UF vets revive ‘miracle’ dog on Christmas
Gerald Ford sat outside the emergency room at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine’s Small Animal Hospital at 7 a.m. on Christmas and asked God for a miracle. All he wanted was for his 14-month-old black French bulldog, Neo, to come home again.
A team of at least seven veterinarians worked to stabilize Neo, who had been attacked by an animal, likely another small dog or raccoon, while wandering Ford’s 12-acre White Springs property. Unfortunately, his heart gave out.
And then it began beating again.
It is rare for an animal to have a successful resuscitation, said Dr. Bobbi Conner, a UF professor and vet specializing in emergency medicine and critical care. Research suggests the animal lives a full, healthy life about 5% of the time after resuscitation.
“Typically when an animal passes and comes back, they have to be on a mechanical ventilator, a breathing machine,” she said.
Neo’s recovery was against the odds.
By noon on Christmas, Neo he had already surpassed anyone’s expectations. He was breathing well without any assistance, and his blood pressure was stabilizing.
His badly damaged left front leg had to be amputated. But other than that, he was going to be OK.
As Ford waited Thursday at the Small Animal Hospital to bring Neo home following the 30-pound dog’s week of observations and surgery, he said the dog is always full of energy.
Ford, who is unmarried and has no children, used to think people were silly to become obsessed with their pets, treating them like offspring. After he adopted Neo from a breeder in Virginia, however, he began to understand why it happens.
Neo is an attention-seeker who loves to sit perched in shopping carts and walk around stores, he said.
“We call him Neo PetSmart because he thinks he owns the place,” Ford said. “I tell him, ‘You’re too friendly. Somebody’s going to steal you.’”
The adventurous canine began roaming around Ford’s property on the evening of Christmas Eve, as he normally would to relieve himself. But when Neo didn’t come back in for the night, Ford became worried and had trouble sleeping.
He left the porch light on and cracked his door open so Neo could push his way inside with his nose. Then, at about 2 a.m. on Christmas, he heard a thud. Ford opened the door to find Neo sitting on the porch steps. He was about to scold the dog for failing to come home earlier when he noticed the dog didn’t look right. Neo was covered in bite marks and cuts, and was losing a lot of blood quickly.
“I’ll never forget the look on his face,” Ford said. “It was like he was saying, ‘Help me.’”
On Thursday, a vet brought Neo, wrapped in a blanket, out to Ford in the waiting room to finally return home.
“Hello, my friend,” Ford said, scooping his pup up into his arms.
Neo’s battle scar — stitches where his leg was amputated — peeked out from the blanket.
Conner, the vet in charge of the intensive care unit Christmas morning, predicted Neo will adjust well to the amputation.
“Dogs just adapt,” she said. “If he goes to the dog park, no one’s going to make fun of him for having three limbs.”
Ford said Neo is the strong one for pulling through after his attack.
“He’s going to be fine,” he said. “I’m the one that’s a wreck.”
Neo hopped around outside the hospital minutes before returning home, adjusting to the change in his body.
“I got my miracle, my knucklehead back,” Ford said. “Neo’s got a purpose, a journey. I wanted to do everything I could because he deserves a chance.”
This story originally published to gainesville.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.