A 12-year-old cocker spaniel named Precious has a new spring in her step after receiving a pacemaker implant in her neck earlier this month.

Her owner, Nancy Luhn, admits she was surprised when Dr. Robert E. Martin suggested a pacemaker. An irregular heartbeat caused syncope (syn-ko-pe) spells that made Precious briefly lose consciousness and fall due to lack of blood flowing to the brain.

But when the Luhns faced the choice of either going with the pacemaker or having Precious put to sleep, their decision was clear.

“My husband (Anthony) said, ‘She’s been loyal to us for 12 years, and we’re going to be loyal to her,” Mrs. Luhn explained. “We call her our “pacer puppy” now.”

The Luhns drove Precious to the Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine where Dr. Michael Tilson implanted the pacemaker on July 1.

St. Jude Medical donates pacemakers for animals with defects that make them unsuitable for humans, explained Jennifer Harper, an RN an sales representative for St. Jude.

Precious not only survived the operation but was doing great for the first three days, but during a check-up, Ali Windham, a St. Jude radiology technician and technical service specialist, found an irregularity in the pacemaker that required an adjustment.

The following Saturday, Harper and Dr. William Holland examined Precious again at Care. Dr. Holland decided he needed more technical advice, so he called Dr. Jeffrey Hall, a veterinarian who works for St. Jude but is an adjunct professor at Auburn. He explained to Dr. Holland what he needed to do to make sure Precious didn’t need to return to Auburn. She will go back later this month for a check-up if there are no further complications.

The pacemaker is set at 70 heartbeats per minute, and when the dog’s heart drops below that level, the pacemaker kicks in.

“It’s been an interesting experience for us,” Dr. Holland said, adding that not every dog with cardiac problems is a candidate for a pacemaker.

He views the procedure as an example of the increasing ways animals can benefit from medical procedures that help humans. It is a first for the clinic, and Precious is the first dog in Dothan to receive a pacemaker as far as Dr. Holland and the other veterinarians at Care Animal Center know.

Since the pacemaker was donated, Mrs. Luhn said the operation wasn’t as expensive as she thought it would be, costing slightly less than $2,000.

She thanked everyone who helped Precious, including the staff at Care Animal Center, St. Jude Medical, and Dr. Ray Dillon, an internal medicine and cardiologist veterinarian; Dr. Tilson; Dr. Richard Presley, the attending veterinarian; Dr. Hall, and Chris Schierber, a fourth year veterinary student who answered many of her questions over the phone.

“A lot of people think we’re crazy, added Mrs. Luhn, “and we are. We’re crazy about our dog.”