WHEN OUR PATHS CROSSED, I was a senior in veterinary school doing surgical skills rotation. Cleo was part of a group brought in from an animal shelter to be spayed and neutered so they could be adopted. This girl had the sweetest disposition! So you can guess what happened next.

I adopted her.

My husband and I joke that when they handed out doggy brains, Cleo was at the back of the line.

Dalmatian in a backyard

I remember the time she snatched a package of tortillas off the kitchen counter and carried it to her doggy bed. We were watching TV (and her). Just as she was about to lie down and chow down, she looked up and saw us looking at her. You could almost see the little wheels turning as it dawned on her that she’d done something wrong. The look of guilt that crossed her face was priceless! I wish I had my camera.

Another favorite memory was the time she chewed through a box of man-made fireplace logs. Luckily, they’re not toxic. But after eating all of that extra “fiber,” let’s just say that day she spent a lot of time outside going potty.

Our love story almost ended too soon

When Cleo was age 9, she was diagnosed with chronic degenerative valvular disease (CVD), the most common cardiac disease of dogs. Basically, CVD is when a heart valve no longer forms a tight seal between the heart’s chambers. This causes blood to leak backwards where it doesn’t belong.

In humans, doctors can repair or replace a leaky heart valve using state-of-the-art, minimally invasive surgery (the result of animal research). In dogs, however, repairing or replacing a bad heart valve requires open-heart surgery and cardiopulmonary bypass – a very expensive procedure with no guarantee of success.

Fortunately, CVD can be well controlled with the veterinary prescription drug pimobendan (the result of animal research). That’s the therapy we chose for Cleo, and it was the right choice because it successfully prevented death from premature heart failure.

Cleo crosses the Rainbow Bridge

Cleo experienced a lot of back pain, declining mobility and some neuro issues as she got older. My husband and I did everything we could to keep her as comfortable as possible. But in December 2019, Cleo told us it was time to go.

These are just a few of the thoughts that went through my mind as she silently passed:
“This girl helped me become the veterinarian I am today.
“This girl loved unconditionally.
“This girl claimed a special place in my heart I’ll carry forever.”


Animal research has enabled humans and animals alike to live happier, healthier lives. Do you have a story to tell? Work with one of FBR’s digital specialists to share it with the world. Contact staff at info@FBResearch.org.

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Mia Lieberman, DVM, PhD, DACLAM, is a clinical veterinarian. She provided the photos of Cleo in this FBR Real Pet Stories™ post.

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