Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

French Bulldog with a Time Bomb


These diminutive dogs have the face of a mischievous alien bat from the planet Cute Overload. They're popular and they're adorable. They're also expensive. A purebred French bulldog from a reputable breeder will cost $2,000 and up.

But a "Frenchie" born with a health defect is nothing but a liability to a breeder. Not only is the dog impossible to sell, but also the defect reflects poorly on the breeder's reputation. Such dogs are sent to shelters or even euthanized.

Unless the breeder happens to know Jean McCoy.

Owner of the pet spa and boutique, To Wag For, on Montana Avenue, Jean has been rescuing and placing shelter animals since 2011. She figures she's placed over 600 cats, dogs, a few birds, and a lizard.

You don't meet with such success without earning a reputation.

In November, a French Bulldog breeder brought Jean Izzie, an 11-month-old puppy with a grade 4 heart murmur. Tan and brown with a white stripe between her eyes, Izzie stands little chance of living a long and healthy life unless she receives surgery to correct a heart condition that will inevitably lead to a thickening of the heart walls and congestive heart failure. A $6,000 surgery, however, would result in a 95 percent chance of full recovery and function.

Of course, Jean took on the project without a second thought. She arranged a half-price reduction in the surgery cost from City of Angels and plans an online auction to raise the necessary funds.

"Can't" is not a word in Jean's vocabulary. In October, she was contacted by a friend, asking if she could help out in a hoarder situation. An underprivileged family in Los Angeles had tried to save unwanted dogs, but without the resources to get the animals spayed and neutered, they ended up with 106 dogs.

Best Friends Animal Society took 30 of the dogs. Jean took 68. She groomed all 68 of them, most with severe flea infestations. She then called everyone she knew who might foster an animal. Every dog is now being cared for, and 10 have been adopted.

"I don't let anybody sit in cages," Jean told me. Proudly she added, "All my puppies have Thanksgiving plans."

If you walk past To Wag For you will see in the front window on most days a collection of kittens and cats playing in a 7-foot high cat tree. The animals look so attractive that Jean was once accused of selling pedigreed animals.

The truth is that most of the animals Jean receives are initially malnourished and suffer from neglect-related health problems. She fronts her own money on vet bills and spends countless hours feeding medicine to reluctant animal patients. It's only through hard work and love the animals end up looking like commercial models in the storefront window on Montana.

At night the animals are "checked out like library books," says Jean, referring to the families she has on call to foster overnight.

She didn't want to answer when I asked how many foster animals she keeps herself at home. "How many can I not get in trouble for?" was her reply.

But no matter how many animals she's juggling with foster families, Jean is picky about who she lets adopt her rescues. The correct answers must be given regarding Jean's criteria for cat owners, and she'll observe the behavior of the prospective family members to see if they'll be a good match for the animal. "I try to get people to come to a right decision based on what they really need," Jean says, "Not what they think they need."

If more people made such decisions, certainly less animals would end up in shelters to begin with.

If you have questions about Izzie the French Bulldog, email [email protected] or call 310-656-9663. Want to donate? paypal [email protected] indicating Izzie's Heart Fund - or send a check that will be held until surgery is scheduled to Jean McCoy 1123 Montana Ave Santa Monica CA 904043 Attn Izzie's Heart Fund


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