Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Peek Inside The Nursing Home

The resume reads: This dog is housebroken, does not tear anything up, is fine to be left home uncrated, is well mannered, likes kids, and is loving and happy. Wow, sign me up. Where can I find a dog like that? I’m sure people will be beating down my door to adopt a foster dog like that! Wrong, wrong, wrong. This is the description of soooo many senior dogs I have fostered for Planned Pethood. And, unbelievably, they linger in foster care. Before I commit to a senior, I must come to the realization that this dog may spend the remainder of their lives without a forever home and remain with me. For the reasons listed above, I love fostering seniors. And, my home has been nicknamed by the other volunteers “The Nursing Home” due to my affinity for the canine elderly.
It is nearly impossible to limit spinning my stories of the dog silver set to just a couple of characters, or this blog might go on forever. Just Bucky’s story alone could fill a decent sized children’s book. But I will try to give the short version (no mean task for this author). Buck was an elderly Bagel (Basset/Beagle) who was 10 or 12 when he was surrendered by his owner. You know, like giving Grandpa away. His name has actually been Buddy but there were 3 other Buddies in the program at the time. Buck was utterly sad, confused, and depressed. No matter what I would do, he would not wag his tail. Then, one day while walking at the park, we met Lynda with her beagle Juliet. One thing led to another, as conversations go among dog walkers, and I told her Bucky was a foster dog. She spoke to him and I’ll be damned if he didn’t wag his tail for her. We didn’t realize it at the time but it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

The next thing you know, an application arrived. One question and answer stood out, “Why do you want to adopt this dog?” Lynda responded, “I want him to be happy and content for the rest of his life”.  She provided a beagle paradise for the old dude. She made him stairs so he could rest on the couch when his arthritis prevented him from jumping up. The three of them took leisurely walks daily so Buck could sniff and pee every few feet. They shared an unmatchable love. He lived for two more years succumbing to cancer at 14. I accompanied Lynda when it was time to put him down and he left us all heartbroken but better people for having known him.
Big John was a massive boxer who was incredibly regal in his bearing. I actually overheard someone say “you mean they took in a nine year old boxer?” Planned Pethood does not discriminate by age, breed, or disabilities when they take a dog into the program. This was my first boxer experience and I do mean experience. Boxer people are like a cult and they speak boxer, their own language which was pretty confusing for someone like myself who was uninitiated. Well, Johnny was so impressive, that he was like a secret handshake at the park. The boxer people were attracted to him like a magnet.
He really wasn’t feeling very well at first. He was misdiagnosed initially but we finally realized he had a thyroid condition which was treated with a pill once a day in his favorite snack, peanut butter. Then his coat came in smooth and silky and he just held court throughout the neighborhood. His strut down the street was the ultimate definition of cool. He was about to be adopted by one of those wonderful boxer people, when we got some bad news. The big guy was struck down by cancer. Planned Pethood chose the best course of treatment for him, and he lived another happy, pain free eight months with us. It was tough to let him go. To honor Big John and never let him leave from my heart, I adopted him posthumously.
We cannot conclude this senior edition without adding some girl power. You already know Nina, returned at 10, now adopted at 11 to a family with 2 small children who love her (“Just Throw It Away” blog). So let me introduce you to Levine too. She was a nine to ten-ish yellow lab snagged from death row at the pound. Everyone in the universe would have foster dogs if they were all like Levine. She is beautiful both inside and out. She is sweet, gentle, and loving. She had a few health issues as well but came through with flying colors to be adopted by the most incredible family. Their other dog, Bailey, has gone blind and Levine n/k/a Emmy has become her seeing eye dog. Both dogs became fast friends at the initial meeting. Bailey can no longer see but she can smell so Emmy takes the lead on walks followed by her BFF. She doesn’t need to use her eyes anymore. And I must admit, I misled Tori, the human kid in the family. I promised her Emmy would love to sleep w/her. But, to date, she sleeps with Bailey.

Puppies are definitely not right for everyone. Potty training, chewing, and hyperactivity, I will leave to someone else. I know I will always adopt adults into my pack. It is a win/win situation. I’m sure many people have never even considered adding a senior citizen to their family. The oldsters will not be around as long but the time they have with you will be golden. People crave vintage cars and clothes, why not dogs?  The old dogs can pack a lot of love and companionship into those last few years. Thanks for the memories to Bucky, D-Dog (Dallas), Red, and Big John.

-- Judy S.

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