We were blessed by an angel.
Emma lived in a Missouri shelter for a month before we could arrange her intake. The AC Officer bragged about her all the time, he would say, “She’s a sweetheart”. Then one fateful day we were informed she was pregnant and due at anytime. A group of ladies volunteered to transport her directly to us to in hopes she could settle in prior to giving birth, shelters are no place for Mama’s & new born puppies.

All along the transport, each driver reported what a “sweetheart” of a dog she was and what a pleasure it was to transport her. Everyone wanted to know when she gave birth and to follow her journey. Emma was that kind of dog, the type that lite up your day, leans in for attention, and gave kisses abundantly. If there was a flaw to Emma, none of us ever witnessed it. She was love with a capital L.

I met the transporter in Joliet, I purchased a freedom cheeseburger for her and then headed for my home. She sat down in the wash tub for her bath and allowed me to wash off the shelter grim without a fuss. Then it was off to her foster home, a normal 1 hour drive turned into a 2 hour drive with an accident blocking the highway. Not a peep came from her as she laid in her crate sucking on her blanket. She was a far more patient passenger than I was as her driver.

When we arrived, she went right inside to say hello to her foster dad, walked around the house, ignoring the dogs locked in the bedroom or one inside their crate in the kitchen. We set up her bedroom for her to have a safe birthing room without the stress of the other dogs in the home. She nested into a bed and had her ever faithful blanket with her, sucking away. She didn’t want toys, just her blanket.

Late that night, her foster dad sent me a photo, there was Emma on the sofa with her blanket. She decided to bring it to the living room and curl up on the sofa instead of staying in her room. My heart was filled with gratitude that we were going to be the ones to give her a second chance at life and help her rear her pups.

Wasn’t long before she was giving birth and doing so like a pro. Her foster dad was enamored at how calm she was and the care she showed each new puppy. A few days went by and suddenly she was chuffing to the point it alarmed her foster dad.

He packed her and the new pups into the car and drove to the vet. Everyone checked out healthy and the vet prescribed an antibiotic thinking Emma had kennel cough. A few more days passed and now Emma was no longer chuffing, but instead was vomiting her food & water. Back to the vet she went and this time we ordered a complete blood draw and chemistry lab, and a heartworm test. The results were not what we wanted to hear, Emma was heartworm disease positive. The vet suggested we start her treatment after she weaned the pups at 4 to 6 weeks.

This wasn’t going to happen as at the 2 week point, Emma’s breathing was labored, she began to show signs of fluid in her body. She couldn’t get comfortable and she didn’t want to be near her pups. She showed weakness and would fall to floor.

Another trip to the vet for radiographs brought more bad news, her heartworm load was heavy and we would need to start treatment right that day. The puppies would have to be syringe and bottle fed, as Emma had to start the Doxycycline as the first step in the treatment.

Three days later we were back at the vet as they drained fluid from her body and then 2 days later again. The vet gave me two options, visit a cardiologist or euthanize her now.

I moved her to our regular vet that day and he had an ultrasound conducted for the cardiologist to review. On Monday when I received the call, I knew it was bad news by the tone in my vets voice. In those 4 days of having Emma staying at the hospital while they drained fluid, ran tests, kept her comfortable and loved on her, they too saw that light within her.

I could take her to U of I and the cardiologist could try to extract some of the worms, but the odds were against us. The load of worms was so heavy the left side of her heart was shutting down and the fluid was increasing more rapidly. I decided that I would rather have her leave this world with us by her side than to die on an operating table or later in a cage at the hospital alone. The risk of survival were not in her favor.

I picked Emma up from the hospital and we met her favorite volunteer Andrea who had made the hour plus drive to visit Emma and the pups over the past 2 weeks. We went to the forest preserve by the hospital and I placed Emma in a stroller and we walked the trials for over an hour. She popped her head out of the top and her nose was on overdrive taking in the fresh air and the scents coming from the forest where deer, rabbits, squirrels and other wildlife moved about in the tall grass beneath the trees.

When we returned to the car, she kept looking inside the McDonald’s bag searching for another cheeseburger, so off we went to get her another. Her foster dad had arrived by the time we returned to the hospital and her tail wagged and wagged with joy. They shared a special bond as you can imagine.

We spent the next hour in an exam room, feeding her the cheeseburger, loving and cuddling her, trying to comfort her as it was difficult for her to lay down and breath. We said our goodbyes after the vet injected her with a sleep aid. I held her paw, kissed her face and prayed over her as she slowly slipped away as her damaged heart gave way. She was now at peace, no longer struggling to breath, no longer able to get comfortable, losing her balance, and no longer exhausted from fighting to survive.

I mourn her as I would mourn the sun going dark. Lady Emma was an angel sent to us and returned too quickly. She has left her mark on all who have known her and those precious puppies of hers. I promised her we would take the best care of her puppies and find them all loving families who would love and care for them unlike the life she endured on a chain in a yard.

If you take away anything from me telling her story, let it be that you give your dogs heartworm preventative. If you love them, then provide for them. A single chew tablet each month can save your dog from suffering pain and ultimately save their life. Emma was worth the effort and cost of preventative, it makes me angry that her previous family didn’t think so.

Run free sweetheart you were loved beyond measure and your purpose fulfilled.

Thank you to Lorinda Birmingham, Terri Templin and Gretchen Ricker for being there for Emma and her puppies. Your support and love for Emma and her Emmaettes is deeply appreciated.

Thank you to Charley Ricker for stepping up to take in Emma, even when we discovered she was pregnant about to give birth at any moment. For all the trips to the vet to find answers to help her. Emma loved you very much and she knows you will do right by her puppies.

Thank you to Andrea Warcaba for your devotion to Emma and the pups, she loved you for more than the cheeseburgers. 🙂 You were a good friend to her with your calming touch and sweet words.


  1. Ps. Thank God for YOU Cynthia, you are a HERO, a true warrior– bless you for speaking up for those who can’t.


  2. That was a beautiful tribute to Emma, Cynthia, thank you for being with her as she passed, for making her final hours so special & filled with the love she deserved, I’m so sorry she had to go like that, it’s a terrible shame. 🐾💔


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