Bailey, Age 7, Rescuer Dog!

Bailey, age 7"Our 7-year-old Golden Retriever, Bailey, awakened my wife, Paulette, one evening, nosing her elbow the way she does when she wants attention. Sleepily, Paulette, patted the dog's head and tried to go back to her napping. Bailey insisted, beginning to whine. Reluctantly, Paulette got up and put on Bailey's leash to take her out. Once outside, Bailey began to pull strenuously on her leash, heading toward a nearby house. As they got closer, Paulette could hear a young girl screaming -- 'Help me! Help me!' It was our 12-year-old neighbor, trapped on the roof! Even though her brother was at home, no one but Bailey had heard the girl's screams. Paulette alerted the girl's brother, helped get her down from the roof, and all was well. Our neighbor never told her Mom about this misadventure, so it's a secret that Bailey, Paulette, and I keep to ourselves. Now, anytime Bailey whines to go out, we respect her plea. Who knows if someone nearby needs to be rescued?" Bailey poses with Michael Love of East Petersburg, Lancaster County, PA. Michael was visiting his grandparents next door and came over to see Bailey because he was missing his own dog so much. Photo and story contributed by R. Thomas Berner, professor of Journalism and American Studies, Penn State University.

Adopted at 4, "Baby Girl/Beagle" Is Now 12
"Eight years ago, when she was four years old, I got my 'baby girl' from the Animal Rescue League of Pittsburgh (which, by the way, is where I have adopted most of my animals). I started calling her 'Beagle' and just stuck with it. She is well known in the neighborhood, since, when she was younger, she used to dig her way out of the yard under my fence. There's double fencing in the yard now, and, since she's older, she sticks closer to home. However, she keeps active in her own way. She plays with my four cats, who adore her, and enjoys trying to catch and play with squirrels in the back yard. Beagle has arthritis, but, with my love, she gets around all right. She has good and bad days, so I just let her do as much as she seems able to do on any given day. She sleeps wherever I do, and makes herself comfortable by fluffing her favorite blanket until she considers it to be perfect. Isn't she adorable?" Contributed by Maribeth Lashuk, Pittsburgh, PA. August 1999.

Bambi at 17 1/2 -- "Willed" to Stay by the Power of Love

"Bambi is a 17 1/2-year-old Terrier mix. He was born at our local Humane Society to a pregnant stray and adopted by our young daughter's friend. When the girls brought Bambi over for me to see I said, "That is the cutest puppy I have ever seen! If he ever needs a home, you just bring him right here." We already had a German Shepherd, and I never really gave it another thought, but, just a few weeks later, my daughter's friend came to our house in tears saying that her mom and dad were getting a divorce, and Bambi was going to be returned to the pound. Well, I couldn't let that sweet baby go back and be an orphan twice in his young life, so in he came -- to our home and our hearts. He was just three months old. Seventeen- and-a-half years later, he is still with us and has been a joy every single day. He has always been a healthy, happy and energetic little guy. Even now, he acts much younger than his years. His only health problem has been losing an eye last year to an ulcer that wouldn't heal. Even that has not slowed him down a bit! We love him dearly, and I am sure it is that abundance of love for him that is willing him to stay on this earth." Contributed by Mariann. February 2001.

Bandit, at 13, Still ". . . a Worthwhile Member of Society. . ."

"I'd like to introduce my senior, Bandit. He is 13 years young, and is a Malamute mix. We met when he was only four weeks old, and he became the keeper of my heart at that moment. We have been through many things together, including his being kidnapped when he was four years old. He was gone for three about a heartwrenching wait! A very good friend located him and got him returned to me. He was 20 pounds overweight when I got him back and had a hard time walking, but he managed to walk wherever I did; he was determined not to leave my side. Recently he began experiencing seizures, but, with the help of some wonderful people from an Internet-based group focused on epileptic dogs, we are learning how to make his life a little easier and a lot more comfortable. I was told he probably wouldn't live past the age of eight, due to the fact that he was born with severe hip dysplasia; but here is my baby at 13, still a very happy and worthwhile member of society!" Contributed by Kathy Gorish, April 2000.

Barney, and a Lesson about NSAIDs

"After visiting the Senior Dogs website, I felt I just had to tell you all about Barney. He's a Beardie/Border Collie cross, now 13 years old. I've had him since he was a wee puppy, and I feel very very lucky to still have him. Early this year, I took him to the vet, as some intermittent arthritis he has in his shoulder was getting worse. He was prescribed a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) called Metacam, which realy did improve his mobility. However, straight after his dose, he became very lethargic and not very happy with himself at all. The treatment was discontinued in light of his reaction, and I was advised to simply reduce the amount of excercise he got. Over the next few weeks he seemed to get less and less tolerant of any excercise at all, although his shoulder wasn't too bad. Initially I put this down to old age, but, when he almost collapsed, it became clear that something more serious was going on, so I took him back to the vet. Severe anaemia was diagnosed, and initially cancer seemed likely, however after lots of X-rays, scans and tests this was ruled out. They took a bone marrow sample which came back positive for autoimmune-mediated hemolytic anaemia (AIHA). Thankfully, he responded well to steroid treatment and is now completely well. My vet advised me that the Metacam was the most probable trigger of his AIHA, which totally gobsmacked me as the packaging leaflet gives no warning of any long-term side effects. From reading the information on Senoir Dogs and other web sites, it seems clear that all NSAIDs can occasionally cause serious side-effects, and, although Metacam is the safest one on the market, a warning should still be given. Whatever it was that caused Barney's disease, if I'd read that long-term effects could occu,r I'd have taken him back to the vet a lot sooner. I am just so happy that I have my bouncy old dog back. He'd never been seriously ill before and was/is very lively for his age. Contributed by Mhairi Coyle and Barney, Edinburgh, Scotland, November 2000. Posted December 2000.

Two Senior Bassets Make a Great Addition to the Family
"Two years ago I adopted two senior Basset Hounds. I received some criticism for adopting these older dogs. Everyone told me that they could have habits from their former family that we would hate, and you could never change that.

"I have never looked back. They are the two greatest dogs! It was the best decision I ever made. They eased into the house rules easily and without much of a fight. They became extremely attached to the whole family.

"They are great with the children, even though they previously had not been around kids much. Another bonus was I didn't have to go through the hassle of house-breaking them." Contributed by . November 2002.

Baxter, a Dog Who Spent Five Years at a Shelter

Allamuchy, NJ, 5/25/00 -- Baxter had been at the Allamuchy, NJ, Shelter, for five years when he was brought to the attention of the Senior Dogs Project by Volunteer Stephanie Vaia. About 9 years old, Baxter was thought to be a hound mix, seemingly very healthy, but with a potential eyesight problem.

Shortly after we posted Baxter's ad on the srdogs website, we received an E-mail from Sue Ledner, who explained that she lived very near the Allamuchy Shelter and wanted to know more about fostering dogs from there. We put her in touch with Stephanie, and she decided to try giving Baxter a foster home. Little did she realize the challenges that lay ahead. Although seemingly friendly and obedient at the Shelter, when Baxter got into a real home, he went bonkers!

Baxter Shows Aggressiveness and Willfulness

Sue wrote on 6/18/00: "Baxter has been exhibiting some signs of aggressiveness, both to us and to our cats. He has become extremely willful and won't listen to me at all. I'm not sure if he has just decided this is his home and he is boss, or what the story is. I've E-mailed Stephanie Vaia to see if PAL will let us go ahead and get him to the vet for shots and neutering. Perhaps that is all that is needed. We are concerned at this point for the safety of our cats, and even more for the safety of strangers and, in particular, our very young, small nieces, nephews and grandchildren, as Baxter is quite a large dog. We're going to keep fostering him, but until some of these things get resolved, we can't commit to adopting him. Rest assured, though, we are going to try to work through this. He deserves a chance."

Sue Is Determined to Work with Baxter on His Behavior Problems

In her next E-mail, Sue wrote: "We think it just may have been too much too soon for the poor guy. We've put Baxter in our partially-finished basement, where he can relax and have solitude. Right now, he doesn't like it and he's barking, but we'll go down later and spend time with him. And we'll walk him several times a day. He has a carpet and a sofa down there to lie on, and it's nice and cool for him. We're taking him to the vet's on Wednesday to make sure there is nothing physically wrong with him. He desperately needs a rabies shot. I understand he loves to lie in the grass, so we need to get him some anti-flea medication, as well. He has several sores on his body, which also might be causing some of the aggressiveness."

Baxter Makes the Adjustment!

Finally, we heard from Sue on 6/22/00: "Baxter is now adjusting beautifully. In our well-meant desire to make up for the five years he spent in a shelter, we stressed him out by giving him too much too soon. He's still living in the basement, but we take him out four or five times a day. Yesterday, we kept him upstairs with us for about four hours, then put him back downstairs. Today we kept him with us for five hours, and, finally, tonight, he seemed to trust us even more and actually went to sleep for some time. This is the first time he's done that! I think, if things keep going this way, that we'll adopt him very soon. He really is a sweet, loving dog, and is trying so hard to be good. Only one accident today! He started only once to go after the cat, and it only took the word 'no' to stop him. He seems to have bonded with us now. He does have problems with his eyesight and bangs into things, poor little guy. From several of his reactions, he appears possibly to have been abused, too. My sister was putting butter spray on her popcorn and Baxter totally freaked out. He put his tail between his legs and his head down and ran to me. Poor guy! Tomorrow, depending on how he does at the vet, we'll keep him with us for a longer period. It will be up to Baxter to let us know if he can handle it. Thanks for putting me in touch with Stephanie Vaia. I never would have had the opportunity to fall in love with such a wonderful dog as Baxter, if you hadn't."

Sue Reflects on Her Own Advice

Reflecting on her experience in fostering and adopting Baxter, Sue wrote: "I feel so foolish, because, when I worked in the animal field, I always told people to allow for a period of adjustment.... that the animal had been in a shelter and would need time to adjust to a home. I just didn't follow my own advice. Baxter is great. He's being neutered on 7/7. He does have hookworms, and I'm medicating him for that. He might have a kidney problem, too, as there is some swelling by his left kidney. As far as I'm concerned, whatever it is, we'll work with it. We want to give Baxter quality time and love for whatever time he has left."

October 2000 Update on Baxter:

"I just wanted to let you know how happy I am to have Baxter in my life. He is so smart and very loving...and he is getting to trust me more. He still has a small problem with growling and showing his teeth, but, if he starts, all I have to say is 'what are you doing?' and he stops. He really is my angel."

Contributed by Sue Ledner, New Jersey. May-October 2000.

A Stray Cocker "Beams" His Way into Several Hearts and a New, Loving Home

"I currently have three dogs: a Papillon and a German Shorthair Pointer, both of which I've raised since puppyhood; and the third, a geriatric Cocker Spaniel my husband and I found. 'Found' may not be quite the right word, since in reality my husband hit him with our car when the dog came running out of a cornfield one October night in 1997 on a dark country road. When I got out of the car to check on the condition of the creature we had hit (it had happened so fast, we weren't sure it was a dog), a very energetic, happy, albeit disheveled, Cocker came running up to me. He wasn't hurt, for which we were grateful, but he also seemed to have decided he was going to stick with us. Both animal lovers, my husband and I couldn't imagine leaving him there on the dark road, possibly to be killed by another car that night. We decided to take him home to sleep in our heated garage until we found his owners. He was wearing an old collar and a Rabies tag past due by two years. His previous vet (on the Rabies tag) was able to tell me that he was born in August 1985 (making him 12 when we found him) and that in 1995 his owners of ten years had moved out of state and given him to someone whose name he did not know. 'Sammy,' the vet told me, was a red cocker (it had since faded to an almost buff color with age) and that he was neutered. While we searched for his owners, I had his shots updated. Our vet told me he was in top condition for an aged dog, and that we were lucky to have found a Cocker with such a sweet disposition (and good teeth!). The only 'ailment' my husband and I noticed was that he was stone deaf; thus, it made no difference that we had decided to change his name to 'Beamer.' My vet seemed to think he had been loose for a long time (a month or more) because his nose was raw and seeping due to foraging for food. The vet suggested that this poor little dog might have been 'dumped' because of some fatty tumors mistaken as cancerous, or perhaps due to his age. This shocked me. I couldn't imagine how someone could own a dog for ten years, then give him up, let alone to the type of person who would dump him -- for ANY reason. His mats were incredible, and fleas crawled even on top of his fur. The groomers were as impressed as my vet with his passive behavior, commenting that he knew exactly how to stand to be brushed, etc. He clearly had been through the routine before. After two weeks, no one claimed him or reported him missing to local shelters. My husband and I were now faced with keeping him or finding him a new home (we had no intention of having a third dog). But, after only a week, he had attached himself to us and our dogs, suffering separation anxiety if left alone outside even for a few minutes. It became apparent that he had chosen us as his new family, and, luckily, at some point in his life had learned enough manners to win us over. Ultimately, we chose to keep him, and although it hasn't been an easy task (he still loves getting into kitchen trash and spreading it all over the floor), he has an endearing quality in those big brown Cocker eyes of his that tugs at our hearts. My other dogs are 8 and 6 this year, and Beamer will be 14. It's difficult to explain how hard it is at times to be 'thrown' into old age with a dog and his special senior needs. I guess I figured I would just sort of grow into it slowly with my other two. But, I wouldn't trade Beamer for the world, not with all his wheezy noises, his deaf oblivion, or his senile behavior -- not when he gives you the best gift of all by just melting in your arms from the smallest token of affection, like a kiss placed on his forehead." Contributed by Christine Roland, Evansville, IN. May 1999.

13-Year-Old "Bear" Goes Everywhere and Won't Slow Down

"Bear came to me as a nine-week-old puppy, the runt of a litter of 13. That was 13 years ago, when I was 15. Bear was to be my own dog to raise, the way I wanted. My parents had raised Brittany Spaniels, but I told them I did not want a hunting dog. My uncle's Golden Retriever was having a litter at the time, and that's how I got Bear. Bear has been everywhere with me-- horseback riding on dirt roads here in Oklahoma, fishing in Colorado, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, and on countless trips visiting family (who thought I was nuts for taking him). I only wish the U.S. was as enlightened as Europe, so I could take him shopping and to the movies with me. Bear is definitely a dog who doesn't know he's old. He pounces and wrestles with my seven-month-old Lab mix, chases cats, and even tried to get frisky with an 11-month-old Great Dane girl recently. He's got a touch of arthritis and has been diagnosed with hypo-thyroidism, but otherwise, he is in great health. I don't doubt I've got quite a few years left with him, but it scares me to think of life without him. Don't tell me that old dogs can't learn new tricks, either! Bear just learned how to shake paws last month!" Contributed by Brenda Cobbs, OK. March 2000.

Golden Retriever Bear, Adopted at 8, Saves His New Guardian's Life

Bear, an 8-year-old Golden Retriever, was adopted through Norcal Golden Retriever Rescue in San Francisco, last year. His new mom, Nancy Hoberg, has diabetes. She wrote recently to tell us about the following episode: "One night, about two months ago, Bear woke me up out of a sound sleep by getting up on my bed and pawing at my cheek. I got up and did my blood sugar test, and it turned out to be life-threateningly low! To this day, I have no idea if I made a strange noise, had a different smell or was shaking, but something made Bear (who NEVER gets up on the furniture) get up on the bed to wake me and save my life. He gets whatever treats he wants now." Contributed by Nancy Hoberg, San Francisco, CA. November 2001.

It Was Love at First Sight for Eight-Year-Old "Bearsie"

"I, too, fell in love with an older dog--'Bearsie' Golden Bear Wolf. She was probably eight years old when she was found by the husband of a friend of mine. Three weeks before I knew of Bearsie's existence, I dreamed about her. Upon waking, I said, 'Oh, God, no dogs! Especially No Big Dogs!' God must have smiled and bided Her time, because, three weeks later,I not only met Bearsie, but fell in love at first sight. Bearsie was golden blonde, extremely furry and weighed over 100 pounds. She was a wreck, physically and emotionally. But she had good sense. She fell in love with me, too! The day I took her home, she hopped into my old pickup, just as if she had done it all her life, and plopped herself on the front seat beside me. Her head rested on my shoulder as we drove down the street, and there it stayed every time we drove, until she became too ill to sit up. We had nearly five-and-one-half wonderful years together. She was the most perfect anything--not just dog--I have ever known or will know. We loved each other so much that I know our hearts beat at the same rate. We definitely could read each other's thoughts. If she could have spoken English, we would have finished each other's sentences. Many people criticized me for adopting such an old dog. I just told them, 'Well, she doesn't mind how old I am, so I don't mind how old she is!' I wouldn't trade my years and all the love and experiences Bearsie and I had together for the equivalent of our combined weight in perfect diamonds!" Contributed by Jenny Evans. August 1999.

Beau Inspired the Formation of a Company
"Beau came into our family 18 years ago, when my dad brought him home from the pound. He was a goofy, yet amazing pup. He won our hearts and has helped me through the last 18 years of my life. Just a few weeks ago, we had to put him down. Being 18 years old, he was slowing down and kept getting skinnier and skinnier. We miss him greatly, but all are accepting of what had to be done. He had pretty bad arthritis, but that didn't stop him from going for walks everyday. He was a healthy mutt, but no one lives forever. I started a company a few years ago to help with his arthritis. The company makes copper collars, which are supposed to relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Beau wore one for the last 5 years of his life, and I really think it helped him greatly." Contributed by Gail Hatfield ,San Diego, CA. July 2002.

Beethoven, Adopted from Animal Friends, Pittsburgh, PA's Only No-Kill Shelter
"I adopted an eight-year-old Husky/Shepherd mix from Animal Friends in Pittsburgh, PA. When he came in, he was devoid of most of his fur, there was a bare patch at the nape of his neck where a chain had been imbedded, and his ears were horribly infected. (This condition has since rendered him deaf.) He is the most loving and enjoyable dog ever! He performs pet assisted therapy visits to nursing homes and schools, and everyone who meets 'Beethoven' falls in love! Animal Friends has many stories like this one to tell -- about older animals who, when given a second chance, can be a real asset to the community. Beethoven is truly an angel with four legs and a tail, sent from heaven to prove that the Earth really can be a caring and compassionate place. His fur (what is left of it) has grown into a thick, soft coat and his ears, though they hear no sound, are healthy. His eyes light up with the promise of play. He sleeps on a queen-sized bed and has a water bowl upstairs as well as in the kitchen. What a joy! A real treasure!" Contributed by Ann Cadman, Outreach Dept., Animal Friends, Pittsburgh, PA. February 2004.

The One with the Smile....Bentley

" 'I want that one. The one with the smile.

'Which one? I can't tell.'

'Over to the right. See the one with that little smile? Oh, I'll show you.'

"Maybe it was fate, but, on that day in 1988, the most important event in my life happened. Things would never be the same again. Walking with the little dog in my arms, I discovered his trademark 'bend,' ninety degrees, right at the tip of his tail. We named him 'Bentley.'

"Driving home, Bentley, stinking of hay and unmentionables from a farm, sat in my wife's lap. She asked, 'Will he love us?' I said, 'Of course he will.'

"Six months later, we both agreed the question should have been, 'Will he love us and not chew the furniture?'

"He became a fanatic about balls -- not just tennis balls, but soccer balls, too. He dribbled them with his nose. I'd kick a ball as far as I could and, oh-so-fast, I'd find it at my feet. Frisbees, too. Like a typical Border Collie, flipping backwards in the air, he would crash down with the Frisbee in his mouth. If he could, he'd spend every waking moment playing with his toys.

"One time, a deliveryman left our gate open. Bentley was gone. In a panic, I combed the neighborhood and beyond, looking and calling, but couldn't find him. I couldn't sleep that night. It was the first time I consciously realized how much I loved him and what he meant to me. The next morning, I found him sleeping on the back steps. He was exhausted and had worn his pads raw and bloody. He looked pathetically sad and regretful. I hugged him and then laughed at his misadventure. Our bond became unbreakable.

"When my marriage ended, I missed him terribly whenever I was separated from him. During those lonely times, he was the only thing I could rely on. My therapist asked who in the world I loved. I had only one answer.

"In 1995, we hiked the Appalachian Trail. It runs for 2,200 miles, through 14 states, from Georgia to Maine. Again, Bentley was by my side. Each day, I'd hold his backpack into the air and he'd trot over, ready for another day of hiking. He made it from Georgia to Connecticut, 1700 miles, before I sent him home. That's not bad for a seven-year-old.

"In May 2000, when he was 12, he stopped walking. It was one of the hardest and saddest times in my life. I remember carrying him into the veterinarian's office. I remember carrying him everywhere. He was diagnosed with spondylosis, arthritis in his back. He began walking again, but his long-term outlook was bad. Over time, I was told it would worsen to a point where he couldn't walk and would become incontinent. It could take a year, or it could take three. He was never the same. I was horribly sad to have his mortality smacked into my face. On the positive side, I appreciated him more and was glad that, for so many years, I had had such a loyal and faithful friend.

"Throughout Bentley's life, whenever I returned home, I would get on my knees and he'd come over and hug me. One paw on each shoulder, I'd wrap my arms around him, squeeze and say 'Hugs.' With his bad back, four paws remained on the ground. I'd get on my knees, wrap my arms around him and still say 'Hugs.' He couldn't return the hug.

"For his 13th birthday, I bought him a cart. It's a wheelchair for dogs, consisting of a support structure with wheels to keep his back end up. I blew it his first time hiking with the cart. We went too far and it was too hot. Even with water throughout the hike, he collapsed on his side, unmoving. 'Heat stroke,' I thought as I gave him the rest of the water, dumping what he didn't drink over him. I checked him over and found his paws completely torn. I was racked with guilt. My ever-so-faithful friend had pushed himself until he could go no further. Hoisting my precious 50-pound Bentley on my shoulders, I hurried as fast as I could the mile down the trail to water. I ignored his peeing on me and biting my head. I walked into the river and plunked him down. I think it saved his life.

"Bentley's still with me. But, just last night when I called for him, he had to drag himself to me. He had a horribly sad and confused look on his face, which I couldn't comfort. In case he never walks again, I'm trying to remember the last time he could. His cart's been a lifesaver, and we still took our walk last night. It cheered him up. This morning, he needed help getting outside. He's getting ready to leave me. When he does, I know that somehow I'll get by. But, as long as that twinkle is in his eye and that smile on his face, he'll be faithfully at my side." Contributed by Steve Lund, January 2002.

Bianca, a Texas Queen/Poster Girl at Age 11

"Bianca is an 11-year-old black and white Border Collie who came into all-breed rescue a year ago in April. She had been dumped in a public park. I live in a town east of Houston, Texas, and am actively involved there in Border Collie Rescue. (I am known as 'Puppy Mom' lately because I have raised the last two litters that came into rescue.) All-breed rescue found out about our group and contacted us, hoping we could help place Bianca. Little did they know that this would be our first official rescue -- and my first adoption, too. Bianca was presented to us as child-, cat-, and dog-aggressive. However, the vet discovered that she had spondylosis and a torn ligament. She wasn't aggressive -- just in pain. Not only did she have a torn ligament, but she also showed signs of arthritis, mild hip displysia, and -- most important -- a great attitude. She was taken to several specialists, and it was agreed not to do surgery, because fixing one problem could possibly worsen the others. Bianca has turned out to be a grand lady. She's helped foster two litters of rescue puppies, teaching them manners, respect, and the general 'ways of Dogdom.' She's also taught me what precious beings 'senior' dogs are. Bringing Bianca into our home took some work because I also have 'Dot,' a 2-year-old female Border Collie who was the Alpha in the family and still is. Bianca has become the poster girl and 'Queen' of Border Collie Rescue of Texas. She walks 2 miles a day, works the rescue booths, and loves the attention of children and adults. In the past months she has also become an avid frisbee dog. Just don't tell her 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks;' she is sensitive about her age!" Contributed by Terrie O'Connor, Border Collie Rescue of Texas Photo by Patti Orr.

An Old Dog Called "Big Red"

"I write this letter in memory of an old dog called 'Big Red.' I never knew his real name so I simply called him 'Big Red.' When I first met him, he was a wandering stray Springer Spaniel who had been 'detained' by a police officer at a busy city street intersection. The local animal shelter had been called to come pick up the old guy. While driving by, without any reason or thought, I had pulled over to see what was going on. After the officer explained, I asked if I might have him. The officer replied, 'Sure.' And that was the beginning of a most treasured friendship.

"I certainly never had any intentions of getting another dog, especially such an old one. I tried to find his family, but to no avail. The vet said he had probably been used as a gun dog in the cold waters because of the numerous pellets lodged in him and his severe arthritis. I guess his perceived usefulness wore out. Initially, the vet suggested I might want to re-consider my decision to keep 'Big Red' because, after all, he was 'double digits' and, clearly, his robust heyday was behind him. I looked down at Red and he at me, both thinking the same thought, 'Let's get outta here!'

"So we did, and our wonderful 2 1/2-year adventure together began. I learned more about love, compassion and admiration in those mere 2 1/2 years than I had in my entire 37! At the estimated age of 16+, 'Big Red' had to be put down this past December. His old body couldn't go on any longer, although his pure heart surely could have. It was a privilege to have known this finest of friends who taught me so much.

"I ask anyone who may be considering opening their heart and home to a new animal friend...... please don't forget the 'seniors.' They are so often overlooked as too old or useless; they have such a slim chance of finding a loving home. And they have SO much to offer. The love, devotion and joy you will receive from these 'seniors' will be unsurpassed. They have earned their wisdom and deserve our appreciation. This I learned from an old dog called 'Big Red.' " Contributed by Crystal Smith Elliott,Washoe Valley, NV. March 2001.

Blackberry's Story
"I found my senior dog on the Internet! It has been more than a year since I adopted Blackberry, then a 12-year-old Black Lab, from a local shelter. I had logged onto the Senior Dogs Project website, and after reading a few of the stories posted there, I knew I wanted to adopt a senior. My original dog, Ginger Pie (who was rescued as a stray) is an older dog now, and I wanted a companion for us both who would match her pace.

"I found Blackberry (originally called 'Blackie') listed on the Internet as male, elderly, 12 years old, and currently in a shelter. 'What is a 12-year-old dog doing in a shelter?' I wondered. When I called the shelter to ask about him, I was immediately warned, 'You know he's 12 years old. We don't even know if he's house-trained.' I was told that he was in no danger of being put to sleep. Still, the shelter is no place for an elderly dog! I mailed in an application, then called to ask if I could come and get him as soon as my application was reviewed and accepted. 'But he's not adoptable,' the woman on the phone said. 'You'll have to speak with Sherry.'

"Sherry told me that Blackie still belonged to his owner, who had gone into the hospital. The shelter had agreed to care for Blackie temporarily. What was supposed to be a matter of a few weeks had become six months. Sherry agreed to ask the owner if I could adopt Blackie. I wrote a letter to Sherry, describing my situation in detail: my house, my dog Ginger Pie (a German Shepherd mix), and our eagerness to welcome an elderly dog in need of a home.

"A few days later, Sherry called back. The owner had agreed to release Blackie. She was very ill with cancer and would not be able to take care of him any longer. I was sorry to learn about the owner's condition, but also knew I wanted to get Blackie out of the shelter as soon as possible, so I made an appointment right away.

"When I got to the shelter, a worker was dispatched to get Blackie. He was brought out to me. 'You're taking the old guy,' said the worker with a smile (himself not so young). I looked down at Blackie for the first time, and he looked up at me with a mixture of worry and relief. I noted his graying muzzle and his very, very thin body. I had never seen him before, not even in a picture, but it was as if we were both thinking the same thing: 'Oh, it's you! Finally.'

"That first night, Blackberry collapsed on a pile of blankets in the corner of the living room. I claimed the sofa, and Ginger Pie went to her dog bed under the window. The next day, I gave him a bath in the tub. The six months in the shelter had taken a lot out of him. He had lost at least half his body weight, and house-training was something he had to re-learn. I work during the day, so I couldn't do the usual puppy-training. I left puppy pads at front and back doors, and in his favorite spot next to the bathroom (makes sense, I thought) with newspapers underneath. I had read that Labs love food treats, and that they train well with food rewards. So, when I was home, I gave him a treat every time he relieved himself outside. But I didn't scold him for going inside. When he did, I would say, 'Eek! Eek! Outside! Outside!' Then he would look terribly guilty. He couldn't take any kind of correction (any kind of negative-sounding words gave him a bit of diarrhea), so letting him go on the pads for as long as he needed to turned out to be the best thing. He just didn't get a treat for going on the pads. He gradually began to wait for me to come home and, by March, I was able to stop putting out pads and papers.

"Blackberry and Ginger Pie also had a separate power issue going -- a poop and pee war. It was Ginger's poop and his pee. I would come home to find poop behind the sofa (Ginger's spot) and pee in front of the fireplace (Blacks' spot). I removed the living room rug, and was grateful that the floors were polyurethaned. I put down linoleum (without glue) in the front hallway and the kitchen, where the floors were not finished, just in case. Then I just kept hoping that the war would end. Eventually, it did, after about three months.

"Then I did the most drastic and yet probably the most constructive thing of all: I opened up the sofa bed in the living room and let both dogs sleep with me. This was a first for me as it was for Ginger Pie. I suspect that Blackberry had slept with a human before, since, when I opened the bed, he hopped right up: 'Well, this is more like it!' My other reason for doing this was to relieve Blacks of his panic-night-peeing. He would wake me up at least three or four times a night to go out. I diagnosed this need as anxiety, as he had been to the vet the first week I had him and there seemed no physical reason for it. I wanted him to feel more secure. And I was right! The first night of sleeping with me, he slept through without waking. I found him in the morning, stretched out next to me, full length. The next night he claimed just a corner of the bed, which was a bit more comfortable for me. The panic-peeing at night stopped. He knew now that he was home.

"There were other challenges: a severe ear infection, and then a bacterial overgrowth in his intestine that wasn't found by the vet and was only helped when Bactryl was prescribed for his ears. No wonder he wasn't gaining weight! I really think that he would have died in the shelter from this infection.

"Blackberry's original owner sent me a check for $150 in the mail soon after I adopted him. I used it to pay for the two dog beds (one upstairs, one down) I had bought for Blackberry on credit. I sent a Black Lab beanbag puppy to her as a thank-you, and then, around Christmas, I sent a box of cookies and Blacks' original leather collar that she had requested. The box came back to me as unclaimed, and no one answered her phone when I called. I never heard from her again. But her dog was safe, well cared for and loved, and I am sure that this knowledge helped her to leave this world in peace.

"Blackberry is a 'velcro dog.' He must be in the same room with me, as close to me as possible. (He is an extra-large dog with long legs, and I often trip over him.) Part of this may be his loving personality; part may be his severe trauma at being ripped from a loving home at an advanced age, and then left at a very large shelter. If I move around from room to room too often, he will give up following me. He will simply lie down and bark. That means I'm supposed to come to him.....which I do, for a few words and a scratch behind the ears. Age has its privileges! Just watching him sleep is a quiet joy. I fear for the day he may not wake up, but at least I know that his last days will have been spent, not in a cage, but in a quiet and peaceful home, a calm haven at the end of a long and loving life.

"Lessons for humans from my humble experience:

"Dogs go through a really hard time in a shelter. If you adopt a shelter dog, please be patient. Some things will take time to re-learn. The dog has gone through a big and traumatizing change -- from a home to a shelter to a new home with new people. I really commend foster programs, because the dog is in a home with a home routine and people who care. I also think that arranging for emergency 'foster care' for dogs and cats before it is needed would also be a good idea for pet owners. It would certainly be better for the animal to stay with a friend or neighbor than to be put into a shelter, if the owner is temporarily or permanently unable to care for the pet. I am going to start asking around for a back-up care person now!

"I also want to thank everyone at the Senior Dogs Project for their wonderful work and encouragement. I E-mailed frequently after I took Blacks home, and it was a great support to me in those first few months. Someday I may be able to work with a rescue program, but right now I have two big senior dogs who need me. My cup is pretty much overflowing. I am so grateful for these two loving creatures who bring so much joy and devotion to my life!" Contributed by Joanna D., Staten Island, NY, February 2001.

Blackberry Takes the Stairway to Heaven

We received this sad update on October 22, 2002:

"Blackberry died overnight on Friday. I had to leave him at the vet on Friday because he was too 'wobbly' following his surgery to come home. He could never have made the stairs, and they could not send a vet tech for 20 minutes to help carry him. So he took the 'stairway to heaven' instead.

"Having been 'joined at the hip' to this wonderful dog for three years, I wonder if it was better for both of us. He was still halfway under anesthesia, and he had a pain patch, so he was not in pain. I never wanted him to die alone. I just hope he passed away quietly in his sleep. I went to see him Saturday, and he has the shiniest, glossiest coat -- quite a contrast to when I first got him. He looked peaceful. Oh, yes, on Saturday morning, cleaning up the patio, I saw blood in his stool. I did not see it earlier because it is dark when I wake up and dark when I get home from work. So he had a lot wrong with him. The vet said the growth extended into the palate, as well as the thyroid or whatever that lump was. And now the stool, which means internal bleeding. He didn't eat at all on Thursday morning, so maybe he was already shutting down before the surgery. I didn't expect him to make it. I kissed him and said, 'After this, you'll feel better. You'll either feel better here, or you'll feel better with Renata (his first guardian) in heaven.'

"I know adopting Blacks at the age of12 from the shelter was one of the best things I have done in my entire life. Thank you so much for all your help and encouragement along the way. We had three good years together, and if the ending was less than what I had hoped for, well, Sister Death (as Saint Francis called her) often comes unexpectedly. I feel like I was hit by a truck. A lot of verve has gone out of my life. But I know I was blessed by a dog who loved with all his heart. I am getting his ashes to be buried in my back yard under a pink dogwood tree that I plan to plant. Blacks' ashes need to be at home, for my sake if not for his. I can only hope one day to be greeted again, not by angels, but by gentle and sweet 'Blackberry Jam.' " Contributed by Joanna D., Staten Island, NY. November 2002.

Bonnie Aging Scottie's Journey
" 'It's HELL growing old.' I've head this said a million times in my life. I watch Bonnie Jean, my 10-year-old Scottish Terrier, and wonder if she feels the same way. I notice she hesitates longer these days before jumping onto the couch, rocking back and forth for a moment as if she's trying to decide just how badly she wants to sit beside me. She sleeps more, too, much more than she ever used to. Age has even altered her little doggie habits. One of Bonnie's usual routines consists of making one last 'cruise' around the house after lights out, just to make sure we're all secure before stopping for that last drink of water. Then she makes a giant leap up unto the waterbed to join us in sleep. And she makes it -- most of the time. When she doesn't, she falls back to the ground with a thump. That's when I see her gingerly get back to her feet and shake her head as if to say, 'I'm too OLD for this!' Now, it is well known that Scotties are a proud breed. So it really tugs at my heart strings to watch such a regal little lady struggle to regain her composure, slowly turning to look at me with defeat in her eyes, then heading down the hallway.

"Sometimes I feel so helpless when it comes to stopping her little body clock. I try to make her life easier and more enjoyable on a daily basis, not to mention ensuring she has the best food and veterinary care that money can buy. But sometimes it still doesn't seem like it's enough. Just a few weeks ago I was sitting in the vet's office, and, as I flipped through the pages, my eyes stopped on an advertisement for 'Dog Ramps.' Dog ramps? I'd never heard of such of thing. The advertisement showed a Dachshund walking up one of the ramps. How nice, I thought, that someone (obviously an animal lover) invented such a useful product, and smiled to myself as I slowly closed the magazine. And then it hit me! Bonnie could use one of these ramps to get up onto the bed! It was just what was needed!

"As luck would have it, the company was local, just a few minutes away from our home. I ordered the ramp and, a few days later, excitedly brought it home. Bonnie looked quite puzzled as I placed it at the bottom of the bed. My husband put a treat on the first step. Bonnie gobbled it up and was looking for more when he placed another one just a few inches farther up the ramp. Hesitant at first, but curious, Bonnie slowly stepped up the ramp until she could reach the treat. Before she could turn and run back down again, my husband laid another one a little farther up the ramp. This time, she walked right up to it without any hesitation. She continued to follow the biscuit trail and before she knew it she was on the bed looking quite pleased!

"Less than ten minutes after we turned off the lights that night, we heard the usual jingle of her collar tags signaling her return from her bedtime 'cruise.' Next thing, we felt her little paws walking across our toes at the bottom of the bed. Even in the dark, Bonnie had used the ramp -- all on her own! So much for that other saying, 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks.' I can almost hear Bonnie Jean say, as she rolls her pink tennis ball down the ramp and charges after it with all the gusto of a two-year-old, 'It's GRAND growing old!" Contributed by Peggy M. Bennett. May 2003.

Bootsie -- Nine years old? Maybe 12.....but "...such a good dog"
On August 20, 2002, we received the following E-mail:  "I found Boots on She is nine years old. I'm picking her up tomorrow. Nobody can figure out exactly what she is. A true mutt, I think. Her dad had to go to a nursing home, and the shelter was confusing to her. I'll keep you posted on our progress. I spent today buying stuff for her. She is very sweet and was friendly to all, including cats at the shelter."

And, on August 26, we received this update: "Well, I picked her up last Wednesday, and we went straight to the vet, of course. Turns out I chose the vet who has been treating her since 1996. She told me Boots is closer to 12 than 9, her records showing a 1989 birthdate. So, my girl is a real senior! She has a couple of teeth missing, but don't worry -- doesn't interfere with eating. She has a couple of incipient cataracts, but still sees well. Now the good part: her heart is strong, she is heartworm negative and has good breath. (Important, yes?) Boots is such a good dog, I can't believe it! She is sweet, mellow, doesn't go in the house, is not a barker or jumper, but is a lovebug. She wants to snuggle a lot of the time. I've attached a picture of her after her bath. Surprise! She's fluffy. So far, we've settled on her breed as1/4 Heeler,1/4 Chihuahua,1/4 Norwegian Elkhound and 1/4 wolf pup. This is subject to change." Contributed by Barb Hathaway, Oskaloosa, IA. September 2002.

Update May 2003: "Well, we are still doing well. Bootsie is a very loving dog. I went to California for a couple of weeks and she stayed with my sister and her husband. He's now her biggest fan. She hasn't had any health problems and since the picture I sent you, has grown a LOT of hair. She had a couple of bald spots when I got her. Here is a photo of her in her winter finery. " Contributed by Barb Hathaway, Oskaloosa, IA.

Update November 2003: "I lost my sweet Bootsie to diabetes last month. My heart is broken. She was the sweetest dog I ever met. We had a great time this summer driving across the country, playing in strange fields, staying in hotels. We even saw Mount Rushmore. She had such a good time. Every morning she was ready to go. I miss her." Barb Hathaway, Oskaloosa, IA.

BOZ, Once a Stray, Now Volunteers with "Pets on Wheels"

" 'Boz,' a Labrador/Shepherd mix, found me late one July evening about 12 1/2 years ago, while I was out gardening in my yard in Edmonds, WA. He was the cutest dog I'd ever seen! He seemed very scared and ran away when I tried to get close to him. The next morning, I looked across at the elementary school yard and almost didn't notice him lying there, since he blended in so well with the golden-brown grass of summer. He was looking at my house.

"I ran down to the store to get some dog food for him and, when I returned to the school yard, asked two little girls and some workers at the school if they knew anything about the dog who was lying there. One man said he had been hanging around the school for the past three days. I offered the dog the food and he ate it hungrily, and, since no one ever showed up to claim him, he's been my steady companion ever since. The vet thought he was about a year old when I found him, so that makes him 13 1/2 now.

"We had many happy years together in Washington, where Boz participated regularly in the annual fund-raising walk for Seattle's PAWS foundation and was a volunteer at Cabrini Hospital in their pet therapy program. We now live in Arizona, where we volunteer with PETS ON WHEELS and visit a Scottsdale nursing home a couple of times a week.

"Boz loves walking (anywhere from one to three miles a day), has found new friends at the local park here in Phoenix, and loves his dog day afternoons lying in the sun in the backyard. His favorite words are 'walk,' 'treat,' and 'ride.'

"In December, the vet had to remove a tumor from Boz's foot, but it turned out to be benign, and I am very thankful. Arthritis has made his hindquarters stiff, but I believe keeping him active over the years has helped his mobility. Recently, we switched to the 'senior' version of his food, but don't let him know! I am also adding GlycoFlex to his diet.

"Not a day goes by that I don't feel blessed to have Boz in my life." Contributed by Fiona Saulness, Phoenix, AZ. February 2000.

Update October 7, 2000, Fiona Saulness wrote: "It is with sadness in my heart that I am writing to you. On Thursday, October 5, 2000, I had to put Boz to rest. He contracted Valley Fever and, within a week, he couldn't walk. I pray that they find a vaccine for this disease in the near future. I lost my best friend in the whole world. He lived to the ripe old age of 14+ years. I never thought I could feel so much sadness and pain as I'm feeling now. Coming home to an empty house is so devastating. We will meet at Rainbow Bridge."

Brandy Joins Brie in a Happy Family

"Last summer I took in a 10-year old English Setter (Field Setter) from a friend of a friend. The original owner had died a couple of years earlier, and the widow was moving and just couldn't keep her. Since I already had Brie, a 4-year-old English Setter, it was suggested that I take her in. I'll admit I was apprehensive at first, but the two girls get along great! Ten-year-old Brandy acts like she's a pup again, much to the amazement of her previous guardians. After the initial adjustment, she turned out to be a very kind and loving dog. I would encourage others to give the 'elderly' dogs a chance." Contributed by Jerry Phelps, March 2000.

Brett Still Plays Ball at 17!
Brett is my 17 year old Poodle. We got him when he was four months old. He is the highlight and love of our lives and truly a member of the family. Even at the ripe old age of 17, he still plays catch with a ball! The two photos show him at Christmas 2003, and when he was still 'driving,' at the age of 7." Contributed by Rosa Simmons, Cape Cod, MA. March 2004.

Buck, Adopted at 10; Now 12, Doing "Great Things"

"Buck is a 12-year-old Golden Retriever whom I was lucky enough to adopt two years ago through Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue (DVGRR). He came from a home where a child had developed an allergy to dogs. After having been an 'inside' dog all his life, he had to live tied out in the yard or in the garage. The family eventually realized that this wasn't the best life for Buck, so they contacted DVGRR to help find him a new home. It wasn't easy for anyone involved --human or dog -- but things have turned out really well. People keep saying to me, 'What great things you're doing for that dog!' But it's really the other way around." (Update, May 1998: "Buck's kidneys failed last Friday and he had to be put down. Fortunately, everything happened very quickly and he did not suffer. He was a sweet old guy, but his body just couldn't hold up under the pressure of liver problems and a history of kidney troubles, and so there was no question as to what had to be done. Senior dogs are the most special dogs of all.") Contributed by Sally Heffentreyer, State College, PA

Buck.....A 17-year-old Cairn Terrier Turned Down by Organized Rescue Because He Was "Too Old"

In October 1999, the Senior Dogs Project noted a post from Katie, a woman who had just adopted a senior dog. She wrote: "Buck, the 17-year-old Cairn I adopted two weeks ago, is becoming more robust. The woman who fostered him for six weeks was a dog trainer who boarded a number of dogs, so he was, by necessity, crated fairly often. With me, he has the run of my downstairs, gets two round-the-block walks each day and yard time, as well. He has gone from Eeyore position (head and tail down) to head and tail up and lots of eye contact. He no longer cringes when I touch him, and he seems to be gaining some muscle. I thought it was my imagination, but his halter is not as loose as it was at first. Also, the second and third days I had him, he shook like a leaf whenever he woke up. This would last for several minutes, but hasn't happened since. He's actually becoming almost frisky! This is my first rescue and my first truly geriatric dog (my first Cairn died at 11/12). I wouldn't hesitate to do it again. These old guys are so sweet.

"Although Buck was not formally accepted by any organized rescue group, the First Run Rescue Fund, in the East Village of NYC, took care of all his initial vet bills.

"Kind of a nice postscript: I took Buck to the Cairn Terrier Club national specialty last weekend (held in conjunction with the Montgomery County Kennel Club show). Right before the puppy sweeps, he was introduced with great fanfare, and we did a turn around the ring. Some of the experienced Cairn people think he may have been a show dog. He came to life the minute he stepped into the ring and knew exactly what to do. Thunderous applause -- which, of course, he couldn't hear, but it was pretty neat."

C. J. Crawford painted the watercolor portrait of Buck shown above, based on a photograph Katie had taken of him. The original hangs in Katie's living room. An anonymous donor bought it for her. The painting has been made into prints and is for sale, with the proceeds going to Cairn Terrier Rescue. For information on ordering, see C. J. Crawford's website.

As of April 2000, Katie writes: "Glad to report old Buck is still going strong. Made it through a harsh New England winter to enjoy another spring."

Katie was vitally supported in her rescue and adoption of Buck by Jane, Nina, and the First Run Rescue Fund of New York City.

Buckwheat, Age 9, and Alexandra

Buckheat & Alexandra"Buckwheat is our nine-year-old Dalmation/Pointer mix. She is an extremely intelligent dog. We can ask her to take things from our house to the neighbors', and she just goes right ahead and does it. Every day she knows that she has the job of bringing in the newspaper. We showed her how to do it once, and she's been doing it ever since. Buckwheat sleeps under the covers with us, warming up our feet when they're cold. We think she likes it as much as we do. She is truly our best and most loyal friend." Contributed by Kathleen Thurston, San Francisco, CA. May 1997.

Making a Habit of Adopting the Oldsters -- Buddy Is the Newest
"I was looking at the picture of Cookie on the Senior Dog website (the very senior dog we rescued a few years ago and who died within the year), and wanted to tell you that I did indeed adopt another senior dog! His name is Buddy and he is 11 years young. He has been a member of our family now since April 2002. He came to us from Puppy Love Rescue of Sacramento. (We moved from San Francisco to Pollock Pines in January 2002.) He had been quite ill and weighed only 7 lbs. Needless to say, he is no longer skinny -- but not fat either! Anyway, he's now a very lively, brave, loving little terrier -- also a terror! He's in good health now, too, except for having a few teeth extracted. I still think of Cookie a lot, and hope that wherever she is, she can hear, bark, and has no pain. We still have our Mollie, the Cattle Dog. She's starting to get a few gray hairs around her muzzle at age 5. She and Buddy tolerate each other." Contributed by Helen Lopez, Pollock Pines, CA, December 2003.

The Experience of A Lifetime -- Knowing and Loving Buddy

"The best experience of my entire life was living with, changing with, and loving my dog 'Buddy,' who was truly my buddy from the time he came home with me at eight months until his death at the age of 16 1/2.  He was a Wire-Haired Pointing Griffon, who had been returned to the breeder because he was timid and gun-shy. He was very skittish and uneasy with me at first but developed into the most loyal, faithful, valiant friend one could ever hope for. Always at my side, he would have given his life for me (and was a bit of a liability because of it).  So, when he got older, I promised him that I would guard, love, and protect him, as he had me.  It was fascinating to see all his life-changes -- physical, emotional, behavioral -- over the course of all those years --- to see him evolve and adapt to his aging process. I learned many valuable lessons from him about patience, perseverance and acceptance.  He became blind and deaf and had difficulty getting up; but once up, until the day he died, he insisted on walking at least an hour (preferably more) a day. He tried so hard to be strong and independent but graciously accepted the help I offered him (up and down the stairs, navigating around the yard, in and out of the car). He never became cross or snappy, nor did he yelp if he fell. He forgave me my distractions when we were out walking. (I was not always the most proficient 'seeing eye person.')  We put up foam padding throughout the house and around the base of the furniture, so when he bumped into things he did not hurt himself; we also installed ramps and gates to allow easier access to the outside. It was only in the end that he seemed to get despondent and to be uncomfortable (except when offered a bowl of turkey-rice-broccoli!).  Nothing can compare to the depth of the life experience of living with a dog and growing old with him -- while remembering his youth and appreciating his growth into mature adulthood and finally senior pensionership.  I would not trade this experience for the world and look forward to doing it again and/or adopting an older dog. They are so worthy of our love and protection." Contributed by Robyn Orloff and Cullen Shiffrin, Incline Village, NV. April 1999.

Buddy, Age 13, Is Kept Warm, Dry, & Fit
While Living at the Beach

"Buddy is my 13-year-old Labrador Cross. I purchased Buddy when he was a year old from our local dog pound, where he was on death row. He has been a great friend over the years, and, even though he definitely is a senior dog, he is still very fit and free of joint problems. I credit this in part to his living inside -- either in a heated house or in his heated kennel. On very cold days, I have him wear a jacket made of wetsuit-type material to keep him dry and warm. I also always dry him off after swimming. Living at the beach has meant plenty of exercise for Buddy, as has running up and down the stairs in our three-story house. My only regret (and Buddy's also, I am sure) is that I didn't take better care of his teeth when he was younger. Special teeth-cleaning biscuits and brushing are now the order of the day. Older dogs develop a special character over the years that makes them so enjoyable! Buddy is a fantastic dog, and, I hope with lots of care, love, hugs, and good-quality food, he will be with me for a few years yet." Contributed by Allan Bull, Southshore, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand.

Bundish, a Faithful Old English Sheepdog

"I got Bundish when she was six weeks old (waaaay too young, as I now know). She has been the most faithful companion I could wish to have. She's still going (pretty strong) but arthritis has reared its ugly head and, although we're trying glucosamine and aspirin first, Rimadyl or another NSAID may be in the picture in the future. As I watch my baby enter her last years, I pray I can make it easier for her. Her eyesight is slowly degenerating (she has almost no night vision now) due to late-onset PRA and her hearing -- always selective -- is now truly not quite as good as it could be. I may have to catch her butt in mid-air to help heave her up onto the bed or into the car, but she pays me back in abundance with super waggle-butts and daily morning 'baths.' I read many of the stories on your web site and tears filled my eyes. Although I expect to get another puppy someday, I also have plans to adopt an older dog (who is used to other dogs) as a companion. I would adopt another dog now but, unfortunately, like many Old English Sheepdogs, Bundish decided quite some time ago that other dogs were okay as long as they left her alone. And, since I wish her final years to be as good as her early ones, I see no reason to force her into anything she wouldn't enjoy just because it would be fun for me." Contributed by Gail Scho. September 2001.

Butch Is 23 Years Old!!
"Isn't Butch the handsomest of dogs! Would you believe that he has seen 23 years? We feel so privileged to have the honor of caring for him in the twilight of his life. We were chosen by our caring veterinary facility to be his guardian 15 months ago.

"A wonderful rescue person adopted Butch from a local shelter where he was reported to be four or five. After spending 17 years in this home, Dolly, his rescuer/adopter, had to return to her native England due to health reasons. Dolly had spent many years helping the stray dogs in Tijuana -- just across the border. She worked for a Greyhound rescue group to help with financing the operation to assist these strays. What a gal! Finding a new home for Butch then became the challenge of the year for the local organization that places shelter animals. Our veterinary facility cared for Butch for the FOCAS group until we were selected.

"Butch is a Lhasa Apso -- at least front and back, with something long in between. Vision is diminished (not at all of concern), hearing is acute, and there remains a unique sensitivity to surroundings. He shares his new home with nine other very senior or medically challenged doggies. Butch is definitely a 'grump' as the girls at the Medical Center will confirm. Shall we say that he dances to his own tune and who shall we ask has a better right. Massage sessions of 200-plus strokes are acceptable. Dinner may be served at 2 a.m. Hikes of fifty feet may take a half hour including sniff time. What diet did you ask promotes this longevity? Mostly chicken - so much for nutrition.

"Butch had two operations last fall, including the removal of a bladder stone in November. More recently, he had surgery for the removal of a cancerous mass. He is making gradual but steady progress back to full recovery. Cheers to his veterinary team and to our grand old man. We are so proud of our grand old man. We adore him and share that adoration with his very special veterinarian." Contributed by Barbara Coblentz, Lakeside, CA. July 2003.

"Buttons," a Reliable Man for Sixteen Years

"Buttons is my 16-year-old Terrier/Poodle mix. I have had him since the day he was born. As I like to tell people, he is the only reliable man in my life-- and the light of my life. Through all my hardships and happiness, one factor has always been consistent: Buttons. He's been through thick and thin with me and lived in more places than the average human -- including Panama, North Carolina, and Washington State. As a puppy, he was full of life, easy going and naive; he loved everyone. In middle age, he was as happy, just a little more experienced. As a senior dog, he is a little grumpy, but still loves rolling on his back and kicking his legs in the air, getting up on the "no-no" sofa, and chewing on paper. Although Buttons can't hear anymore and sees very little, he doesn't seem to mind. He keeps plugging along, happy to be around his 'mom.' I know someday soon I will have to say good-bye to him. I try not to think about it and to keep him as healthy as possible. I will always be thankful for the love he has given me; there is nothing like the love of an old dog." Contributed by Diane Pellett, Bellingham, WA. August 1999. (Update, April 2000, Diane Pellett wrote: "On April 18, 2000, my life-long companion, Buttons, passed away. He luckily died a painless death. I was with him, holding him, saying my good-byes. Thank God for euthanasia and excellent vets. ")