Beloved dog gets new lease on life

by Sarah Fay Campbell

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Brian Ziifle pictured with his best friend, Lady

Lady, an 11-year-old Yorkshire Terrier, is Brian Ziifle's best friend.

The perky Yorkie has formed an incredible bond with Brian, a Coweta County resident who has Down Syndrome.

Four years ago, Brian moved into his own condo.

'We sent Lady with [Brian] to be his roommate, so he had someone waiting there for him when he came home,' said Brian's mother, Helen. 'They really have formed a bond that goes beyond owner and pet. He talks to her like a human and tells her everything, and she is really his best friend.'

In the days leading up to Christmas, Lady became very sick, and the Ziifles thought they were going to lose her.

The family prayed fervently, along with starting a prayer chain among friends. Brian even wrote a letter to Santa Claus.

Then the Ziifles received a Christmas miracle.

Lady woke up four days before the holiday, gasping for breath.

'We took her straight to the veterinarian and they sent us to an emergency place in Fayetteville,' said Helen. 'Lady was in respiratory distress and was suffering from renal disease.'

The emergency veterinarian staff discovered Lady had pneumonia and they suspected an enlarged heart, but couldn't see the heart clearly because her lungs were filled with fluid.

The tiny dog was put on oxygen and was given heart medication.

On Monday, Lady was placed in intensive care.

'The internal medicine veterinarian said she would do all she could do to get her home to Brian on Christmas Eve,' said Helen.

On Monday, the Ziif les stopped by a new restaurant in Fayetteville on the way home from visiting Lady at the pet hospital. Santa Claus was at the restaurant visiting children. Santa was preparing to leave when he spotted Brian and returned, putting an arm around the young man.

Brian told Santa he had one Christmas wish, that Lady could come back home.

'Lady is very sick and she might die,' Helen recalls Brian saying to Santa, 'The poor man. His eyes filled up and he said, 'Well son, I'm only Santa, but I will pray for you and your pet.'' Lady returned home on Christmas Eve, but the doctors and the Ziifles thought she was coming home to die.

Later that evening, the family attended midnight mass services at a nearby church. Brian lit a candle for Lady.

'Then, just to cover all his bases, he returned home and wrote a letter to Santa,' Helen said. 'He explained who Lady was and how he loved her. He wrote she was his best friend and asked if Santa would please use his magical powers to help heal lady,' Helen said.

'Not to leave everything just to God, we enlisted Santa, too,' Helen said with a smile.

Brian left the letter with milk and cookies.

Lady made it through Christmas.

On Thursday, the family took Lady to the veterinarian for a follow-up visit.

'The staff was f labbergasted. Lady was walking around and looked so good,' Helen said. 'The X-ray showed Lady's lungs were clear and they just could not believe the improvement.'

'I told them besides good medical care, Lady had Santa and she had God,' Helen said, 'I'm sure some of the improvement was just being back with Brian. Lady felt so safe and secure and loved,' she said. 'I think she healed better.'

Today, Lady's health continues to improve.

'She's getting feisty again, barking and wagging her tail,' Helen said.

Lady is doing well enough that she was given the OK from the vet to travel with the family to New Orleans to celebrate the New Year.

Helen said she is impressed by the staff of the animal hospital and the veterinarian.

'I'm sure she continuously loses patients … you would think she would get a little calloused about it,' Helen said. 'But when I told her the story of Brian speaking to Santa at the restaurant and writing him the letter, she cried her eyes out.'

And then there were all the people on the prayer chain who kept checking on Lady, even during the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

'It just amazed me, we have wonderful friends and people who believe in the power of prayer,' Helen said. 'That is the only thing I can attribute Lady's recovery to. Medically, it was not what anybody anticipated.'

Lady is still suffering from kidney failure and an enlarged heart. She will have to take medicine for the remainder of her life, but doctors estimate Lady will live another year. The Ziifles will now have time to prepare for the loss, and plan to fully enjoy the time remaining with Lady.

'For Brian, it's huge,' Helen said. 'We honestly feel like it is a miracle, that is the only explanation we can give.'

Helen said when people ask her what Lady is like, she tells them she's just like Brian, only with fur. 'She just loves everybody. Everybody loves her,' she said. 'Lady is one of those sweet, loving dogs that everybody falls in love with. Brian and Lady are so much alike; they are the perfect pair.'



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