Veterinarian Meghan DeBiasio knew Augustus would be small — but nothing could have prepared her for just how miniscule the 3-week-old French bulldog puppy was when she met him in person.
A breeder had just dropped him off with Short Noses Only Rescue Team (SNORT), a rescue group for brachycephalic, or short-faced, dogs in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the rescue had brought him to her office. DeBiasio knew right away he would need her help.
Augustus was born with a cleft palate, which interfered with eating and caused him to struggle to get enough nutrients while trying to nurse from his mother. He was already several weeks old, but was only the size of a newborn puppy.
“A lot of times, cleft palate puppies are brought to be put to sleep immediately because breeders aren’t willing to spend the money and put in the work to help them,” DeBiasio, who specializes in short-faced dogs, told The Dodo. “Without rescues like SNORT, cleft palate is like a death sentence.”
Since Augustus wasn’t able to eat on his own, DeBiasio took him to her home for around-the-clock care. He required multiple liquid meals through a tiny feeding tube each day and night to regain nutrients and help him grow.
Now 8 weeks old, he’s just recently begun eating kibble soaked in water — and is already doing so much better. But he still has a long road ahead of him, since he won’t be strong enough to have corrective surgery until he’s older.
In addition to his cleft palate, Augustus is also thought to have a condition called hydrocephalus, also known as “water on the brain.” Once he grows more and can be thoroughly checked by a specialist, he may require future surgeries to clear the pressure on his head.
Despite so many medical concerns so early on in life, Augustus is in the best hands — and is already showing his foster mom that he’s up for the fight.
“When I first got him, he just sat there,” DeBiasio said. “His condition has definitely caused a bit of mental delay as well. But over the past few weeks, I’ve started to see his tiny personality traits come through and he’s starting to recognize me every day now. It’s been beautiful to see.”
Augustus is settling in comfortably to a routine at his foster home; he knows where his food dish is now, and instantly goes to snuggle under DeBiasio’s hair when she lays him on her chest. He also loves rubbing his face into the lawn and sitting on people’s shoulders.
“He recently discovered grass for the first time and he loved it,” DeBiasio said. “He jumped into it and started nuzzling it with his face. And now he’s sitting at the screen door waiting to go back out.”
But DeBiasio, her boyfriend and the SNORT members aren’t the only ones who’ve been a miracle during his ongoing recovery. Juno, one of DeBiasio’s dogs, has fallen in love with Augustus, too.
“She is his protector, as she is with all the other sick puppies I’ve fostered,” DeBiasio said. “Every time he tries to get out of a [dog] bed, she won’t let him because she doesn’t want him to fall. She was just made to be a mom. She’s amazing with him.”
With Augustus continuing to grow, DeBiasio is hopeful he’ll be strong enough to get his cleft palate operation by the time he’s 6 months old. Until then, she and Juno are keeping an extra close eye on the little pup — and giving him lots of love.
“He has a far way to go still, but he’s so worth it,” DeBiasio said. “You see him and your heart just melts. He’s such a strong little boy.”