This is where he will be adopted in the long term.

He is expected to live an otherwise normal life.