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A New Heart and A New Dog

This is the story of a heart transplant recipient released from the hospital on New Year's and the stray dog found on New Year's who is helping him with his recovery.

There are good days and bad days when you work with the animals at the Prairie’s Edge Humane Society (PEHS) and there are lots of great stories that come from the shelter animals on a regular basis.  The story of a man named Kendall from Dickinson, ND and a dog named Morris found in rural Rice County is one of those stories that just makes you sit back and say “wow” and the day these two were put together was not just a good day at the shelter, it turned out to be one of the best.

Kendall is a recent heart transplant recipient and his story alone is amazing.  I feel very privileged that he has allowed us to tell his story.  Spend a little time talking to Kendall, hear what he has been through, experience his amazingly positive and uplifting attitude and any problem you may have is quickly put into perspective. 

In July Kendall had gall bladder surgery but experienced complications afterwards including his kidneys beginning to shut down.  Kendall is employed by an oilfield services company and had not been able to work since mid July due to his health.  He was soon diagnosed with congestive heart failure at the age of 43. While Kendall and his family were dealing with his diagnosis and health complications, Kendall’s father passed away in October.

In November Kendall received a pacemaker, but on December 10th was admitted to the Heart ICU at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis to wait for a heart transplant as his tests were showing that his heart was weaker than they originally expected.  On December 12th Kendall was bumped to the top of the waiting list for a new heart. He had to stay in the ICU at Abbott however until one became available.  On Christmas Eve Kendall got the call that a heart was available for him, he was one of the lucky ones, he had only waited two weeks before a heart had become available.  He was taken into surgery at 7 PM that evening. 

Kendall’s surgery went well, and so far there are no signs of rejection and he is gaining more strength every day.  Amazingly enough Kendall was discharged from Abbott on New Year’s Eve, only one week after receiving his new heart.  He is required to stay near the hospital for two months for continued testing and monitoring so for now Kendall is staying with relatives in Faribault.  He takes 30 pills a day of various anti rejection and other medications. One of the anti rejection medications has a side affect which causes his hands to shake uncontrollably.  Right after his transplant he shook so bad from the medication that he had to walk with a walker however it now mainly affects his hands. Kendall is also still experiencing pain from the heart transplant surgery itself.

Meanwhile, Morris a sweet and gentle yellow lab, golden retriever mix dog was found wandering in rural Rice County lost and cold on New Year’s Day.  He was brought to the Prairie’s Edge Humane Society where he was held on a five day stray hold, he was not microchipped and no one came looking for him.  Once his stray hold was over, Morris was neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and placed on the adoption floor at PEHS. Morris is a mellow, gentle, loving dog and our staff saw much potential in him.  We wanted to find him a home that could appreciate his calmness and possibly give him an opportunity to be a therapy dog, completely unaware of Kendall at this point in time.  There was someone who seemed interested in adopting Morris at one point, they paid a fee for us to hold him for 24 hours but then did not return to actually finish the adoption, so Morris remained at PEHS.  We really hoped Morris would end up where he could “do good things” for someone.

While staying with relatives in Faribault as he waits for the hospital to allow him to return to his home in Dickinson, Kendall, besides being admittedly very bored because his activities are very restricted at this point, began to notice that the shaking in his hands seemed to improve when he would pet his cousin’s dog.  So feeling the need for something to occupy some of his time and wanting to pursue spending time with dogs to help with his recovery Kendall contacted Prairie’s Edge Humane Society and attended one of our volunteer orientations.  After hearing his story and understanding what type of volunteering Kendall could safely do at the shelter, he began to spend time with a group of six Coonhound puppies who needed socializing.  These puppies are extremely shy, somewhat scared by new things, love to be cuddled and just have someone sit with them...the perfect job for Kendall.  The puppies needed someone who was calm, quiet and gentle and so did Kendall.  He also began to spend time with Morris while at the shelter.  Morris enjoyed having someone simply sit with him and pet him and Kendall’s shaking improved when he would spend time with Morris.  Kendall has now been coming to the shelter for a few weeks and has discovered that when he has rough days and is hurting, just spending time with Morris and petting him helps with the pain.

I truly believe that animals have the ability to know when someone is hurting whether physically or emotionally and they want nothing more than to help and offer comfort.  Again we are witness to the unconditional love of an animal which is truly immeasurable.  Who would have ever thought that a heart transplant patient from Dickinson, ND would cross paths with a lost dog in rural Rice County, and end up with each able to “rescue” the other one?  One released from the hospital on New Year’s to begin life with a new heart and one found lost on New Year’s in need of a new home.  Miracles happen every day around us and sometimes we don’t realize it until all of the pieces of the puzzle come together. We look for miracles every day at the PEHS shelter.  The day Kendall got his new heart was a miracle. The day Morris was found in the countryside was a miracle.  Morris being passed over by another adopter actually turned out to be a miracle as well as it allowed Morris and Kendall to meet. Morris will be returning to Dickinson with Kendall when the hospital allows him to return home as Kendall has now officially adopted Morris.  These two belonged together from the start, everything fell into place for a reason.  Kendall will eventually be returning to his home in Dickinson with his new heart and Morris with a new name, he is now known as Cooper.  Kendall will be required to return to Abbott once a month for a few months and then eventually every six months for testing and we hope that he and “Cooper” will pay PEHS a visit as well. 

2012 was a very difficult year for Kendall and his family. All of us at Prairie’s Edge Humane Society who have met Kendall and spent this short amount of time with him feel very privileged to have been a part of making this New Year a little happier for him as he deserves “good things” at this point.  Kendall said to me in an email while I was working on writing this, “my new birthday 12-24-12 is a whole new start”.  We all wish you the best Kendall and thank you for giving “Cooper” a whole new start as well. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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