On a warm spring day in 2015, a gangly little ball of chocolate fur named Louie was brought to the Mendocino Coast Humane Society.
At first, Louie seemed much like the other hundreds of puppies who have come to our adoption center in search of a new home. It was impossible to resist his wiggly cuddles, bright eyes, soft fur, and effortless way of tugging your heartstrings. He instantly became a favorite of the staff and volunteers.
We knew Louie’s story was just beginning, but at the time, we had no idea how much his story would touch us all and embody the mission of MCHS. It didn’t take long to notice that something was not right with Louie. A growing pup needs lots of food and water, yet Louie had a hard time keeping anything down. Illnesses were ruled out as we continually worked to keep Louie nourished and hydrated. Finally, we determined that Louie has megaesophagus, or ME, a condition where the muscles of the esophagus are unable to move food into the stomach properly. Not only does this condition compromise nourishment, but there is also the danger that food can be aspirated into the lungs and cause pneumonia.
To give Louie his best chance at a happy, healthy life, we needed to find a way to help him live with ME. Dr. Ann Newcomb, our veterinarian, researched his condition and learned about the Bailey Chair, a chair custom built to allow a dog to sit in an upright position while eating and for about 20 minutes afterward. This allows gravity to help food and water move down into his stomach. We had a Bailey Chair made for Louie, and we lavished attention on him as he became accustomed to his mealtime chair routine. With the aid of his Bailey Chair and the constant encouragement of staff and volunteers, Louie quickly gained weight and filled out his handsome and robust 90-pound frame.
Although the reality of his lifelong condition seemed to deter potential adopters, Louie easily made many friends and fans with his playful exuberance and unbridled spirit. A year went by. Louie was now fully grown and had become a sort of mascot for the Adoption Center. All he needed now was the right family to love him and help him continue living successfully with his condition.
After news spread of his unique story, a young couple began regularly visiting Louie and taking him for walks. And finally, after 15 months in our care, they took Louie home (with his Bailey Chair, of course) and he continues to thrive as a beloved, happy and healthy member of their family.
The Mendocino Coast Humane Society was founded in 1987. Our lifelong commitment to helping animals like Louie is made possible by the support of friends like you. To learn more about MCHS, come visit us in beautiful Fort Bragg or check us out online at MendocinoHumane.org.
Chuck Tourtillott is the executive director of the Mendocino Coast Humane Society in Fort Bragg and has extensive experience with animal shelters and rescue organizations and animal welfare from posts in Iowa, Washington, Montana, Colorado and now California.
Main article photo by: Courtesy Chuck Tourtillott and MCHS