In Loving Memory of Home for Life Sanctuary's Sapphire

As many of you know, Sapphire, HFL's neapolitan mastiff, has been struggling these last few weeks with some significant health problems. Coping with her decline and trying with all we could do to turn her around as been a heartbreaking process for our staff and for me personally. Sapphire came to Home for Life as a three week old puppy and has lived with us for six and a half years! Although intellectually one knows that the life span of a giant breed is not long, she still seemed way to young to be so sick.

Our main veterinarian, who is very experienced, in consultation with a cardiologist from Idexx, believed her to have cardiac disease, but did not feel that heart issues caused the lack of appetite. It was very frustrating to see this formerly healthy and energetic dog refuse to eat no matter what we tried to tempt her with.This week we were able to take her to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center to get a second opinion and to establish if there was anything we could do to turn her around. We were concerned about a secondary cause for her health problems, like undetected cancer, that our local vet did not have the diagnostic equipment to find.

Sapphire was on heart medications: lasix, vetmedin, solotol (for irregular heartbeat) and enalipril. She had been falling over on us and her heartrate would go from 90 beats per minute to over 200 so these medicines helped stabilize this condition. However she continued not eating.At the U Sapphire saw Dr. Tobias, a senior veterinary cardiologist. Both he and the internal medicine veterinarian who evaluated her felt that her heart disease was severe enough that it was causing the lack of appetite. They performed ultrasounds of the chest and abdomen and also an echocardiogram and ECG among other tests. They concluded that Sapphire had been born with a defect of the mitrial valve of her heart that had caused both right- and left-sided congestive heart failure. In addition, while the medicines she was prescribed by Dr Austin were appropriate and of the right dosage, the lasix in particular, though not an excessive dose, had put her into kidney failure. She was between a rock and a hard place because the treatment for kidney failure is fluids, but that would cause problems for her heart. The U did not feel there was anything they could do to turn her condition around or help her be more comfortable.

Because she was declining so quickly and was essentially going to starve to death, we decided to follow the advice of the University veterinarians and let her struggles end. Selfishly, we did not want o let our Sapphire go – it was too soon and very shocking, but she was not the dog she had been and had no hope of ever being the same and enjoying the life she had once had. She was very brave and at peace at the time of her passing and seemed very exhausted physically. I was with her, as one of our staff always are when one of our animals must be put down, and it was very difficult to let her go. However, with the knowledge that we did all we could to determine the cause of her problems and all we could do to help her, it was easier to accept what could not be changed. Thank you for your sponsorship of Sapphire. Her canine best friends, Fritz the schnauzer and Nike the husky, will miss their comrade, as will everyone at Home for Life. She was too young to die but could have had no life in the condition she was in.

Although noone will ever replace Sapphire we have other giants at Home for Life who need your support. For those of you who would like to sponsor another of one of our giant breed dogs at HFL, please consider sponsoring: - Dodi: our harlequin Great Dane, who is epileptic but also a certified therapy dog who visits patients at the Fairview Unviersity Hospitals or - Bert: our St. Bernard, who survived terrible neglect and weighed only 50lbs when rescued. Bert was born without a pancreas and is on special foods and powders to help him (his story can be found on our website ; or - Evie: our newest giant breed is a Irish Wolfhound and Great Dane mix, black, and very shy. She was confiscated in a cruelty case investigation by the Animal Humane Society. She is profiled in our latest newsletter which is on our website ( to download the PDF).

Above are the last two photos taken of Sapphire: the first of Sapphire resting, by Sarah Ernhart of SarahBeth Photography,taken in early May and of Sapphire looking at the camera in mid April, by Butch McCartney Photography.