Puppy racing against time

“Muggy,” a 5-1/2-month-old Chihuahua sits on Emma Wallace’s daughter Piper at the Joey and Randy Carrier home in Choteau. Muggy will die unless she undergoes surgery to correct a heart condition. The Carriers need help paying for Muggy’s surgery.

Choteau residents Joey and Randy Carrier and their family are asking the community for financial help to save the life of their 5-1/2 month old Chihuahua, Mugwump, or “Muggy” for short.

Muggy has a life-threatening heart condition called Patent Ductus Arteriosus or PDA that can be corrected by surgery but time is running out. Her veterinarian says she won’t live to see her first birthday without the surgery.

“I have to fight for her,” Joey said as she sat with her daughter Emma Wallace during an interview at the Acantha last week.

Joey says Muggy is showing signs of heart stress even now. She sleeps more and isn’t as active as she used to be. “She still wants to play and run, she’s a trooper about it,” she said.

Joey and Wallace said Muggy is spunky and fearless and full of love. “She’s so sweet. She thinks she’s a big dog,” Wallace said. “She’ll crawl up on you and give you hugs and kisses,” Joey added.

Last spring, Joey and Randy made the tough decision to euthanize their 10-year-old Chihuahua-poodle mix, Chucky, a curly-haired black and white dog who was the apple of their eye. Chucky was fighting serious health issues and was suffering, and though it broke the family’s heart, they knew they were doing the right thing.

Chucky’s death left a hole in Joey and Randy’s hearts and in the hearts of Wallace, and her three children. While they weren’t actively looking for a replacement, they heard of Chihuahua puppies available in the area and followed up. One puppy was left, a female, all white with tan markings on her face and hindquarters.

They welcomed the little dog into the family on Aug. 23, and Joey named her Mugwump after a stuffed animal she’d had as a child. Mugwump’s name was quickly shortened to Muggy and she soon won everyone’s hearts.

“She’s definitely part of our family,” Wallace said. “She’s a huge piece of joy, and she definitely filled the hole in our hearts from when we lost Chucky. She makes Dad smile, and that says a lot.”

However, when Joey took her to the veterinarian for her puppy shots, the doctor found a pronounced heart murmur and referred them to a specialist in Helena.

The Carriers are not an affluent family. Randy worked for many years as a ranch hand for Joe and Cathy Campbell and is now retired. Joey worked for the Teton Nursing Home for 10 years as a certified nursing assistant before the facility closed. Since then, she’s worked part-time in the spring and summer at the Foothills Growers greenhouse and is otherwise semi-retired. Emma works as a cook at the Log Cabin Café.

The family raided their savings and scraped together $600 to take Muggy to the specialist in Helena, where she underwent a day of tests and received the diagnosis of PDA.

PDA is a condition affecting the heart’s ability to properly circulate blood and oxygen. According to VetFolio.com, PDA is the most common congenital heart disease in dogs. It is caused by the failure of the ductus arteriosus muscle to constrict at birth, leaving a passageway for blood flow and resulting in eventual left-sided heart disease and/or generalized heart failure.

While a baby mammal is in the womb, an arterial shunt occurs between the two main blood vessels leading from the heart. Before birth, the baby’s lungs are deflated because the blood stays oxygenated through the placenta. This shunt allows the blood to bypass the lungs until birth.

Typically upon the first breaths, this shunt is stimulated to close and the blood flow is redirected to the lungs. “This didn’t happen for Muggy,” Wallace said on a GoFundMe page, “Muggy’s Race Against Time,” which she established to help raise money for the operation.

VetFolio.com says the life expectancy for dogs with untreated PDA is only six to nine months.

“If this condition goes untreated, Muggy will likely not live to see her first birthday,” Wallace wrote on the GoFundMe page. “As her heart beats, her blood will take the path of least resistance, being the open shunt. This will cause the heart to have to work much harder to circulate blood through her body and keep it oxygenated. Every day this condition worsens as she gets bigger and the heart works harder. Parts of her heart will become enlarged from the overexertion. She will eventually suffer from hypertension and congestive heart failure.”

Dr. Joshua Jackson with Bridger Veterinarian Specialists in Bozeman has agreed to do the heart surgery at cost, but even with the steeply reduced rate, the family needs to raise no less than $3,000 to be able to save Muggy’s life. Wallace said the $3,000 includes $2,500 for the surgery and the balance for travel and lodging for the family to stay in Bozeman for four to five days.

“He’s a good man,” Joey said of Dr. Jackson, adding that her family is very grateful for his willingness to help their puppy.

The family has a surgery date of Jan. 22 and hopes people who love animals and who can afford to help out will send money soon. People can donate using a credit card on the GoFundMe “Muggy’s Race Against Time” page, or can send cash or checks to Joey Carrier at P.O. Box 1015, Choteau, MT 59422. People can also leave donations at Opportunity Bank in Choteau (formerly Dutton State Bank).

“Any help is so truly appreciated,” Wallace said, and Joey added that the family is thankful for any amount donated and hopes that with the generosity of others, Muggy will have the surgery and enjoy a healthy, happy, full life.