Beloved imperfect pup Princess Fiona dies

Princess Fiona, the imperfect puppy who inspired empathy and compassion from across the globe, died Sunday. She was almost 5 months old.|

Princess Fiona, the imperfect puppy who inspired empathy and compassion from across the globe, died Sunday from pneumonia. She was almost 5 months old.

Born with mouth malformations from a cleft palate and cleft lip, the puppy underwent successful corrective surgery on May 26. She had been under the care of the Sonoma Humane Society and a crew of volunteers since she was rescued from euthanasia. A breeder had rejected the purebred American bulldog at birth.

“Her life was overfilled with love. For that we are eternally grateful,” said a teary Kiska Icard, the local society’s executive director. “We are thankful to this community for her life.”

Princess Fiona, named for the popular and pretty ogre from “Shrek” movies, won the hearts of numerous supporters through social media postings and news reports that included national coverage. Inquiries about the tan and white puppy came from as far away as Australia.

Some 75 people made donations to the society’s Angel Fund to help special-needs animals in Sonoma County. Contributions in Princess Fiona’s name reached $3,000 to help with surgery expenses, and hundreds of people rallied around the puppy with online encouragement.

“She embodied everything we do here. She gave hope to people,” said Wendy Welling, the local society’s director of marketing and one of six families who provided foster care for Princess Fiona.

“People could relate so much to her, especially people with children who had birth defects,” Welling said. “People really related to her little story.”

Icard said Princess Fiona’s death was especially shocking because the puppy was thriving. She was “very sturdy” at nearly 30 pounds and had been eating solid food since her feeding tube was removed earlier this month, about 10 days after her surgery.

“She was doing exceptionally well,” Icard said.

Despite immediate medical attention and “top-notch veterinary care,” Princess Fiona died within a day of her diagnosis.

“Her body wasn’t strong enough to fight off the pneumonia,” Icard said.

American bulldogs are “an anomaly breed” known for tracheas that are “a little bit more narrow than the average dog,” Icard said. “It takes a longer time for them to mature, and aspirations are prevalent.”

Princess Fiona had been living with a foster family in Santa Rosa for about a month, with two school-age boys who provided gentle care and knew the dog they were adopting had precarious health.

“We are very, very sad for her adoptive family,” Icard said.

Hundreds of people expressed an interest in adopting Princess Fiona, who found her ideal family among the volunteers who loved her.

The dog’s journey started when a veterinarian reached out to the local humane society after a breeder requested euthanasia for the puppy with the misshapen mouth.

Countless people responded with well-wishes once Welling and her marketing team posted a Facebook account of Princess Fiona’s rescue and care. She became the darling of social media as updates focused on the puppy’s progress and her big, lovable personality.

More than 600 people responded to an online announcement about Princess Fiona’s death, with nearly 300 condolences.

“I think it’s the whole underdog thing,” Icard said. “She was this precious, squish-ball of no value (to the breeder), and with the love and care she had, she thrived.”

Known as playful and affectionate with both people and other pets, and with a bit of a stubborn streak, Princess Fiona just had something engaging about her, Welling and Icard said.

“Even from the first day, I knew there was something special about that squishy face,” Welling said. “Seeing everybody rooting for her became this level we didn’t expect.”

Icard is hopeful Princess Fiona’s life will encourage others to consider all the pets who need second chances.

“For the short time she was here, she had such a wonderful life,” Icard said.

To donate to the Angel Fund in memory of Princess Fiona, visit or call 542-0882. Visit or to leave condolences.

Contact Sonoma Towns Correspondent Dianne Reber Hart at

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