COLUMBIA, Mo – After years of helping authorities look for murder victims and survivors of natural disasters, a search-and-rescue dog named Molly has been rescued herself.
Surgeons at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine on Thursday installed a pacemaker in the 5-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever's heart. She needed the surgery after being diagnosed with a complete electrical heart blockage.
Owners Allen and Alicia Brown of Saginaw were overwhelmed with offers to help pay the more than $2,500 in surgery, vet and travel costs after The Joplin Globe reported on Molly's need for the pacemaker.
Medical technology company Medtronic Inc. donated the device, and a Kansas businessman offered to anonymously pay up to $2,000 of the cost.
"It surprises me greatly," Allen Brown said. "There's just been such an outpouring of public support for her."
Molly was scheduled to return home Friday and be confined to her crate for two weeks. She will have limited activity for the next two months, but should be able to return to full-time rescue work after that, Allen Brown said.
The Browns are volunteers with the Newton County K-9 search-and-rescue unit, which doesn't have a budget. Allen, a paramedic, and Alicia, a nurse, put in hundreds of hours searching for bodies during emergencies. The unit has five certified dogs and three others in training.
The Browns noticed that the usually energetic Molly, whose full name is The Unsinkable Molly Brown, became lethargic and out of breath last month. Veterinarians believe she had a heart attack.
Allen Brown drove Molly to Columbia on Tuesday night after her heart rate fell to 38 from a normal 80.
The couple have five dogs, but only two are trained as rescue dogs. It can take about two years to train a search-and-rescue dog for both live body and cadaver retrieval, and buying a fully trained one can cost up to $20,000.
Patrice Graham, another member of the K-9 search-and-rescue team, spearheaded efforts to help the Browns pay for the surgery.
"I know that everyone is tight, but these people do a lot of volunteer work," Graham said. "If she could save one more life or recover one more body for a family, it would be worth it."