Starship, a loveable Australian Cattle dog-Shepard puppy mix from South Carolina, is certainly sitting pretty, even though she has a rare digestive disorder.
“She has a condition call Megaeophagus, which is where she has an enlarged esophagus that doesn’t allow her food to move down to her stomach like it’s supposed to,” Kayla Sield, an adoption counselor at Greenville County Animal Care, told ABC News.
Starship’s condition is only eased if she sits upright for 30 minutes after every meal.
“She has to sit upright to eat, drink water, have treats, anything that’s going in her mouth, she has to be in an upright position,” Sield said.
To help Starship enjoy and properly digest the four to five small meals she eats a day (she has to be served in small portions), the shelter built a special high chair, also known as a Bailey chair, designed for dogs.
“Our Vet, Dr. Worl, her husband actually built the chair. He’s a contractor. She’s about outgrown the one she has now, so he’s going to be building a new one soon,” Sield said.
The high chair allows gravity to pull the food down her digestive tract.
“My husband has a remodeling company so he whipped it together really quickly. He’s a huge animal lover himself,” Worl said.
Starship’s exact age is unclear because her condition and inability to digest food to get proper nutrients have severely stunted her growth.
“We took her in on the 30th of June and at that time I did not age her. But she was an active puppy, at least four weeks old. She’s at least four months old now, but because of her nutritional deficit, her growth has been severely stunted,” Worl said. “And because of her stunted growth, none of her adult teeth have come in. So at this point I can’t age her by her teeth.”
Starship has a temporary foster mom who has worked with her since she was a puppy to get her used to being fed in the chair. She is still up for adoption.
“There will be a process for adoption applications. But she’s definitely a special needs dog. She needs someone to be at home with her, preferably 24/7, carefully monitoring her so she’s not going to drink or get a treat without being in an upright position,” said Sield.
If Starship tries to eat food without sitting upright, her body will regurgitate it immediately. But other than her unusual eating habits, she’s a normal puppy. Dr. Worl’s four-year-old daughter is the one responsible for naming her Starship because she had so much fun running around with her in their yard.
“She’s just like a normal puppy. Sweet and playful, she likes other dogs, people, and is good with cats. She’s just a normal puppy, but has to eat a different way,” Sield said.