Family puts heart into getting dog a new one

Published March 29, 2007 1:44 am
University of Florida study pays for Scooby's pacemaker
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Gary and Stacey Anthon's beloved dog Scooby has moved on to greener pastures - and the West Jordan couple couldn't be happier.

The 6-year-old black Labrador retriever will spend the next three months in Gainesville, Fla., after receiving a pacemaker Tuesday that saved his life.

The usually active Scooby started fainting nearly 10 times a day beginning a couple of months ago, and a Utah veterinarian diagnosed the dog with a third-degree heart blockage. Basically, the electrical impulses that made his heart pump weren't firing.

The doctor gave Scooby only a few weeks to live.

That wasn't satisfactory to the Anthons and their four children, age 7 to 17. They researched options, and learned only veterinary colleges would perform pacemaker operations on dogs. In addition, most charged up to $3,000 for the procedure.

"We couldn't afford to drop thousands on our dog, and our only options were to euthanize him or watch him suffer and die," Gary Anthon said.

Then a Google search turned up Amara Estrada's name. The veterinary cardiologist at the University of Florida happened to be running a study on canine pacemakers, and the study paid for Scooby's surgery and follow-up exams.

"We cashed in some frequent flyer miles and my wife and I flew with Scooby down to Gainesville," Anthon said Wednesday, after returning from three days in Florida for the surgery.

Estrada has completed some unusual canine heart surgeries, including one in which a swallowed barbecue skewer entered a dog's heart, according to Sarah Carey, spokeswoman for the University of Florida Veterinary School.

But the doctor was especially moved by the Anthons' love for their dog, who was her sixth canine patient since the study began.

"They originally were just going to donate him if that's what they had to do to save his life," she said. "Scooby is the first out-of-stater."

The study, funded by the Morris Animal Foundation along with pacemakers donated by Medtronic, will help model some of the problems and successes of humans with pacemakers.

The study takes 18 months, but the Anthons couldn't be separated from Scooby for so long, so they will bring Scooby home in three months, and then return every three months for checkups for the next year and a half.

"Now that we know how much we would miss him, we just couldn't do that," Gary Anthon said. "It's worth it to pay for the extra trips down there."

Scooby will not be allowed to run or jump for the next six weeks, but after that, he should have a "normal life," Estrada said. The battery in the pacemaker will last about nine years, and if it needs replacement, she said it's a basic procedure.

For the next three months, Estrada will keep Scooby on the four acres where she lives with her dog, two cats and two kids. After that, the other four members of her team will trade off caring for Scooby.

"There are just so many cute parts to this story," Estrada said. "I'm happy the Anthons will have Scooby in their lives for a long time."


* SHEENA MCFARLAND can be contacted at smcfarland@sltrib.com or 801-257-8619.

"They originally were just going to donate him if that's what they had to do to save his life."

AMARA ESTRADA, a veterinary cardiologist at the University of Florida who performed the surgery on Scooby

On the Anthons:

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