China and Arnold Cuellar were looking for a nice house dog pet. The Comanche family had several big outside dogs, horses, other animals, but this pet would be special.

Turns out, the pup they adopted was not only special, she is also a miracle.

“We knew this breeder and she actually gave us this miniature Australian Shepherd,” China Cuellar explained. “She knew the dog had PDA and couldn't be sold and shouldn't be bred. PDA is a congenital condition that's not really rare in dogs, but it is fatal without surgery.”

At 4 months the little shepherd was smaller than even the average miniature dog should be, “but there was something about her, I just loved, so we brought her home.” Cuellar said.

“I named her Hope, because about all she had was hope.”

Hope didn't romp or play like puppies are supposed to, she tired easily, but still she had an endearing disposition that Cuellar said the family “fell in love with, completely.”

Cuellar decided if it were possible she would like to save the little dog. She researched PDA, which stands for “patent ductus arteriosus” and found out the condition is surgically correctible, but then she “googled” Texas A&M veterinarian procedures and called some of the numbers. She was told the surgery typically ran $4,000 or more.

“We couldn't afford that,” Cuellar said.

The Cuellars' veterinarian in Comanche suggested they talk to Dr. David Guitar in Brownwood.

“We'd taken our horses to Dr. Guitar, and we really liked him,” Cuellar said, “so we called him.”

Cuellar said Guitar's standard charge for the surgery was about a fourth the price “the other vets had quoted.”

Guitar said the surgery was hardly without risks. A dog the size of Hope could quickly bleed out, but, he added, surgery was the only hope.

“Without surgery this little dog would not have lived,” he said last week when Cuellar's son, Lynis Goodman, brought the pup in for a check-up. “She is doing great now. We're very pleased with her progress.”

A dog suffering with PDA has multiple symptoms because not enough oxygenated blood is getting to the animal's body. For instance Hope's gums were almost white, not at all the healthy pink a pup's gums should be. Also, she'd developed a cough, a sure sign fluid was building up in her lungs.

But, almost immediately after the surgery, Hope showed signs of improvement.

“Her gums turned pink almost immediately,” Guitar said.

Now, Cuellar said, the cough is gone too. "Dr. Guitar said at her check up her lungs were clear."

After the April 10 surgery, Hope was hardly out of the woods. There could be post-surgical problems, and it seemed the dog's sweet disposition had worked its charm on the Guitars too.

“The first night after surgery, Mitzi, my wife was so worried she stayed with her all night just so she could keep an eye on her,” Guitar said.

“The second night we were both thinking, 'we can't leave her out here alone.' So we brought her in and she slept in the bed with us.”

Cuellar said now that Hope feels better, she's even more lovable. “She has more energy, you can tell she feels better, but she's as sweet as she's always been. Dr. Guitar was really pleased with her progress, he said we wouldn't have to bring her back for another checkup in June, but we will. You don't want a dog that's been affected with PDA to have puppies. By June she will be old enough to have spayed.”