A veterinary technician named Savannah Amberson first met Eli and his littermates when they were just five days old. Their breeder brought the German Shepherd puppies to Ada Animal Hospital in Boise, Idaho after noticing that Eli couldn’t keep food down.
Because of this, Eli was much smaller than the rest of the litter, and he was severely malnourished. After conducting a few tests, veterinarians found that the pup had megaesophagus, a condition in which blockage causes part of the esophagus to swell.
In Eli’s case, a congenital deformity prevalent in German Shepherds called persistent right aortic arch led to the constriction. A blood vessel wrapped itself around the pup’s esophagus, causing solid food to be regurgitated instead of going straight to his stomach.
The breeders could no longer care for Eli, so they surrendered him. Thankfully, Savannah decided to adopt the puppy despite the difficulty his condition presented.
For the first three months of Eli’s life, Savannah had to feed him through a syringe every two hours while waiting for surgery. Kind strangers donated for the pup’s operation via GoFundMe, while Dr. Wayne Loertscher of Ada Animal Hospital offered to cover the rest of the bill.
Moreover, veterinary surgeon Sean Murphy of WestVet, who’d handled similar cases, reduced his fees. Still, the news was grim. Eli’s esophagus shrank to average size after three surgeries, but the muscles were already non-functional.
The doctors then sat Savannah down and told her that euthanasia might be an option for the pup. However, Candy Sherwin, a practice manager at Ada Animal Hospital, had a brother who could make Eli’s life easier.
Dan Sherwin had a day job as a software developer, but he also dabbled in woodworking. Following extensive discussions with Eli’s doctors and meticulous measurements of the pup’s proportions, Dan constructed a Bailey Chair.
Bailey Chairs are simple but effective implements specifically designed for dogs with megaesophagus. Their purpose is to keep the pooches’ body upright while eating so gravity can push the food down their digestive system.
Eli hated having to go into the chair at first, but he eventually got used to it. The pooch will still have to eat soft food for the rest of his life, but thanks to the device, he soon grew into a healthy, happy canine. Watch Eli using his Bailey Chair in the video below: