Life isn’t easy for homeless animals, who spend their days dodging cars and digging through trash just to find something to eat. But life is especially unkind to homeless dogs in Louisiana, who – in addition to trying to quell the constant rumbling in their bellies– are prone to being bit by mosquitos carrying heartworm disease.
This is sadly what happened to Jessie, a stray German Shepherd who was found begging for scraps in Louisiana’s Lower Lafourche Parish. The hungry pup was fortunately rescued by Lafourche Parish Animal Shelter, but during her intake, shelter workers realized this sweet girl was still in grave danger. At some point during her life in the streets, poor Jessie had also contracted heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease is a treatable condition, but this deadly disease poses extra dangers for shelter dogs in Louisiana. The Bayou state leads the country in terms of heartworm infection, but local shelters are dangerously overcrowded and underfunded – forcing staff to euthanize the heartworm positive (but otherwise healthy) dogs in their care.
Of course, Jessie isn’t the only heartworm-positive shelter dog in Louisiana, whose humid climate creates the perfect conditions for this mosquito-borne illness to thrive. Shelter workers were also caring for Marilyn, a heartworm-positive mama dog picked up as a stray by animal control.
But when officers arrived at the scene, they couldn’t find Marilyn’s puppies, so they brought the regal white dog back to the shelter alone. By the time a shelter worker rushed back to save Marilyn’s newborn litter, the worker was heartbroken to find all the puppies had died.
But even despite her devasting loss, the grieving mama dog – who was also engorged with milk, causing extreme pain – let workers get her cleaned up that day. Since then, Marilyn has become quite the personality in foster care, where this sweet gal is also undergoing treatment for heartworm disease.
“She is a small and spunky girl with a big personality!” rescuers told Greater Good Charities. “She is mostly deaf but watches humans and other dogs for social cues. She is crate trained and housebroken, knows how to sit “on command,” and has yet to meet a stranger!”
Thankfully, rescuers have also found a way for Jessie and Marilyn to escape the grisly fate that generally awaits heartworm-positive Louisiana shelter dogs.
On April 20, both Jessie and Marilyn will be flying to safety on our first Save a Heart flights, a new life-saving rescue initiative supported by The Animal Rescue Site, Greater Good Charities, and Boehringer Ingelheim, the maker of HEARTGARD® Plus (ivermectin/pyrantel) — just in time for April’s Heartworm Awareness Month!
This Save a Heart flight will touch down in Florida’s Broward County, where Jessie, Marilyn, and other asymptomatic heartworm-positive shelter dog fliers will be distributed among local shelters for treatment and adoption. Over the next year, the Save a Heart initiative, which will be operated within Greater Good’s ongoing Good Flights program, will transport 1,000 asymptomatic heartworm-positive dogs to safety, treatment, and adoption.
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But prevention, of course, is one of the best ways to protect dogs from this deadly disease. That’s why the Save a Heart initiative is equally committed to rescuing heartworm negative dogs who remain at risk for contracting this deadly disease.
By this time next year, Save a Heart — which will operate through our regular Good Flights program through April 2022– will transport 1,000 asymptomatic heartworm-positive dogs and 1,000 heartworm-negative (but equally at risk) shelter dogs. The program will also provide preventive heartworm medication to protect 2,500 additional shelter dogs in Lousiana.
But we need your help flying Jessie, Marilyn, and other at-risk shelter dogs to safety on April 20, because Save a Heart flights are only possible because of your generous donations! Just $25 allows us to buy 625 air miles to fly at-risk shelter dogs to safety on the East Coast, but donations of any amount can make a big difference for needy shelter animals. Please consider making a donation to help us save heartworm-positive shelter dogs like Jessie and Marilyn from euthanasia!