Everything is damp; the air, the grass, the leaves. All is grey. Suddenly, a flash of black. The road sign glistens red as I slam on my breaks, then the yellow of my hazard lights illuminate it. Slowly, I approach a small bundle of blackness. A puppy! I scoop up the shivering pile of wet black fur and race to work. 

My thoughts were racing as I tried to piece together why anyone would throw a dog from a car. What could this tiny little creature possibly have done? The doctor appears. He tells me the puppy has some minor road rash and he believes it to be about 6 weeks old. Before I could even process my words I said, “I am keeping her! They threw her away and I am keeping her.”

Weeks go by and the little bundle has now doubled in size. Her name is Rebel. “You’re alright, Rebel.,” I tell her. “You’re safe now. Today we’re going to do a check-up. You’re alright, sweetheart, I’ve got you.”

The exam room has a poster advertising Nexgard to my left, a body score chart on the cabinet in front of me, vaccine schedules to my right.

The doctor tells me, “Courtney, Rebel has a heart murmur. It is a grade V/VI. She will need a cardiac workup.”

Everything stops and became a blur. I unexpectedly lost all medical knowledge. I calm myself and try to think. I follow the referral instructions and drove an hour and a half to a cardiologist. I was fortunate enough for the doctor to allow me to hold my sweet girl during her Echocardiogram. The procedure seemed to take hours, I couldn’t help but expect the absolute worst.

“Rebel has a Mitral Valve Insufficiency,” the specialist says. “Some of the blood that is pumped out of her mitral valve flows backward.”

Alright, so blood is flowing the wrong direction, I am a Veterinary Assistant. I am not sure what it means, what I should do, how do we proceed?

“Courtney, I do not believe Rebel will live past a year old.”

My heart breaks. I choke back tears but hold my composure. I manage to check out and get into the car. Inside? Inside I am a mess. My heart is shattered, my eyes pool with tears. I have no idea what to do. “Okay,” I think, “I have exactly 8 months and 4 days left with you.”

Three hundred and sixty-two days ago, I brought you into this hospital. We picked your birthday, assuming you were six weeks old. Your birthday is coming and I have so many plans for your birthday. It needs to be remarkable since it will be your only one.

The day arrives and I made you a dog cake layered with peanut butter, topped with small dog treats and two large dog bones on top. It was astounding! You are so happy. You did it! You made it to your birthday! I spent 8 months and 4 days worrying whether you’d make it to this day. The anxiety it caused was gruesome. I want to celebrate more. I made an ink paw print and got it tattooed. You made it to a year old. Then two years old.

Giving owners a time limit on their animal’s life may give them some closure, but for me, it caused sorrow, anxiety and terror. That first year took such a toll on me. Where is my little black bundle of fur now? Next to me, happy as can be and approaching six years old.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.


I am a Veterinary Nurse at BluePearl. I have a passion for Neurology and would someday like to become a VTS in Neurology. When I’m not at work I enjoy getting outside and playing with my two dogs and my 2-year-old son.