'Stella' was born with Megaesophagus, and sitting in a Bailey chair helps her keep food and liquids down. Here, Mackenzie feeds her dog at meal time.

BREVARD COUNTY — For one dog at the Brevard County Sheriff’s Animal Care Center, meeting her new family saved her life in more ways than one.

The Hartsocks adopted “Stella,” a mixed breed, approximately a year-and-a-half old, and has Megaesophagus, a condition in which the esophagus is enlarged and there is little to no motility for moving food and liquids down to the stomach.

Although at the time of her adoption, neither the shelter nor the Hartsocks knew what was wrong with Stella, they were prepared to give her the best life they could.

“Before I took Stella home, she was throwing up at the shelter, so I had asked if she had a bowel obstruction or anything going,” Stephanie Hartsock said. “They told me when the vet would check her out and fix her, they would look into it.”

When Mrs. Hartsock picked up a spayed Stella, the vet informed her that Stella was fine. A few days later, Stella was still throwing up.

After taking Stella to her own vet, Mrs. Hartsock said they thought they could feel a bowel obstruction as Stella was so skinny. Her next step was to call the animal shelter, who offered to fix the issue but instead found that Stella has a Megaesophagus.

“They said it was so bad they recommended putting her down,” Mrs. Hartsock said. “It’s a really difficult disease to manage and can be very expensive. I couldn’t do it. I promised Stella I’d be back for her, I can’t not get her.

“I convinced my husband to let me bring her back to our home to put her down so I could be with her,” she continued, “but when I got her home and saw she was still thriving I couldn’t put her down.”

This prompted Mrs. Hartsock to research the disease, join informative Facebook groups, and understand what the disease meant for Stella.

One solution to help Stella keep her food down and not regurgitate it is to have her sit in a “Bailey chair,” which keeps a dog with Megaesophagus upright and gravity helps travel food and water to the stomach.

Stella is also being treated with Viagra to help the sphincter leading into her stomach get the food there quicker, Mrs. Hartsock said.

“She’s adapted so well to it,” Mrs. Hartsock said. “She’s obsessed with hunting for lizards, she loves to wrestle and play. She’s just your typical puppy, but special.”

An attempt to see if Stella was a surgical candidate at the University of Florida was made, but unfortunately, Mrs. Hartsock said Stella is not.

“The shelter has been amazing,” Mrs. Hartsock said. “I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done.”

Since bringing Stella home, Mrs. Hartsock’s two younger children and 9-year-old chocolate lab “Sadie” have all been excited for the new addition.

Mrs. Hartsock said it was over the winter holidays that she had been pondering the addition of another dog to become a playmate for Sadie.

“They’re two peas in a pod,” Mrs. Hartsock said. “Half the time I can’t keep weight on Stella because she’s playing all the time with my other dog. They love each other, and Stella snuggles with the kids at night.”

Although Stella will always need to be monitored because her condition can be unpredictable, the Hartsocks are happy to give her a comfortable life running free and getting hugs.

Associate Managing Editor

I have been a Viera resident for 15 years and a writer my whole life. I love to travel when the opportunity presents itself, as well as try new things.

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