Miniature schnauzer receives miniature pacemaker

By By Charlie Warner

Richard Berg and his dog Tara enjoying a quiet moment at their Harmony home. (Driftless Multimedia photo by Charlie Warner)

When one hears the phrase “man’s best friend,” we’re usually referring to the four-legged canine variety of the animal kingdom. Richard Berg of Harmony recently took the love of his dog to a whole new level. Tara, a 12-year-old miniature schnauzer, received a pacemaker earlier this year. And, to Berg’s relief, the spunky, grey pooch is now more youthful and energetic than ever.

“It’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Berg said last week, while hugging Tara. “When I found out Tara had a serious heart condition, I thought I was going to lose her.”

Berg noticed that Tara, who he welcomed into his home on Father’s Day, 2011, started having episodes where she would just freeze and not react to things around her. Pretty soon the freezing spells got worse, and the dog would tip right over and faint. 

“I took her to our vet, Dr. Leanne Froese in Preston,” Berg recalled. After examining Tara, Froese diagnosed her with Sick Sinus Syndrome (SSS). SSS is a condition where the heart’s natural pacemaker no longer sends the correct signals to the heart to generate normal heartbeats. This condition is common in various animals, as well as humans. 

“They monitored her heart and found that it would stop, sometimes for up to 14 seconds,” Berg continued. “I really didn’t think there was anything they could do for Tara.” 

Froese told Berg there were certain medications that provided some relief but added that they were putting pacemakers in dogs and having very good results.

Berg didn’t give it a second thought. If there was any way to save his beloved pet, he was willing to do whatever it took. After some tests were conducted, it was determined that Tara was an excellent candidate for a pacemaker implant.

Medtronic, a Florida-based company, not only manufactures pacemakers for various animals, including dogs, but participates in a program where the high-tech devices are donated to ailing animals.

“I found out Tara qualified for the procedure on a Friday and they told me to have her up to the University of Minnesota the following Wednesday.” Berg said he was more than a little surprised that they could schedule the surgery so quickly.

The surgery took about 90 minutes. Veterinary cardiologists implanted the small device behind the dog’s shoulder and then threaded the miniature electric leeds to Tara’s heart. Following an overnight observation period, Berg was able to take Tara home the next day.

The rambunctious schnauzer had to lay low for about six weeks, per doctor’s orders, but once the convalescence period was over, Tara was back to her old self but with more pep than before the surgery.  

“It’s pretty much like a pacemaker for humans,” Berg said. “You can feel the lump where the pacemaker is when you pet her.” Berg pointed out he cannot use a neck collar on Tara anymore and must use a halter instead. 

Folks in the Harmony community have come to know Tara during the past decade, as Berg takes his grey and white pooch for daily walks, including to the downtown the post office. Many more have come to know about Tara, as Medtronic published a feature story on their website, and “People Magazine” also did a feature story for their online addition. 

Tara has had one checkup in May since the March surgery and received high marks. She will have to undergo checkups every six months to ensure the miniature device is sending the proper signals to the miniature schnauzer.  

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