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Dog's big heart holds bullet

When the Rasmussen family today welcomes home Bailey, an 8-pound Bichon Frise, they will marvel at how this little pile of curly fur has a heart that can stop lead.

While on the lam from her family's Medford backyard, Bailey suffered a gunshot wound last week that left a pellet lodged in her heart.

X-rays reveal the pellet in the lapdog's right ventricle, a placement that is as improbable as it is inoperable.

I've never seen anything like it, says Veterinarian Steven Bernard. You see pellets in animals all the time ' but not in the heart and not when it lives.

— The Rasmussens don't know when, where or exactly how Bailey was shot. They're simply thankful that the 4-year-old dog survived.

This just makes her more special to us, says Kelly Rasmussen, whose 15-year-old son Mikyl owns the dog. It's going to cost us an arm and a leg, but we just want her home.

Medford police are investigating the case. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, the shooter could face a felony animal-abuse charge.

We can solve this. I imagine it's someone close by in the neighborhood, says Medford police Lt. Tim George, who also lives in that neighborhood. Somebody's going to have to know about this.

You have to be sick to shoot a dog with a pellet gun, George says.

The ordeal began Wednesday night when Bailey escaped from the family's yard on Miller Court near the Rogue Valley Country Club. Family members searched the neighborhood in vain for the poodle-like pooch until 2 a.m.

At 7 a.m. Thursday, the Rasmussens found a bloodied Bailey unconscious on their front porch.

I think it was amazing that she even found her way home, Rasmussen says. Bichon Frises are kind of ditsy dogs.

They rushed her to the Medford Animal Hospital, where the near-dead dog was too cold to get a body temperature, veterinary technician Rachel Hulse says.

They cleaned her and discovered a gunshot wound on her neck. X-rays showed the single pellet, likely fired at close range, traveled down her neck without breaking any bones before resting in the heart.

Technicians pumped Bailey full of fluids intravenously and by Friday the dog was up and faring well, Hulse says.

So far she's doing great ' better than a dog with a pellet in her heart should do, Hulse says.

Bernard says he expects to send Bailey home today, but that doesn't mean she's completely out of the woods.

Bailey could still succumb to an infection, lead poisoning, or blood clots, Hulse says.

Even if that pellet moves a bit, that could be enough, Hulse says. It's a day-to-day thing.

Veterinary tech Rachel Hulse gets a kiss from Bailey, an 8-pound Bichon Frise that had a brush with death after someone shot her in the neck with a pellet gun. The pellet lodged in the dog?s heart. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell