The Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation prides itself on being a small town organization with a big reach. So when Director of Animal Relations Kate McEntee heard about a family of puppies and their mother that needed rescuing in North Carolina, she sprang into action. She organized transportation to bring the family up north so they could avoid ending up in an overcrowded shelter in the south, where dogs are often euthanized when the shelters are over capacity.
But when the rescue crew arrived in North Carolina, they noticed immediately that one of the six puppies — who has since been named Godiva — was not like the others.
“Her siblings were all twice the size of her,” Ms. McEntee said. “That was an immediate trigger that something was going on — either she wasn’t getting enough to eat, or there was another problem.”
The woman who had been fostering the dog family before they were taken to Southampton had noticed that every time Godiva ate, she would regurgitate afterwards, out of her mouth and nose. A trip to see a specialist, Dr. Gabby Wild, upon arriving in Southampton, confirmed what the foundation’s vet, Dr. Nicole Mirante feared was the diagnosis — it was determined that Godiva had a rare condition called mesoesophagus, meaning she lacks the muscles to keep food down.
There is no surgical fix for the condition, and dogs who suffer from it must eat in an upright position, without their head tilting forward, or the food can come back up. They also must eat several smaller meals throughout the day, and remain upright for 20 minutes after eating.
Dr. Mirante said that the staff at the foundation has been providing excellent care for Godiva, who she described as a typical fun-loving and affectionate puppy.
“She has such a sweet personality and good disposition,” she said. “And she has so much love to give. I think she just appreciates and knows how much people are caring for her. She’s in that puppy stage where she loves to play with other dogs, and she loves people. She loves to give kisses and cuddle up. She has extra needs but she’s extra special.”
Godiva’s five siblings have already been adopted out, leaving just Godiva and her mother, Krizzie, still available. While the staff at the foundation has been happy to give Godiva the care she needs, Dr. Mirante said that they are eager for Godiva to find her forever home, and the kind of owners who will have the time and dedication it takes to give her a good life.
“We don’t know what the future holds for her, and whether the condition will be better or worse, but she’s a special puppy and needs a special family that will take her on for life,” she said.
Godiva and the foundation have already been the recipients of warmth and love from at least one family in the area that has shown a desire to make her life as good as it can be. Their support has been crucial in helping to set her up for success when she does find her forever home, thanks to a bittersweet turn of events.
For her fourth birthday on February 20, East Hampton resident Phoebe Schellinger expressed to her mother, Rose Schellinger, that instead of presents, she wanted anyone interested in giving her a gift to help her reach her goal of trying to do something good for a shelter pet in need. The family had reached out to ARF, and heard about a puppy there named Artemis, who also suffered from mesoesophagus, the same condition plaguing Godiva. Ms. Schellinger and her family used the money people had given for Phoebe’s birthday to buy a special feeding highchair for Artemis, but just days before the chair arrived in the mail, the puppy, around 18 months old at the time, died. Ms. Schellinger’s mother-in-law, who works at a local vet clinic in East Hampton, made a few calls and before long discovered that there was another puppy with the same condition just a few towns over.
The family brought the chair to the shelter, and while Godiva is still a little small for it, she has room to grow and, most importantly, has already become accustomed to sitting in it at a young age, which bodes well for her future.
“The chair is a little big, but she’ll grow into it, and it’s something that will go with her for whoever has the big heart to take her home and help her out,” Ms. Schellinger said.
Phoebe and Godiva were able to meet each other when the family brought the chair to the foundation, which Ms. McEntee said was nice to see.
“The two of them were sitting on the couch and she said, ‘Is this the puppy I helped?’” Ms. McEntee recalled. “It was an adorable meeting, and it was definitely a heartwarming moment.”
Ms. Schellinger said she’s glad the story had a happy ending for Godiva and for her daughter, who she said has a giving spirit and has already shown an affinity for dogs and all animals at a young age.
“She is a lover of all things, animals and people,” Ms. Schellinger said. She added that the pandemic has been hard at times on Phoebe, an outgoing only child who enjoys visiting her grandmother at work and meeting with the animals who come to the vet clinic.
“Her favorite thing to say right now is, ‘Sharing is caring,’” Ms. Schellinger said of her daughter. “That’s her little motto. There really wasn’t anything she needed or wanted for her birthday, so we asked her if she’d like to do something for a shelter animal, and she was very excited about that. We’ve even been talking about what she can do for her next birthday.”
Ms. Schellinger said her daughter was thrilled to meet Godiva and see all the other animals at the shelter during their meeting.
“She was very excited to see all the cats and rabbits, too,” Ms. Schellinger said. “If she could have, she would have been stuffing fuzzy things in her pocket and bringing them home.”
The hope is that the right person will soon do just that with Godiva, and Ms. McEntee has faith it will happen, despite the challenges.
“I always like to think there’s a person for every dog,” she said. “And there will be a perfect person for Godiva, too.”