Princess Fiona, born with cleft palate, wins hearts

A tiny American bulldog puppy destined for euthanasia has been melting hearts and winning adoring fans all over Sonoma County a since her birth last month.|

A tiny American bulldog puppy destined for euthanasia has been melting hearts and winning adoring fans since her birth last month.

Named Princess Fiona for the happily-ever-after ogre from “Shrek,” the now 7-week-old puppy has been under the care of the Sonoma Humane Society since a birth defect ruled her “not show quality” by her breeder.

The veterinarian who performed a Cesarean section on Fiona’s mother reached out to the Sonoma Humane Society rather than put down the pint-sized tan and white puppy born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, malformations of the mouth.

Princess Fiona quickly won the support of followers on the Sonoma Humane Society’s Facebook page, where frequent photos and video postings update the puppy’s progress.

“We can’t get enough Princess Fiona,” one follower posted. “Thank you for saving this precious girl.” Numerous other well-wishing posts refer to the puppy as “sweet,” “adorable,” “gorgeous,” “cute” and “beautiful.”

Princess Fiona has been with the Sonoma Humane Society since three hours after her birth. Although still considered “delicate,” the puppy is doing well, said Kiska Icard, the local society’s executive director.

“Her prognosis is good as long as she continues to thrive and gain weight and doesn’t develop a respiratory infection,” Icard said. “From the Humane Society standpoint, it’s a treatable condition. We’re here to help.”

A no-kill shelter, the Sonoma Humane Society is dedicated to second chances for all its animals, Icard said. A special Angel’s Fund helps provide for special-needs animals like Princess Fiona.

“The thought of euthanizing an animal like this wasn’t even a consideration,” Icard said.

The puppy, now weighing nearly 6 pounds, won’t be mature enough for surgery until she’s about three months old.

A team of six foster parents is caring for Princess Fiona, along with staff from the Sonoma Humane Society. Because of her malformed mouth, she cannot eat normally and requires tube feedings.

“The care for her is around the clock, as you can imagine,” Icard said. “That surgery is going to (be) a lifesaver for her.”

Until last week, Princess Fiona was fed every two hours through a tiny, flexible rubber tube guided into her throat and belly, a syringe slowly providing nourishment so the puppy won’t aspirate.

A veterinarian recently placed a feeding tube in Princess Fiona’s neck, reducing the necessary feeding times to every three or four hours.

Because the motherless puppy - called a singleton - has a natural instinct to suckle, she sucks on a volunteer’s finger during her feedings. Registered veterinary technicians sewed a nipple onto a stuffed animal bulldog to allow Princess Fiona to suckle after her feedings.

A team of behavioral and training specialists have been providing daily neurological and stimulation exercises, and Princess Fiona recently began social stimulation. A fellow Sonoma Humane Society rescue dog, a Finnish Lapphund named Skyler, is among Princess Fiona’s gentle playmates, “paying forward” its own happy ending.

Icard said it’s rare to find a purebred American bulldog in a rescue shelter, particularly a puppy, with Princess Fiona one of only a few she can recall in her career. Icard has been with the Sonoma Humane Society for five years but can’t recall a dog or cat with a cleft palate or cleft lip.

The society’s staff and volunteers were enthusiastic about helping Princess Fiona, and the public support has been heartwarming, the executive director said.

While Princess Fiona resembled “a little alien” at birth, with considerable wrinkles, curled ears and medical condition, the puppy has quickly grown into a charmer.

“There’s something about her I just can’t explain,” Icard said. “She’s spunky, she’s vocal. She’s a tiny little puppy with a little bull-doggie personality. She’s a little bit stubborn.”

Princess Fiona is responding to people, sounds and textures and other stimulation and is even beginning to use her pee pads, all positive markers, Icard said.

The little puppy with big obstacles has reminded Icard and her staff of the caring community of animal lovers around them.

“There’s a lot of understanding and empathy from the human end of it,” she said. “There are so many more people out there who tip the scale in favor of these animals.”

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.