Seneca, Left Outside in the Cold New York Winter, Has Found the Warmest, Most Loving Home

"Seneca came to us in April of 1998.  A friend of mine who is a groomer kept telling me about this poor Weimeraner who was being tied out in the cold New York winter, her owner claiming that she could not be housebroken.  My husband is allergic to dogs, so when he said that he had to go away on business for two weeks, I figured I could housebreak her in that time and find a home for her before he returned.  Well, when we went to see the dog, she was such a sad little sack that my husband decided to keep her. We took her right to the vet, since she was skin and bones.  She also had no hair on her ears, acute conjunctivitis and a red, raw nose. We quickly discovered the reason she was so thin was that the poor thing had advanced heartworm disease. Several months later, she has gained 20 pounds, has a beautiful coat, and her ears and nose have healed.  She's very playful and runs like a gazelle! She was housebroken quickly and can be trusted off leash. We haven't gone on vacation because we would hate to leave her with someone. (She had very bad separation anxiety when we first got her, so we wouldn't want her to think we had left her!) She loves chasing her ball, ice-cream cones, going bye-bye in the car, and sleeping in our bed!  She gets up on the couch, not realizing that she's 76 pounds rather than a tea-cup poodle. We were glad to bypass the puppy chewing and craziness. Our only regret is that our time together will be limited, but we wouldn't have missed having her for the world." Contributed by Linda and Paul Beseth, Milton, NY Addendum: Linda Shaffer Beseth notes: "We're glad that Seneca found it in her heart to trust again. Please feel free to give my e-mail address to anyone who doubts that a senior dog can deliver the best of both worlds." E-mail:

Shelly -- No one wanted she is a blessing to all in her new family
"Two weeks ago my ex-husband got remarried. I was feeling old, discarded, and abandoned. So I went to the Animal Shelter to adopt a dog. I didn't know what I was looking for. There was a cute little puppy that everyone wanted. They were going to have a drawing to see who would get to adopt her. No one wanted the pitiful looking little Sheltie. She had almost no hair on her body, was covered with scabs, and smelled bad. She knew she was unwanted -- you could see it in her eyes. The shelter volunteers were very surprised when I asked them to bring her out so I could look at her. Of course, I had to have her. I called my vet from the shelter, and 'Shelly' and I went directly there. They bathed her three times to get the filth out, ran a series of blood tests, and I brought her home later in the day. She does have a few problems, so we are taking it one step at a time. I am certain that she is an angel. She totters around the house after me, quietly lying down wherever I happen to be; and she watches me all the time. I am glad to give her a warm bed, good food, and lots of love for whatever time she has left. I had no idea that it would be so satisfying to care for her. My two 'middle-aged' dogs seem to understand that she is an old lady, and they treat her with respect. The 'boys' (10 and12) are careful with her and move slowly around her, since she is deaf. So she is a blessing to all of us! Who would've thought?" Contributed by Kathy Bloom. September 2003. Update, two days later: "Shelly continues to get 'perkier' each day, and her hair is already starting to grow! She is wagging her tail more, and she shocked us all by barking today. It was the first time she's made a sound!" (Editor's note: WONDERFUL!!)

Shadow, Almost 12, with a Chicken for a Best Friend

Shadow"This is a photo of my pooch 'Shadow' with her uncle Bob. Shadow is a Husky-Shepherd mix and is almost 12. I received her as a birthday gift on my 10th birthday, and had never been away from her until I went away to school 9 years later. That wasn't so bad, though, because I could always go home on weekends. Now that I've moved to Tokyo for three years, and decided to leave Shadow behind (I was afraid to put her through the ordeal of a 20-hour flight in the summer heat), she is staying with her uncle Bob. Shadow is the best dog I have ever known. She is the only dog I know who had a chicken for a best friend! She spent an entire summer with that chicken, either on her back or in tow. Shadow is big and looks a little like a wolf, but in reality her biggest threat to anyone is being licked to death by her. I can't even say that her bark is worse than her bite because she almost never barks -- especially not at a person who might have food for her! The best part about Shadow's becoming a senior is that she has turned into a 110-lb. lap dog!" Contributed by Stephen A. Lopez Jr., Yokota AB Japan.

Shadow -- Loves the "Little Ones" and Is Aging Gracefully

"This is Shadow, she is nine years old. What a loving companion! My husband and I inherited her from our son, who was away at college when she was young. She truly became 'ours' when he married. She is a big part of our family and even goes on vacation with us. She loves everyone, but can be protective about her 'little ones,' our grandchildren. She is slowing down a bit, as are her humans. We don't want to think about life without her, so we just enjoy the time we have together. We had the pleasure of raising her from a seven week old pup to a senior lady. We are just lucky that we have a king size bed because this way all three of us fit. We taught her obedience, but she has taught us a great deal, too. I only hope I can age as gracefully as she. She still has many days when she acts just like a two-year-old again. But, like her human friends, she limps and has trouble getting around for a few days. The vet says the little growths near her eyes are like 'warts' that people get. To us, she is still as beautiful as the day we brought her home nine years ago -- maybe even more beautiful because we know she has a loving heart and great personality. How lucky we are to have her!" Contributed by Georgina Koslosky, Charleroi, PA. July 2002.

Update -- October 2002: "I just wanted to write a short note to add to the beautiful article you have about Shadow on your site. We took her again to the Outer Banks along with our sons, their wives and our grandchildren. The whole family was there. Shadow was like a young pup again, playing with the kids in the ocean. We don't know how many more trips she will be able to make, since she will be ten years old on March 31. We just enjoy her every day. I really enjoy this site since it helps give me insight to what may be ahead for us. Living with these gracious 'senior' dogs is wonderful."

Update -- November 2002: "I am writing to tell you about our loss of our wonderful lab, Shadow. Last Saturady, she stopped eating. When I came home from work on Monday, she looked at me and her eyes said 'help me.' We took her to a very kind vet who did some blood work and was concerned that her CBC was way out of line. I am a nurse and he said, 'Look at these. You're a nurse. This is not a good sign.' Until then, Shadow had never acted or looked sick. We thought she was slowing down due to her age. She was 9 1/2 years old. The vet said he would do a more extensive work up, and we were still holding out for a diagnosis of a kidney infection. But I knew by his tone when I spoke to him that it was not good news. As kindly as he could, he told us just how sick Shadow was. She had leukemia, an enlarged spleen, and a sarcoma. Yet she never acted sick; she just kept going until she couldn't go anymore. The vet said, 'That's how Labs are...they will go 'til they drop." He said we could give chemotherapy, but he didn't think that would help. I loved her too much to see her suffer.

"So, as much as it tore our hearts out, we decided to have her put to sleep. We took her home and had the kids and grandkids come to say goodbye. Then we spent that night in our living room, sleeping on the floor with her. In the morning, we went out for a last walk in the yard. She loved to go for rides in the truck. She often went on vacations with us, so getting into the truck made her happy. The very kind vet let her stay in her favorite spot in the back seat of 'her' truck. He gave her a shot to make her very sleepy and, as she leaned into my husband, we hugged her and kissed her and then we laid her down on the seat. The vet came back out and gave her the final shot. It was very peaceful. We drove home and buried her in her favorite spot in the backyard, under a tree.

"Our home is empty now. No face at the window waiting for us to get home from work. There was nothing we could do for Shadow except not let her suffer. I hope I can take lessons from her and be able to have dignity like she did. SShe was a lady to the end. That kind vet let her keep her dignity, too. She will be missed forever." Contributed by Georgina Koslosky. November 2002.

Pound Puppy "Shadow"....Proof that Angels Live on Earth

"Here is a photo of my senior citizen, Shadow, lying by the pool. This precious animal was my Pound Puppy. Ten years ago I found myself staring into his beautiful face and unable to move from his cage at the shelter. It was a shelter that has the worst reputation for the killing of dogs. I realize they have a job to do, but I can't even think what my life would have been like, had I not adopted him before the shelter killed him. Now, ten years later, I am still fortunate to have this wonderful friend who gives me continued love and devotion. I have never spent forty dollars better, and I cannot be convinced that angels don't live on the earth. I know it can't be true, as Shadow is my angel, and without him my life would be empty and lonely." Contributed by Gita Sturtevant, Auburn, WA. July 2003. Update October 30, 2003: "We lost our battle to save his life a bit longer. He passed away last night after twelve years of love and caring he gave me. A gentleman till the last, he went into the living room and tried to drink water, had a siezure and fell into his water dish. With dignity, he walked into the living room and laid his head on one of his stuffed toys, and pretended he was okay. I knew better......I carried him downstairs to the best of my ability and tried to make him comfortable. When he did not eat, or drink I knew the battle was over."
Shakespeare Loves Tasha Best
"Shakespeare is 10 years old and still going strong! I adopted my handsome Terrier mix when he was a year old. It's a popular misconception that dogs who recover from Parvo are sickly throughout their lives. Shakespeare overcame Parvo and has been very healthy ever since. I got Shakers from my cousin (who had three other dogs), because I thought he would make a good companion for my dog Tasha. In fact, he has been a wonderful dog to all of us! He has shown great love towards all of us in the family. He loves to run and play with other animals at the beach, too, but, most of all, he loves his companion, Tasha." Contributed by Rose Correa, San Diego, CA. March 2003.

Shato, the Samoyed

"Shato is the most wonderful dog! He loves cats, birds ,dogs and children, and, of course, adults, too.....everyone! We love him dearly . He "talks " to us, but hardly ever barks. He is very affectionate and well behaved. He is so beautiful, too. In the photo, he is 12 years old." Contributed by Messina, Blue Mountains, Australia, October 2000. Posted December 2000.

Sissy -- One Man's Trash, Another's Treasure

"This is my precious baby, Sissy, taking a walk in the snow, February 2002. Sissy is a Dachshund mix. Some horrible people dumped her on the side of the road in 1986. I was sitting on my porch and watched as the car stopped, the door opened, the dog got dumped out, and then the folks sped off. There was Sissy, all confused, wondering why she'd been left. I went flying up the road with a few choice words to the people in the car and then got her. She was covered with fleas, dirty, and in full heat, but absolutely the sweetest dog I have ever known. I bathed her to clean her up and kill all the fleas. That night, she got into bed with my husband and me; she has slept by my side ever since. I took her to be spayed, but the vet said she was pregnant. Oh, my! Very appropriately, on Labor Day in 1986, she went into labor. She had three puppies (which we kept, of course, until their deaths at ages 10 and 12 and 13). She was the best mom ever. She stayed with her babies during the first week. In the following weeks, she would come get into bed with me, but would get up every couple of hours to go check on the pups -- feed them and clean them. She was an amazing mom and, at 16, has now out-lived all her pups. She is in really good health for a 16 year old. She's deaf, and we discovered a couple months ago that she has Cushing's Disease. But I've read that dogs can live up to two years with Cushing's Disease. Since she doesn't have any debilitating symptoms of Cushing's at this point, we've chosen, with our vet's guidance, not to put her on any medication. I would rather she live out her life happy and feeling good than to have her take medications that can have serious side effects. I want to thank the people who dumped Sissy. They've made me the happiest 'mom' ever! One man's trash is another man's treasure, for sure!" Contributed by Kim Bridges, Shelby, NC. April 2002. Update July 23, 2004: "Today Sissy went to Rainbow Bridge. She was 18 years old. Her little organs were just giving out, and when the vet did her blood panel last week, the numbers were off the chart. She was going downhill faster and faster. S before she started suffering or getting sick, I let her go. My heart is totally broken. I don't want to go to bed because she won't be there. She slept with me for 18 years. Thank you for allowing me to share Sissy's story. I just adore your web sight and visit often." Kim & Sissy at the Bridge

Sissy Is the "Reigning Collie Princess"

I adopted Sissy from Tri-State Collie Rescue (Central Ohio) in June 2001. Sissy had been in rescue since February 2001. I had previously adopted a young male Collie-mix from Tri-State (Bernie). I just couldn't bear the thought of 'Lassie' languishing away her golden years in rescue. Sissy joined, in addition to Bernie, five rescued cats (four of whom are now seniors). Rescue and my vet estimated Sissy's age at around 8.

"Sissy was rather 'depressed' when I brought her home. I'm sure she wondered what had happened to her life. I hope she's not wondering any more, because she's the reigning Collie Princess in her forever home. I hope you can see from the photograph that Sissy is again a happy dog. You can just see her smile, I think. I am still working on getting her coat back into shape. She had so many mats and tangles when she was rescued; a few more months should do the trick.

"Sissy has been an absolutely delightful addition to my household. She has added so much to a couple of obedience classes, too. Miss Sissy has been far and away the oldest dog in these classes, but she does just great. She's a little stiff (aren't we ALL??) and she bumps along at her own pace. The smiles of the human students and our instructor come deep from within and just glow outward as they watch Sissy go through her paces. I can't tell you how many people have said: 'What a wonderful dog!' 'There's something special about old Collies.' 'I love old dogs.' 'She's just magnificent.' 'She looks so wise.' And so on.... I can tell you that Sissy does the BEST down/stay in the class. She's got that command perfected! (Ha!) Her sit/stay often becomes a down/stay as she sloooooowly slides into down. That Sissy...." Contributed by Annie Berry, Ohio. November 2001.

Skitti, 11 Years Old, Pampered by the Whole Family

"This is a photo of myself and our 11-year-old miniature Schnauzer who is named 'Skitti.' She is a great city dog because she does not need a lot of exercise and is happy with three walks per day. On the week-ends, those walks are longer and more leisurely. Skitti gets a lot of affection from my wife and our 16-year-old daughter, but I am the one who feeds her most of the time and who walks her first thing in the morning and late in the evening. She shares the morning sunshine as it plays across the rug on the hall stairs with a black female cat named 'Pocket.' Skitti's daily session with the mailman is an interesting one. As soon as she hears him come up the front steps, she runs under the mail chute. Of course, she gets bombarded with the mail, which gives her vindication for giving the mailman a piece of her mind." Contributed by Bill Wilson, San Francisco, CA

Smokee Became the "Perfect" Pet and Was Treasured Most in His Later Years

"My beloved dog Smokee, a Shepherd-Golden Retriever mix, passed away Friday, March 10, 2000. He was 14 1/2. Losing a companion of 14 1/2 years is never easy, even if his death was 'natural.' It's hard to believe he's gone. We had had him since 1985. We adopted him at the shelter as a five-week-old puppy. He was my first dog, and a cutie! I remember holding him on my lap on the way home from the shelter. He wasn't scared, just a bit anxious.

"We quickly found that his favorite thing to do was to chew -- and chew -- and chew -- and chew. Being new dog owners, we didn't know what to expect. One evening, I came home and discovered one of my brand new $55 leather shoes had been chewed -- in half!! Not realizing he'd done anything wrong, he came to me as I walked in the door, looking for love and affection. I looked at the shoe, realizing it was beyond repair, and scolded him. Right from the start, he had a strong conscience. He'd put his tail between his legs and run under the table to hide.

"When he started chasing cars and buses down the road, we knew we had to do something. We bought one of those dog pulleys and, for a while, it worked great. He could still have some freedom without the danger of running off. One day, I got home and saw that the pulley was down and the 2' x 4' wood post that had held it was broken in half. I frantically looked around and didn't see Smokee anywhere. 'Oh, no!' I thought he had run off. Suddenly, I heard a faint whimpering in the nearby brush. There, all tangled up, just waiting for someone to get home, was Smokee.

"We gave up on the pulley and signed him up for 'Dog Obedience School,' which really is 'Owner Training School.' It was the best decision we ever made. His first day, he surely could have won the award for 'Worst Dog' after trying to bite both me and the instructor. After completing the course, and winning 'Most Improved Dog,' I was inspired, and Smokee became the 'perfect' pet. I was so proud to be seen with him! Strangers were super impressed when they'd see him majestically walking by my side -- without a leash! I could leave him out all day (I do NOT recommend this to just anyone!), and he would not leave the yard.

"Smokee was a constant thread in our lives over the years. Whenever I felt down, upset, or just wanted to spend time with him, he was always there -- providing lots of licks and unconditional love and affection. Begging for food at the table was routine. (We never broke him of that habit, and I have to admit, it was because we enjoyed it as much as he did.) Being responsible dog owners, we'd feed him quality scraps -- turkey, fish, chicken, other meat. (O.K., there was a Fig Newton or two, peanut butter, Fruit Loops, and a lick of yogurt). On a weekend ride to find a Christmas tree, we discovered my six-year-old daughter had fed Smokee an entire cup of yogurt, when he let it loose all over the car. 'But they gave Air Bud yogurt in the movie,' she protested. Hmmm, hard to argue with the movies.

"As Smokee got older, he acquired mild hip dysplasia and spinal myelopathy, a spinal degenerative disease that made it very hard for him to use his rear legs. For a few months before his final days, he had been occasionally unable to control his bowels. I was prepared to stick it out, though, and put XXL 'Depends' on him, if necessary. Friday, when I got home from work and running some errands, I went out to the backyard to see him. He looked like he was sleeping, with all fours stretched out as usual. I bent down to pet him. He didn't respond. 'Smokee! Smokee!' He didn't open his eyes. I knew that was it. His final day on Earth was pleasant, though, and I give thanks for that. He had chewed a huge veal bone all morning, and there was just a tiny sliver of it left near him. At first I worried that he had choked on it, but, judging from his relaxed position, I dismissed the idea. I think his big and loving heart just gave up.

"I will never, ever forget Smokee. I never thought it was possible for such love to exist between a human and a dog. I miss the sound of his bark, his expressions, his playfulness, his waiting for me at the door. I miss 'talking' to him. I'll never forget how beautiful he looked, lying outside in the sun with his thick, long, soft black-and-gold fur glistening. I truly enjoyed Smokee more, the older he became. We had graown accustomed to each other's habits, and he was wonderfully mellow and low-key. Yes, I enjoyed him the most in his later days, definitely. Dogs have so much to teach us. I think that's why they're on this Earth. They don't care if you're rich or poor, ugly or beautiful. They live each moment fully, not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. I wonder why those we love have to leave us -- and will we see them in Heaven? I don't know, but I hope so." Contributed by Barbara Adams, Parker, CO. April 2000.

Smokey, 13, Gives a "Tenfold" Return

" I have a wonderful Norwegian Elkhound named Smokey. Tomorrow is his 13th birthday, but, he has so much energy, you'd never know he was a senior citizen! He still runs to greet me at the front door when I come home from work, and then proceeds to run up and down the stairs barking to let my cats know I'm home. He loves long walks; even after two or three miles, he's still not ready to head for home. Smokey's also an awesome watch dog. He's a typical Elkhound in that he likes the sound of his own voice and will yap away at neighborhood dogs and cats, but his tone changes completely when he's responding to a threatening noise. He's better than any burglar alarm on the market! Smokey's been a great pet and friend over the years -- definitely a fine example of the 'unconditional love' you get from an animal. I truly believe that if you treat your pet with love and respect, you'll get the same in return -- only tenfold." Contributed by Jackie Ganahl, Mission Viejo, CA. May 1999.

Solomon, Age 9, a Spunky Guy, Qualifies for "Frequent Vet Visitor" Status

"Solomon was the runt of the litter and the last to be adopted. He came to live with us one Easter Sunday. He was spunky from the beginning and had about 9 years of perfect health. In the last little while, though, he's had surgery for cataracts (had to have his face shaved and wear a cone on his head for about a month), diabetes (requires two insulin shots a day), a fatty tumor (had to be removed from his side, which required an 8" cut on his 12" body), another lump on the back of his leg -- which turned out to be cancerous and required 3 months of chemotherapy. Chemo seems to have worked, and the cancer has not reappeared in over a year. In December 1997, however, we had a new disease: Cushings. We're kind of half-joking that maybe we should have a 'frequent vet visitor' discount for him." Recommended: a website with info about Cushings Disease. Contributed by David & Karen Kamp.

Sophie Has Become the Model Arizona "Mountain Poodle"

"This is my Sophie. She is a beautiful standard Poodle who is approximately seven years old. Sophie came to live with us in February of 1998, and she has been the light of our lives ever since. We first heard about her from a local vet in our town. He had received a call from a shelter that wanted to place a Poodle whose guardian had to go to live in a nursing home. The vet knew that my husband (he was my fiancee at the time) and his family had had many Poodles over the years, and called to see if we would be interested in meeting Sophie. So, we scheduled a visit.

"What a shy, timid dog she was at first! As the visit continued, though, she began to show us who she really was, and we fell in love with her. We learned that Sophie's guardian had actually gotten her at a local animal shelter as a stray, and we were amazed that we were to become her third, and thankfully last, guardians. We have no idea where she came from or what her story is. We don't even know her true age. All we know is that our lives have been so blessed by adopting her.

"After an initial period of adjustment, Sophie became part of the family. She took to me right away, and, even though she was living at my in-laws' house (I was still in college), she became 'my' dog (much to the dismay of my father-in-law who tried desperately to woo her to his side). In 1999, my husband and I moved to Arizona. There was a bit of a battle about whether we would take Sophie or if she would stay with my in-laws, but I was not leaving the state without her. So she sat by my side as we drove 23 hours to our new home, and she's been by my side ever since.

"Sophie has become the model Arizona dog, climbing 13,000 foot mountains and rummaging through the red dirt of the high desert. You can't imagine how many looks and comments we got about having a Poodle in the mountains. Sophie didn't care, as long as she was with us and she was having fun. At seven, she is very active and doing great. We go on regular hikes, and Sophie has the best care imaginable. I know that I will always adopt older animals from now on. What a blessing she has been! She seems so grateful for our love and is always thanking me for adopting her in endless ways." Contributed by Kristin Moser, Cedar Falls, IA. November 2002.

Spencer, Adopted at 9, Had Only One Hour to Live

"My husband and I adopted Spencer in May of 1999, just two weeks after our first dog passed away. My daughter called me at work and her opening line was, 'Do you want to save a dog's life?' I was still missing my first dog and didn't want another dog right away, especially one that was already nine years old. However, this was 10:00 a.m. and Spencer was slated to be put down at 11:00 a.m. Needless to say, we picked him up that evening. Two weeks later, he was diagnosed with stones and had to have surgery. We have had Spencer for almost a year now. He is enjoying good health, gets along great with our cats, and loves to go for walks and car rides. He is a real joy to have, and I hope we have many more years together." Contributed by Janice Forestell, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. April 2000.

"Spike," Rescued as a Puppy from the Expressway, Is Now Almost 14
"I found Spike on the expressway when he was about six months old. He was terrified by the speeding traffic and leaped into my car when I opened the door. That was 13 and 1/2 years ago. Spike will be 14 next month, and I'm starting to get that knot in my stomach like I had when my beloved Sandy turned 14. (Sandy was my dearest German Shepherd of 14 years and Spike's companion. She passed away almost two years ago.) I know very well that Spike's time is running out, so I make the most of each day with him. His new companion is Casey, a six-year-old female German Shepherd rescue who joined our family eight months ago. Here is a picture of them together at the park. Spike is on the left and Casey on the right." Contributed by Sharon Senter, Michigan. August 1999.

Best Friend Spike
"My best friend, Spike, is a big, short-haired mixed hound of some sort, and he has been at my side for almost 18 years. He is older than my oldest child. I got Spike shortly before the birth of my now-nearly-16-year-old daughter. He was already perhaps two years old. The woman at the animal shelter said I should not take him because he was 'vicious.' When I asked her how she knew that, she said the folks that brought him him spoke only Spanish and said, 'Combative, combative.' I looked at Spike (a name he had already been given at the pound). He looked at me. I could tell by his face, there was absolutely no way this huge, muscular 90-pounder was a mean dog. After a while, in the cage with him, I said, this is my dog. He was too big to fit in my jeep with all the groceries I had just bought, so I had to drive the 30 miles home, leave my groceries, and drive back to get him. Before I went back for him, I bought a leash.

"Spike was my constant companion from then on. I had a little rock shop and ran the local Museum just outside Death Valley National Park, where Spike became a fixture. Bus tours would stop, and the tour guides would always bring a treat for Spike, much to the delight of the tourists. Spike also had a route where he knew the townfolk would leave little treats for him, and he absolutely adored the waitress in the little cafe next store. She would often save a piece of left-over meat for him. Sometimes, I would become very busy at work with a grant deadline, so I would try to 'hide' the fact that I was there by parking my car behind the building. I enjoyed talking with people, but sometimes I just had to lock myself in the back office and work. Without fail, people would still come around the back and stop in. Finally, it dawned on me how they always knew I was there: Spike was out front giving me away!

"My second daughter was three weeks old when her father was diagnosed with cancer. He was 35. While he underwent treatment in Los Angeles, I took care of two tiny girls and tried to maintain our business. Every four days for nearly a year, I would pack up my girls and Spike and drive the 300 miles to Los Angeles to be with my husband. During this ordeal, I would sometimes find I needed to sit on the floor with Spike and just hang on his neck and cry. He was a strong dog, and could easily support me. My husband got better for a few years, and, at one point told me, 'You like that dog better than you do me!' He was jealous! I didn't say it, but I thought, 'Maybe so.'

"My daughters were three and four years old when my husband was diagnosed with leukemia, caused by the radiation he had been given for the first cancer. I could not believe that God would be so unbelievably cruel as to make us go through this twice. Thus began the long days while my husband underwent a bone marrow transplant. Again, for nearly a year, I drove from Death Valley to Los Angeles once a week -- two little girls, Spike and me. I would be so exhausted, sometimes I wouldn't use my head. Once, around 3:00 a.m., in a very bad part of Los Angeles, I pulled over to get something out of the back of the truck. The girls were asleep, and Spike was lying down in the truck bed. When I got out, I saw a group of Hispanic teenagers, all young men, approaching me. As they began to surround the truck, I realized I certainly had made a mistake and was gripped with fear. At that very moment, Spike sprung to life, barking furiously. The men backed away immediately, and I quickly jumped in the truck and took off. Thanks, buddy!

"My husband died just short of his fortieth birthday, leaving me to fend alone with two small children. Again, Spike was my consoler, protector and constant friend. I moved to a larger town, which is where Spike began having a problem with female dogs. They would actually come to my yard in a pack. Spike got into some pretty bad scrapes. One day, I went outside to find him lying on the patio, not moving. I said, 'Get up, buddy! You gonna sleep all day?' Spike slowly struggled to his feet. As he stood, I was horrified to see a huge pool of blood under him. He had been shot, and the bullet had ripped a huge hole in his side. I yelled for my then-boyfriend (later to become my husband), who picked up the mighty dog in one fell swoop. We rushed him to the vet. The bullet had gone in just under his spine from one side, barely missed all his vital organs, and exited the other side, leaving a huge hole. When he recovered from this ordeal, at the ripe old age of 12, I had Spike neutered. It worked, and his problem with female dogs was solved.

"Later on, we built a dog run for Spike. My new husband wanted to make the fence six feet tall, as Spike was a champion jumper. I said, 'He's too old; he can't jump anymore.' After much debate, the fence was built five feet tall. As I watched out the back, my husband went around front and hit the side of the truck, which was Spike's signal to go for a ride. I was amazed to watch my 'too old' dog clear the fence from a dead stand-still with no effort at all.

"Now I have another daughter, age seven, and I am teaching my oldest to drive. Spike still occasionally goes for a ride with us, but he has to be helped in and out of the car. He is 18 and failing fast. I am faced with one of my worst fears -- having to decide if it is time for him to die. I often pray the decision will not be mine. But, as he struggles to move, I know it will fall on me. While contemplating this recently, I began to weep quietly. Spike was sleeping in the bedroom; he has lost much of his hearing and it is hard for him to move. Much to my amazement, he came walking in from the other room and put his head in my lap. How does he know?" Contributed by Martha Watkins, Pahrump, NV, January 2000.

Sad update on Spike: "On January 20, 2000, I went out to call Spike in from the front yard, where he had been lying. I could see that he wanted to come to me, he just couldn't. My daughters and I carried him into the house, put him in his favorite spot (right by my desk where I frequently work) and covered him with a blanket. It was apparent the end was at hand. We all stayed with him, petting him. My two older girls were so compassionate, which, at ages 14 and 15, is not usual. My 7-year-old daughter simply wailed. Hearing her cries, Spike tried with all his might to get up to comfort her. I told the girls now was the time to say their good-byes and, one by one, they had a private moment with the dog who had been with them all their lives. Then I asked them to leave me with him a moment. I put my head on his mighty chest and told him it was okay to go. I said we would be fine, and I would see him when I came over. He took three breaths and he was gone. In the end, he had spared me my worst fear -- that of having to decide it was time for him to die. I had even made an appointment with the vet for the following morning. He didn't suffer and went peacefully and quickly. My husband came home to find us all weeping, and, when I told him Spike was gone, he began to weep also. Then he took a shovel and went out into the dark to dig the grave for our beautiful dog. I plan to plant a tree and some flowers near his grave in the spring. Our 4-year-old Rotweiller is listless and sad, wandering around as if to find Spike. Today I watched her go out and lay her head on his grave. After a few moments, she began doing something I cannot explain. She walked around picking up rocks and carried them to Spike's grave."

Update, April 12, 2000: "We did adopt a new dog -- a large Rottweiler and Golden Lab mix with a cropped tail. We call him 'Oberon.' He was at the pound and was terrified..... just cowered in the corner of the cage. It has been wonderful to see his personality unfold, as he is the subject of a great deal of affection now. We have all grown very fond of him. But there will never be another dog like Spike."

Spot --- The World's Greatest Pet
"Spot is the world's greatest pet! He loves life, kids, walks, and food -- especially treats. He's very old, 17 1/2, but he still enjoys the finer things in life. Spot's heritage is unknown, but surely involves some German Shepherd and maybe Husky or Malamute. He weighs about 50 pounds and has beautiful thick brown and black fur. Spot's best buddy is Buffy, another Humane Society dog that I adopted 8 months ago. Buffy is a Chihuahua-Beagle and he is the second best pet in the world. Spot can have lots of fun without exerting much effort -- he plays with Buffy by gently grasping Buffy's head with his mouth. Buffy doesn't mind, he loves to play with Spot and he seems to know that Spot can't run around.

"Spot has been my dog for over four years. On December 30, 1995, we went to the Humane Society of Santa Clara to find a dog. Spot was in a run all alone, sleeping on a blanket. The sign on his cage said -- 'I'm 13 1/2 years old and very sweet. My owner died and I'm looking for a new home.' I hadn't had a dog except as a child, so I didn't know that he was already old. He just looked sad and gentle. The Humane Society took a picture of us together because they were so happy we chose him.

"Spot's first few months with us were rough. He seemed to be droopy and sad. He also chewed everything, including his bed. I wasn't sure he would ever get over the change. I knew his first owner had been very kind to him because he was friendly to everyone. He also tried to sleep in my bed with me; it was clear that had been his regular place! But that was a bit too much...I got him his own bed to sleep in and placed it at the foot of mine. After about four months, Spot became happy again. His period of mourning his first owner was over, and he had adjusted to his new home and new life. He has been a happy dog ever since.

"Spot has trouble walking, but he doesn't let that keep him from getting around. He is on Rimadyl, and this medicine makes a tremendous difference in his quality of life. When he is feeling really good, sometimes he will even trot for a few steps. On a walk, he always wants to meet every dog or neighbor he sees on the street. I don't put him on a leash, so that he can have all the freedom he wants to follow his nose and sniff. But he can't get away from me...I just hang onto his fur if he attempts to follow someone else. If he gets tired, I put him in a child's wagon and pull him along.

"Last summer, in the middle of the night, Spot woke me up because of his pacing. He had a case of bloat, unusual in an older dog and a very serious problem that needed immediate attention. Luckily, I had actually seen an episode about bloat on 'Emergency Vet' on Animal Planet, so I knew what it was. I rushed him to the emergency animal clinic. The vet on duty was hesitant to operat,e given Spot's advanced age, but I convinced her that he was healthy enough. The operation was several hours long -- cutting open the stomach, untwisting it, sewing it to the rib cage so this doesn't happen again. The few days after the operation were also a critical time...many dogs die of heart problems caused by the bloat. But Spot recovered completely.

"Spot and Buffy often come to work with me. They love to be in the office because everyone is nice to them. Spot stays in my office and sleeps all day. Spot deserves this award, not only for himself, but as a poster dog for all older pets. Despite his being old when I got him, we've already had four great years together, and maybe we will have still one more. As an elder statesdog he is not rambunctious, doesn't have anything left to prove, is comfortable with his doggy-persona, and is a great mentor for Buffy. (Contributed by Cynthia Typaldos, December 2000; written in January 2000 as an entry in a contest for "best pet in the world"; Spot died on June 22, 2000 at age 18.) Posted December 2000.


"We found our beloved dog Squirrel in a neighbor's yard in 1991. He was just a baby then, and was being terribly mistreated. When I brought him home, my husband said, 'That dog will never sleep with us!' Needless to say he was in bed with us that same night. We had Squirrel before my daughter was born in 1992, so they grew up together. The photo is of my Squirrel with my daugther. He died August 28, 2003, and Christmas was not the same this year without our Squirrel-dog tearing open his presents. He slept with us in our bed up until he died. We miss him! I appreciated reading the letters from visitors to the site who had lost their dogs; it is wonderful that so many people love their babies." Contributed by Stephannie Wilson, IN. January 2004.

The Rescue of a Shining "Star"
"Star is my 11 1/2-year-young Greyhound. I adopted her two months ago. She was rescued from an abusive and neglectful situation by an angel named Jen. When I heard her story, I knew I had to have her. Star now livew with two Greyhound brothers, a Basenji brother and a Basenji sister. Star is a beautiful girl; we call her 'Shining Star' because, when you look into her eyes, they shine. It's hard to believe that she is 11 1/2; she acts a lot younger. When I got her, she was very thin and had no muscle. Now, I'm proud to say that she is improving every day and can even run with the big guys. People really need to look at the seniors when adopting. They are a treasure waiting to be opened." Contributed by Robin & "Our Gang" -- Spanky, Scotty, Star, Butch & Weezer, Lakewood, NJ. May 1999.

Stella, at 15, Beating the Odds of Surviving Cancer -- on a Holistic Program
"Stella is our 15-year-old Labrador Retriever. Adopted from the San Francisco SPCA in 1984, she is my constant companion and, after my wife, Jean, my best friend. Jean and I have always taken good care of her -- feeding her premium foods and giving her plenty of exercise and regular grooming. When she was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, we went beyond conventional health care to insure the best quality of life for her. Our vet removed the tumor and told us there was a 90% chance it would grow back within two years. After the surgery, we began an aggressive program of holistic health care including diet, supplements, and acupuncture treatments. Building a strong immune system is essential both for post-operative recovery and to strengthen the animal's body so it can fight off disease. Stella's nutrition is based on a diet of holistic foods, treats, and supplements and some homeopathic herbs. Regular acupuncture treatments stimulate the body, and I learned massage and acupressure therapy to administer to her. Exercise, play and, of course, lots of love filled out our program. The original tumor has not returned. Stella is somewhat troubled by arthritis, but this is also controlled holistically with natural supplements and acupressure, which we do at home. Stella is active, playful, and comes to work with me every day." Contributred by Drew, San Francisco, CA. September 1997. You can read more about Stella's holistic health care program on the "Care" page on this site under the topic of "Cancer," or contact the contributor, Drew, at Drew's K-9 Korner, (415) 221-0060. E-mail (May 15, 1999 Update: Drew wrote -- "Stella died at home of a stroke. It was her third in a matter of weeks. I had been doing physical therapy and massage on her during that time, and she responded well. But I feel, and our vet agreed, that she was trying to hang on just for us. So near the end we stopped the 'heroic effort' and just let her choose her time.")
Strongheart, 12, and Jenny, 11 -- Inseparable, Loving, Rescued Companions

"Strongheart is my beloved Shepherd-Wolf mix whom I rescued from a backyard when his 'owners' moved away, leaving him behind. He was almost a skeleton, just a year old, with no muscle development. He is now about 12 years old. He is a wonderful companion, and, though he has some arthritis, still looks forward to his twice-daily walks. He is especially sensitive to shouts or loud voices, so, when we are riding in the car, I have to quickly reassure him that I am not yelling at him but at the motorist ahead who just cut me off! The years have made him much more trusting of people; he now often seeks attention from those he recognizes as being dog friendly, when earlier he would hang back and let Jenny, who was never people shy, do the meeting and greeting.

"Jenny is Strongheart's ever-present companion who came to live with us when she was about 2 years old. She suffered from separation anxiety, which meant that she couldn't be alone without tearing up her environment. She is a Lab-Husky mix with one blue eye and is now about 11 years old. She is hardier than Strongheart, so our walks are a compromise between her physical stamina and his.

"They are wonderful companions. Long may they live!" Contributed by Gwen Willows, Oakland, CA

(Update March 2000: "This is a sad update to the story of my two beloved dogs. Jenny developed cancer and died (Oct. 20, 1999) about two months after her symptoms first appeared. Strongheart, who it turned out had degenerative myleopathy, NOT arthritis, as I had been told, faded rapidly after Jenny left. So on Dec. 4, 1999, he too left me, six weeks after Jenny went. He was 13-1/2, she was 12. They were glorious companions and wonderful beings, and there is a big hole in my heart. At least I know they are together.")

"Sugar": The Story of a Senior Dog Rescue
"Sugar" is a 16-year-old White Shepherd/Lab mix who grew up as a companion to a young man who died in a drowning accident in northern California. After this tragic event, the family decided to move out of state and, unfortunately, to leave Sugar behind. Not wanting to euthanize him, since his quality of life was still good, they contacted the Senior Dogs Project for help.

We posted a message about Sugar and his need for a new home on the srdogs website and to the Senior-L list in late April 1999. We immediately began receiving help and encouragement. A number of people offered monetary contributions, others put the word out on other lists. Two big breaks came in the form of Jackie Loesser in Bozeman, MT, who said their shelter would take Sugar in and find him a home. Then Sherry Brogan E-mailed to offer a foster home for him at Glennroe Kennels in Danville, CA. Sherry suggested it would probably be less stressful for Sugar if we didn't have to ship him all the way to Bozeman.

Throughout May, whenever we called Sherry with updates on our efforts to place him locally, she always said it was "no problem" to keep him; that he was a really sweet dog; and that he was getting along fine with the other dogs (and the cats, too). Sherry kept us relieved of pressure while we continued our appeal.

We needed a photo of Sugar. It took only one E-mail message to an old friend, Ray Heizer of Heizer General Corporation in Lafayette, CA, who immediately volunteered his time and expertise to take and then E-mail back to us the beautiful photo you see above.

In late May, the first offer of a home came via the srdogs website. Laura London, who lives in Reno, NV, asked whether we would consider a home for Sugar outside of the San Francisco Bay Area. Laura's dog, Shasta, had had a bad reaction to Rimadyl, and the srdogs website was the source of information that Laura feels saved Shasta's life. Our answer to Laura was most definitely yes. Then a family in Plattsburgh, NY, responded to the website announcement about Sugar, realizing that it would be geographically challenging, but still willing to offer their home, should we be unable to find a local placement.

Robin Orloff and Cullen Schiffrin, originally visitors to the website and now stauch supporters of the Senior Dogs Project, went into action in their local area, posting "Sugar flyers" at grocery stores, vet offices, and everywhere they thought we might get a response. Their efforts yielded two more offers -- including one from a veterinarian.

On Friday, June 4, Laura and her companion, Gary, picked up Sugar from Glennroe Kennels in Danville. Thanks to Sherry's excellent care of him, he looked great and seemed to be in the best shape imaginable for a 16-year-old dog. Here's an excerpt from the E-mail we received from Laura about Sugar's trip home to Reno and his first day there:

"Sugar is doing very well! On the ride home, we stopped at Roseville and laid out a blanket at a park to give him a break from the car. He had a good time sniffing around the grass. We had picked up a burger for him, so he laid down on the blanket under a shade tree and ate his burger and drank his water and took a nap. After about an hour, we packed up and returned to the car. I went in the back with him and he laid down next to me and occasionally he would lick my face as we snuggled. He is such a sweetie-pie!!!

"Gary is very taken with Sugar, as am I. Sugar loves the backyard where he goes out for walkies. He walks around smelling every plant and flower....such a sweet, gentle soul...

"Either Gary or I will be with Sugar every minute until he gets used to his new home. Yes, he does enjoy life, and he is entitled to be alive and loved. Thank you for giving him that chance. His legs may be giving out, but not his heart..."

Thanks to everyone who offered the help, support, and encouragement that led to this amazing rescue and adoption. The Senior Dogs Project, June 1999.

Never a Regret about Adopting "Suki" at Seven

"We adopted a Rottweiler when she was seven years old. We had looked after her for a month, when her owner went on vacation. She fitted in so well with my other two Rottweilers, it was as though she had always been part of our family. Three months later, her owner decided to let her become a permanent part of our family, and she lived with us for four years until she died of liver failure. When we initially thought about taking her, we were concerned that her age meant we would have fewer years before we would lose her; but I have never regretted it. She was a wonderful dog. She adapted so well, never made a mess in the house, and never had serious health problems. In fact, she went on her usual walk one Friday and died that Sunday. She lived a full life up until the very end. I am just glad that she finally found a permanent home and family to care about her in her last, and, I like to think, best, four years. It wouldn't have made any difference whether we had had four years with her or twelve; it would have hurt just the same when she died. I find it very sad that people dump their dogs at an age when it will be too late for a second chance with a new family. It is a pity." Contributed by Lisa Griffith, Abilene, TX. (In the photo, l. to r., Suki and Bonnie) June 1999.