I waited for the results of the ultrasound in the doctor’s office, Bodie curled up at my side. I nervously scrolled through my phone, answering texts and passing time. When the doctor came back in, with the ultrasound tucked in a file folder and a serious look on his face, I knew the news wouldn’t be good. But I didn’t get into this line of work for only happy endings.
My name is Gabrielle Enns, and I’m the founder of Gabby’s Animal Rescue. I believe I was put on this earth to be a good mom to my five beautiful children and to save as many animals as I can and show them a life of love. Running the rescue has been the greatest challenge of my life. Anyone with a pet knows the joy that an animal can bring in the home. The feeling of energy, love and playfulness can lighten an entire household! I have seen magic when an adoptive parent and their new cat or dog first meet, the moment when a lifelong bond of true family begins. My heart bursts with joy as I watch my children grow into loving young women who feel compassion and a sense of guardianship for living things.
I have also seen animals bring out the worst in people. Injured animals who have been abandoned on the side of the road or in a parking lot to suffer, or who have been so abused that they have become savage and fearful of any human. I have seen animals treated as disposable time and time again. People will adopt animals when they are small and cute, only to deposit them to a county shelter six months later when they have grown. Or owners who develop a “lifestyle incompatibility” and unceremoniously drop their dogs on my doorstep, sometimes after years of life together, assuming I’ll take the animal that until just one day before was a member of their family.
As for Bodie, he was brought to the Visalia Animal Services, the city shelter, by his former owner, who left him there alone , with no name, no contact details- only with a request to be euthanized. He was just 5 months old and weighed 36 pounds. I brought him home with me and gave him a name. He seemed like an active, happy puppy. But based on the initial vet appointment we provide all animals coming into Gabby’s Animal Shelter, we knew he had an underlying health problem.
Now at UC Davis, initial blood work showed elevated phosphorus levels and low protein- indicators that something is very wrong. The initial diagnosis was PDA- Patent ductus arteriosus- meaning his heart muscles don’t constrict properly which would result in eventual heart failure. While this is very serious, it is operable- and an energetic dog with a disposition as sweet as Bodie’s is a great candidate for surgery.
But a follow-up heart ultrasound revealed a series of more serious conditions: severe pulmonic stenosis and tricuspid valve dysplasia. This is a long way to say Bodie had congenital right-sided heart failure, a diagnosis that means he has about six months left to live. While he wasn’t in any pain and could enjoy a normal puppy life, that life would be far shorter than we had hoped.
I cried the whole way home, as Bodie slept in the backseat. There were tears of sadness, but also tears of anger- how could someone leave an innocent puppy like this to be killed under the cold fluorescent lights of the county shelter? The drive back to Visalia was long, and rainy and grey. Finally after five hours, I pulled into my driveway. Despite the late hour, my kids ran out the door to greet me. My oldest, Jade, opened the back door and cradled Bodie as he jumped into her arms, panting and licking her face as she brought him into the house. My youngest pulled my door open and jumped into my lap. “Mommy, mommy, we missed you!” I wiped the last of the tears from the road from my face. It was the day before Thanksgiving, and as founder of this rescue, I have so much to be grateful for.
Four months passed. I wish I could tell you a different ending. One week ago, Bodie’s heart began to truly fail, and it was time. We spent the morning with him, and I watched my children show him such tenderness, respect, and comfort in his last day that my heart broke all over again. Even through my sadness, I am so proud of them, and I am proud that at Gabby’s Animal Rescue we embody what it means to truly love animals and cherish life.
I thank all of you for reading this. As long as there are animals that need us at Gabby’s and we have supporters like you, we will continue in our mission.