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Frank Gray

Ann Hootman’s puppy Rocky will soon have surgery for a serious heart murmur.

People open hearts; dog to get his fixed

Annie Hootman is learning a lot about the cardiology of dogs.

We wrote about Hootman earlier this month. Hootman, who lives outside Defiance, Ohio, had bought a purebred German shepherd from a breeder in the New Haven area.

The dog seemed perfectly normal, but when Hootman took the dog to the vet for its first shots, she got a shock. The dog had a serious heart murmur, and it turned out to be something called patent ductus arteriosus.

Before birth, whether you are a dog or a human, a blood vessel connects the aorta with the pulmonary artery. That blood vessel is supposed to collapse at the time of birth, but in perhaps seven out of every 1,000 it doesn’t happen.

What Hootman discovered was that her dog, named Rocky, was probably destined to die within a year or so unless it had surgery, and heart surgery, whether in a human or a dog, isn’t cheap, and Hootman, saddled with student loans, didn’t have the money.

She could have returned the dog to the breeder, but she said she had already fallen in love with the dog and wanted to keep him. So she put out a plea on her Facebook page and set up an account on a website called Crowdrise and hoped for strangers to help her out.

Well, on Wednesday, Hootman has an appointment with a cardiologist in Worthington, Ohio, one of the few canine cardiologists in Ohio, and hopes to have the operation in a few weeks.

The good news is that strangers have been coming forward, offering help with the bills. One brother-sister team gave Hootman $500 each, a woman sent her a $100 bill, and friends have been kicking in a little bit at a time.

“People were more than generous,” Hootman said. “I wasn’t expecting that amount from complete strangers,” She said she is keeping those people informed of Rocky’s status.

Meanwhile, Hootman is learning more about her dog’s condition.

She said a co-worker had a puppy that died of the same condition after a few months, and another person had a sibling that had the same condition.

Most of all, Hootman hopes the publicity surrounding her dog’s condition will alert people to the problem and help them understand that when they buy a dog from a breeder, it should be accompanied by paperwork from a veterinarian noting that the dog is in good health.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” she said. “It’s so easily discovered.”

The surgery is relatively simple, Hootman said. It involves just clamping shut the vein that’s causing the problem. If the surgery were too risky and the dog had a small chance of surviving it, she might just let her dog live as much of its life as it can, but the risks are relatively small, she said.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.