Meet our newest Heigl Hound of Hope, Vanilla! Vanilla is a 6 year old female pit bull mix that we just pulled from the Lancaster Shelter in Los Angeles county.


The Heigl Foundation has never shied away from extreme cases. You can visit our YouTube channel or browse our web site articles to see some of our previous Heigl Hounds of Hope, such as Penny and Penelope, that have recovered from horrible cases of neglect and illness. So, when JDHF co-founder Nancy Heigl saw Vanilla, she did not hesitate to offer to help.


At first, you clearly notice Vanilla's severe emaciation. At 33 pounds, she weighs almost half what she should. But it's what you don't see that presents the biggest problem. Vanilla has a condition called masticatory muscle myositis (MMM). MMM is an inflammatory disease in dogs affecting the muscles of mastication (chewing). In chronic MMM there is atrophy of the jaw muscles, and scarring of the masticatory muscles which may result in an inability to open the mouth. Vanilla's disease has progressed to the point where she can barely open her mouth at all. It is likely that the MMM and Vanilla's inability to open her mouth led to a lack of nutrition and the extreme weight loss that is clearly visible now.


We know the natural tendency in these situations is to blame the pet's previous owners. It's obvious that Vanilla's owners bear much of the burden for her horrible condition. But we ask you to understand that, very often there are circumstances that we may never fully understand that may have lead to this situation. We know that Vanilla's owners had sought, and received help, for Vanilla in the past. And they were consulting their veterinarian about her condition. We don't know why it got to this point.


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Perhaps the more important lesson to be learned, and shared, about Vanilla's condition is that this was most certainly avoidable. MMM is a disease that is treatable if treatment is started in a timely manner. Had Vanilla received the appropriate treatment when symptoms first presented themselves, she may have never ended up in the state that she's in.


Despite losing her home, her family, spending a week in a shelter, and being in horrible condition, Vanilla remains remarkably positive. She greats her foster mom with a wagging tail, and loves a belly rub. She gets into mischief, checking out the counters for some goodies. She's able to eat soft food and drink water. She has found and claimed one of the household dog beds as her own. Sadly, though, Vanilla seems to want to play with toys, but cannot open her mouth to grab them.

Vanilla is currently under the care of our veterinarian and we have begun treatment to see if her condition will respond to medication. If not, she may require a very traumatic surgery to regain movement in her jaw. Vanilla also has a cancerous tumor that needs to be removed. Vanilla has a long road ahead of her.

Please consider making a donation to assist with Vanilla's battle to once again lead a normal life and do those things so many other dogs take for granted – eat solid food, lick her lips, play with toys. With your help, we will get her there.