Tiniest Pit Bull Who Was Born Different Is Determined To Grow Up Strong
"Boy, is she loved."
Marie DeMarco calls Sasha her "miracle" puppy because she’s overcome so much in her short and fragile life.
"She's defying all the odds," DeMarco, Sasha's foster mom and founder of the nonprofit FURRR 911, told The Dodo. "She's proven that she wants to be here."
Sasha was born in early September. At just 1 day old, she was already in peril. Born with a cleft lip and palate, the tiny pit bull puppy wasn't able to nurse.
The person caring for Sasha and her littermates reached out to Courtney Bellew, director of SNARR Animal Rescue Northeast, a New York-based rescue group specializing in special needs dogs.
"The owner recognized she had a cleft palate and lip and wanted to try and save her," Bellew told The Dodo. "He brought her to my house and she was so tiny and fragile."
Knowing that Sasha would need to be tube-fed, Bellew quickly coordinated efforts with DeMarco — a nurse practitioner with a lot of experience tending to neonatal, injured and critically ill kittens.
Bellew hoped DeMarco's success with these vulnerable animals would help her keep Sasha alive as well. DeMarco hoped so, too.
Bellew drove the pup to a parking lot not far from DeMarco's home in Westchester County, New York. She'd heated up some rice in a sock to make a heating pad and tucked the puppy into some blankets in a box to make sure she'd be warm along the way.
Sasha weighed just 11 ounces on that first day. Her cleft lip and palate were just the beginning of her health problems.
DeMarco noticed that Sasha's head looked large compared with her teeny body. A veterinarian confirmed that Sasha has hydrocephalus — a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the skull. Her brain is only about a third as big as it should be.
Then Sasha developed an upper respiratory infection. A urinary tract infection. She has some orthopedic issues, as well.
And she's kept holding on.
"She has an amazing will and determination," DeMarco said. "Through all this, she really shouldn't be here."
At 3 and a half months old, Sasha still weighs just 1 pound, 9 ounces. She's not big enough yet for any of the surgeries that could help her eat and relieve her skull of fluid.
She is a little slower and less peppy than most puppies of her age — but she’s happy and loved.
Sasha gets fed every three or four hours during the day — and every five hours at night, so she and DeMarco can both get some sleep. She licks her lips when she sees her food being prepared.
She wears sweaters and dresses to stay warm, and likes to spend time with DeMarco's many foster kittens and cats, tailing them around and sniffing them nose-to-nose.
Most of all, Sasha loves DeMarco. She loves being near her foster mom; she loves getting and giving affection.
"I scoop her up and hold her," DeMarco said. "When I hold her and I'm kissing her, if I hold her near my face, she licks my nose."
It is too soon to say what Sasha's future holds. Those who love her are guardedly optimistic about her prospects.
Seeing Sasha fight so hard to survive and helping her every step of the way, DeMarco and Bellew both say that no matter what, it's been worth it.
"She was dealt some bad cards in life," DeMarco said. "Boy, is she loved."