01/15/2013 05:01 pm ET Updated Mar 17, 2013

The Big Death of a Small Dog

The phrase "It takes a village to raise a child" is now in common usage. Despite how often one hears it, the wisdom of those few words helps the phrase from getting tagged as overly sentimental in all but the most jaded quarters.

Most of us know the phrase from Hilary Clinton's book by the same name, but the proverb's origin is unknown. (Debates rage online where, of course, people seem to have limitless time to rage.) Today, in fact, "it takes a village..." gets applied to many things beyond the Herculean task of raising children. In my world, in the world of animal welfare, we now also hear "it takes a village" to describe, aptly I think, the sort of life-saving collaboration becoming fortunately common among organizations, professionals and other caring individuals.

It took a village to try and save The Fuzz. The village tried. But the village failed. Talking about failure, no matter how unpopular, is necessary if we're going to tell the whole story of animal welfare.

The Fuzz was first brought to the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA by a caring Good Samaritan (the first member of this particular village) who found the little white-ish rag-mop as a frightened stray in a pretty gritty corner of San Mateo County. The staff and volunteers here (many members of the village) gave him his new name, since "fuzz" was a good way of describing this 2-year or so -old miniature white poodle. He had no tag, microchip or other ID, no way of helping us find his family. We suspect he had a real and caring first family because all he wanted was to cuddle with the people around him, like a dog well used to cuddling.

That first family not being found, finding a new home for a young, sweet little dog is not among our harder challenges of course, but that was not meant to be for The Fuzz. On a scale of 0-6, our veterinarians discovered that the little sweet dog had a level 4 heart murmur. With that initial serious diagnosis, additional medical work-up was done and we learned that he was suffering from what the docs call patent ductus arteriosis, a birth defect of the heart that leads to heart failure and death.

The village is large, and so our chief of medicine next consulted with Dr. Linda Jorgensen of Sequoia Veterinary Hospital, a Board-certified internist with an interest in congenital heart defects. She agreed, at no charge, to take him into their care where he was stabilized. She and her staff continued to monitor him, and eventually determined that the little guy was a decent candidate for surgery to correct the defects to his heart which would, without surgery, soon lead to his death.

The Fuzz was that hospital's guest and patient for six weeks, building his strength for the operation. The Fuzz survived the operation but sadly died during recovery. The whole staff at the hospital had fallen in love with him, and in fact Dr. Jorgensen was pretty sure she was going to adopt him.

This little dog touched a lot of people. The village mourns his passing.