HOWELL, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A couple in New Jersey flew halfway across the world to save a furry friend. They traveled more than 6,000 to help their sick dog, a 8-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Remy.

Owner Cathy Cuni says her beloved pooch is always a ray of sunshine, but back in September she was diagnosed with a form of degenerative heart failure. Remy had end-stage mitral valve disease, or MVD, and there’s no cure. Given only six to 18 months to live, doctors told the Cunis only one man could perform the necessary heart bypass surgery that could help Remy live longer.

The only catch? That man’s in Japan, and his surgery costs $17,000. With travel and other circumstantial expenses the total bill approached $25,000. The immense cost would force Cuni and her husband to borrow from their 401(k) and take a month off work. With all the testing, paperwork, and required quarantine it took nine months for the couple to get clearance to see Dr. Masami Uechi.

“She’s my baby, but she’s a responsibility that I chose to take on,” Cuni said. “She wasn’t born and said ‘I’m going to the Cuni’s house’.”

Following a 14-hour flight, Remy underwent 7 hours of surgery. The procedure was a complete success.

“Don’t give up hope,” Cuni said. “Surgery is not for everyone but there are things you can do by being informed to prolong your dog’s life.”

MVD is relatively common in small dog breeds, and normally hits after the age of eight. Cuni says the Mighty Hearts Project, a group of dog owners who also opted for MVD surgery, really helped support and educate the family every step of the way.

“She can now go on and live out the rest of her years with us the rest of her natural life,” Cuni said. Her and her husband also own three rabbits and three other dogs, so the hope is their furry family has many more years together.


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