Patch readers will remember Cliff the dog from an earlier story as the pit bull mix who was rescued by LifeLine Animal Project, then placed into a loving home, but remained in danger from a birth defect that often kills dogs before they reach adulthood.
Cliff had a cleft palate, a condition that usually causes puppies to slowly starve to death because they can't feed normally from their mothers.
Even if they do manage to get some nutrition from their mothers, or are fed by humans from a tube, liquid will often leak into their sinuses or lungs and cause pneumonia.
At over a year old, no one knew how Cliff managed to survive into adulthood. He was rescued by LifeLine after being tied to a tree and left on an abandoned property. Soon after being rescued, he was placed into a home with Matt and Cassy Gayman of Decatur, who grew to love the dog with the unusual condition.
They made him a part of their family, took him on long runs, discovered he loved their five cats and became distressed as his cleft palate started to cause health problems.
The sturdy and sweet-natured survivor wasn't out of the woods. Studies say that his cleft palate would cause his health to deteriorate through inability to eat normally accompanied by gum and heart disease.
The Gaymans could see it already starting to happen. If his cleft palate wasn't fixed, it would significantly shorten Cliff's life.
The only way to solve Cliff's palate problem was through detailed and specialized reconstructive surgery. It wasn't an easy surgery and at $2,300, it wasn't cheap.
Animal lovers and Patch readers were touched by Cliff's tale and responded. Donations came into a fund set up by LifeLine to get Cliff's surgery done by Dr. Julie Duval at Georgia Veterinary Specialists.
The fund grew but didn't reach the full amount needed.
That's when Avondale Estates resident Denise de La Rue stepped in, closing the gap between what was raised and what was needed to get Cliff completely well for the first time in his life.
Cliff got his surgery.
It was successful and although, according to Gayman, the first few days post-surgery were "rough," Cliff was soon back to his playful self and he looked like a brand new dog.
"Dr. Duval did an amazing job," said Gayman, "Cliff is happy and healthy. He can’t wait to get back to running and roughhousing! Thanks to everyone for their support. We are truly grateful."
Recent photos of Cliff show the stark contrast to what he once looked like. Debbie Setzer, LifeLine's Community Service director, describes the change as "simply amazing."
Shaking off the thanks of rescuers and Cliff's owners, de La Rue said, "Honestly I didn’t do anything but ask a few folks to help out... I just remain so touched and inspired by Cliff and his story."
After a long and rocky road, Cliff the pit bull mix is no longer "Cliff with the cleft palate" but is now "Cliff the perfectly healthy pet."