"I was afraid, because [the vets] thought it was a cancerous growth," Grant, 70, tells PEOPLEPets.com.
But after moving Bracken to a larger facility at the University of Glasgow Veterinary School for surgery, Grant was surprised to discover that the object wasn't cancer after all — it was a 5-in. soccer ball.
"We very commonly see dogs eating strange things like balls, clothing or pantyhose," says surgeon Damian Chase. "But what was really strange was how the ball ended up next to his heart."
What the veterinarians discovered was that young Bracken was born with a birth defect — a hole in his diaphragm. And after eating the small ball, the stomach had unnaturally moved next to the heart.
"Most definitely, if he didn't have this surgery, he would have died," Chase says. "It's good that he came in, though, because this way we found out about his disorder. He's very lucky."
And after another surgery this year to replace the diaphragm patch that Bracken outgrew, the pooch is back in top shape, and as hungry as ever.
"He's a boisterous one, that's for sure," says Grant. "And he eats everything. Just today he was trying to eat a golf ball!"