A trooper all the way, Kobe’s been through so much, and now he’s got the loving home he deserves.

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kobe sitting in car
Credit: Courtesy of Smithtown Animal Shelter

A hard start to life and a congenital heart defect couldn't keep "the world's happiest dog" down. Kobe, a 3-year-old English bulldog-pit bull mix, has now found a loving owner and his forever home.

Derek Bullock, a former corrections officer from Nassau County, N.Y., "just fell in love" after meeting Kobe, Denise Vibal, a Smithown animal control officer, tells Daily Paws.

Bullock had spent months building a relationship with Kobe, visiting him and dropping off gifts at the Smithtown Animal Shelter, ABC 7 reports. They were already buddies, so when a potential adopter backed out, Bullock stepped up. He officially adopted Kobe on Feb. 27, Vibal says.

Kobe had spent over a year at the shelter. A major heart problem and his need for a single pet home had made him difficult to rehome, she says.

"He's just the happiest dog ever," Vibal says, adding that his tail never stops wagging, "I think he just loves any kind of human contact." But, when potential adopters would hear about his health problems, she says "it was a deal breaker for most people."

Kobe arrived at the shelter in December 2019 after being rescued from what Vibal called a "sad, miserable existence" at a backyard breeding operation.

He was forced to live in a wooden crate 24/7. A colleague told Vibal that she'd never seen that kind of neglect [Kobe faced] in her 10 years of animal control work. 

When the shelter took Kobe in to be neutered, the veterinarian said Kobe's heart problem—pulmonic stenosis—was so bad they weren't confident he'd make it through the operation.

What Is Pulmonic Stenosis?

In basic terms, pulmonic stenosis occurs when a valve allowing blood to move from the heart to the lungs is blocked or narrowed.

It's one of the three most common heart defects in dogs and is 19 times more prevalent in English bulldogs than other breeds, according to the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, a United Kingdom charity.

In mild cases, dogs may not show symptoms and are able to live normal lives. But in more severe cases, symptoms can include the inability to exercise, fainting, and right-side congestive heart failure, according to the Iowa State University's Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center.

While oral drugs may be a management option, a balloon valvuloplasty is preferred in severe cases. A small incision is made in the dog's neck or groin and a balloon catheter is inserted in the vein. The balloon is inflated when the catheter reaches the stenotic pulmonic valve, breaking away the blockage and clearing the way for proper blood flow between the heart and lungs, according to the Iowa State vets.

Kobe underwent the procedure at the end of February.

Usually it takes about an hour, but as a product of backyard breeding, Kobe's "anatomy was not where it was meant to be," ABC 7 reported. His surgery took four hours.

Despite the obstacles he faced, Kobe came through his surgery like an absolute trooper. He stayed overnight at the hospital, and Vibal says that when they picked him up the next morning, "he was like nothing happened."

As far as his new life with Bullock, Vibal says that Kobe will need to continue seeing a cardiologist at least once a year, and be on heart medicine as treatment for his condition.

"Every animal deserves love, and as sad as his story was, he's just going to have the best happy ending," Vibal says.