Bella, a nine-year-old pug, needs surgery to fix an elongated soft palate that is making it hard for her to breathe.

Her owner, BreAnna Morin, didn’t have the estimated $5,000 needed for the operation, so she started collecting bottles and cans to offset the bill. The community learned about her plight through Facebook and has been sending recyclables her way. As of early this week, Morin had raised $2,100 through redeemable cans and bottles.

Bella started showing signs of distress this past July 4 weekend, when Morin had to rush her to the vet because her breathing was labored. A chest x-ray showed an elongated soft palate. Surgery will shorten the soft palate and remove sacs on the side of Bella’s throat, Morin said.

According to VCAhospitals.com, “A dog with an elongated soft palate (the soft part of the roof of the mouth) has a soft palate that is too long for the length of the mouth; the excess length partially blocks the entrance to the trachea (windpipe) at the back of the throat.”

Morin, 32, has already put about $3,000 in medical costs for Bella on a CareCredit card. She came up with the idea to collect cans and bottles to keep her card from climbing too close to her $10,000 limit.

“I came home from the vet and thought, ‘How am I going to do this?’” she said.

There was no way she was not going to do it. Morin has had Bella since Bella was six months old — she was Morin’s first dog.

“She is literally the love of my life,” said Morin, who has a second pug named Corbin. Bella and Corbin are buddies.

Everything about Bella is special, Morin said, from the way she snuggles with her owner to the way she loves boiled carrots and scrambled eggs.

Morin is a graduate of Jonathan Law High School, where she was in the marching band, and she remembered that the band used to raise money through bottle and can drives. So she figured she’d give that a try.

With help from the company she works for, Innovative Display and Design in Milford, she created fliers and passed them out in her neighborhood and at work, asking for recyclables to help fund the surgery.

Then her mother, Debi, shared the information on a Milford Facebook page, and “it was like wildfire,” Morin said.

People started contacting her to pick up bottles and cans at their homes, and have even brought them right to her apartment in Devon.

The local woman has also connected with Bin 100, a Milford restaurant, which is leaving bottles outside for her to pick up.

Morin goes to a redemption center in Stratford, usually on Thursdays and with her father, Jim.

“My biggest haul was last Thursday,” Morin said. She had more than 10,000 bottles and cans and walked away with $530.

Morin has been overwhelmed by the kindness. “I never thought something like this would actually work,” she said, adding that she plans to hold a thank you picnic at the Eisenhower Park dog park after Bella has recovered.

She is hoping to schedule the surgery for the end of this month.

Bella is a patient at VCA Baybrook Animal Hospital. Tori Wash, hospital manager, confirmed surgery has been recommended for Bella and that it would be performed at their referring hospital, VCA Shoreline Veterinary Referral & Emergency in Shelton.

People who want to donate bottles and cans may contact Morin by email at Bimorin@yahoo.com or call her at 203-915-2472 and leave a message. She will come pick them up, and if it’s not too far a drive, she may even bring Bella with her.