Merry Christmas! Now let me break your heart.

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and write an article; pulling sixteen hour days between law school and paying the bills, and somehow fitting in running a rescue, has not left much time for my creative muse. Plus, let’s be real – law school will suck your soul out through your nose and leave you feeling akin to something frightening from an AMC show. Never fear, though. I’m still around and pissing off fun-sponges and armchair quarterbacks just as well.

What am I going to hit y’all with today? Well, actually, I’m going to be nice for a change. Believe me, there are plenty of snarky rants dancing like sugar plums through my head, but in the spirit of Christmas, I will save those for the New Year. Today, I want to make you cry, and then I want to make you get in your car and go save a dog’s life.

Before I get to the nitty gritty, I need to tell y’all a story. A few weeks ago, I got my daily email loaded with photos of all the dogs and cats sitting in my two largest local animal control facilities. As usual, I opened and scrolled straight to the bottom, so I could see the new editions. Immediately, I noticed the Boykin (if you don’t know what a Boykin is, go here later). It was an awful photo, like all the shelter photos I tend to get, but I recognized him immediately and sent a text within the next thirty seconds to the director of the nonprofit that sends out this daily digest.

Two days later, I had the smelliest dog ever in the back of my car. Within two minutes, he shit bloody diarrhea all over everything, but than goodness I only had a few blocks to go to get home. I wasn’t even upset – this dog was at least twelve years old, blind as a bat, emaciated, and could barely walk straight. Green slime crusted his eyes shut and his nose looked like a desert, it was so dry and cracked. Shit, I thought. Give him a week, maybe a month.


And such is the glamorous story of how I came to own my sixth dog. Sullivan, he is named, has now been with me almost a month. It took two weeks to clear up the respiratory infection, and he’s slowly putting on weight. With the help of twice-weekly medicated baths, his skin is softening and his fur is growing back (it took four baths to get rid of the stench of weeks-old urine). At first, Sully didn’t even acknowledge my existence. Now he comes when called, if you say it loud enough. He loves his softy, squishy bed, and likes to find me and press his head into my legs and touch my hands with his nose. He tries to look at me when he hears my voice, but he can’t see anything.

I have always had a soft spot for old dogs, since my experience with Tala. This year I pulled a seven year old Great Dane named Cyrus from my local shelter, and a blind senior cocker spaniel left by her owners at Miami Dade animal control. Sometimes they find homes, like Tala. Cyrus has a foster home who loves him and understands that he may be theirs forever. Roomba, my goofy little Florida cocker, was adopted just last week – I truly expected her to be with me for her entire life, too.

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Sullivan is old, and Sullivan is going to die. It could be tonight. He could be lifeless when I come home today from work. He could live another six months or a year. And when he does die, I am going to be absolutely heartbroken. I am going to cry and it’s going to tear me up inside as if I had owned Sully since he was eight weeks old. It doesn’t matter, though, because every single minute Sully spends in my home is worth all the heartache I could ever imagine.

There’s a special place for people who dump old dogs. There’s an even more special place for people who stick their old dogs outside to rot for months – years, maybe – before they finally succumb to the pain, or, like in Sully’s case, somehow by the grace of Dog escape that hell and get lucky enough to find solace. But, like I said, I’m not here today to bitch about those people. They exist, there’s nothing we can do about it, and I sincerely hope that when they are old and frail, their children leave them to rot from bed sores and dementia in nursing homes.

The silver lining to all of this is simple: we can do something to make these dogs’ lives better. We being me, you, and all dog lovers and rescue advocates. Anybody with space in their home to fit a soft, warm dog bed and enough money to spare to feed an extra mouth. Old dogs don’t do much – they sleep, they eat, they go to the bathroom. Some of them are spry enough to enjoy tagging along on a walk, but others, like Sully, are too weak and wobbly to go far and would rather just sleep all day. They don’t even need much as far as vet work goes. I did a routine blood panel on Sullivan just to get a baseline, and I paid for antibiotics and prescription wet food that would be easier on his stomach. But nobody is asking you to spend a fortune on testing and medications, and cancer or heartworm treatments. All these dogs need is love.

It’s really, really easy. Get in your car and drive to your local shelter. Ask them if you can see their available senior dogs. Go pick one out – you’ll find them in all shapes and sizes. Then, take them home, give them a bath and a good meal, and love the hell out of them. Rinse and repeat. These dogs have done nothing but give their hearts and souls to humans for their entire life. No matter what kind of terrible person left them to die, they don’t deserve to spend their last days on a cold, wet concrete floor surrounded by the stench of feces (probably covered in it, too) and the cacophony of barking. They deserve to sleep on a warm bed, feel the kind touch of a human hand on their head, and die with a little goddamn dignity.

And you know what’s really, really cool about all of this? After you’ve taken your sweet old dog home and loved it, and it passes on to the other side, you can do it all over again.


13 thoughts on “Merry Christmas! Now let me break your heart.

  1. Morgan Jethro December 19, 2014 / 4:34 pm

    This is seriously one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read, or rather, tried to read through my ugly crying at my desk. You’re such an awesome person for doing what you do Heather. <3.

    • pommom101690 December 29, 2014 / 9:54 am

      I feel ya on the ugly crying! Same here!

  2. Joanne Lissy Bradow December 19, 2014 / 5:20 pm

    Did you adopt Sullivan from OCAS in Orlando? There was a dog on their site a week or so ago that looked like a Boykin. I was going to put a Rescue Request on him but he got an adoption application on him before we were allowed to request.

    • Heather December 19, 2014 / 5:58 pm

      Joanne, Sully is from SC. I’m glad the dog in Orlando was adopted!

  3. Faye Tardiff December 20, 2014 / 12:25 pm

    Senior dogs are incredible. I have three, all rescues. And one young goofus. I wish I could have more but I am at my legal limit. I will be sharing this article

  4. Vicki Osbourn December 21, 2014 / 1:22 pm

    Heather, I’ve been skimming through your posts & saw a post where you said somehting about you hate facebook rescues. I’m not too familiar with wordpress, so can you steer me to that so I can enjoy your reasoning on it? Thanks

    • Heather December 21, 2014 / 2:10 pm

      Vicki – I think you’re looking for this article:
      Though, to be clear, I don’t “hate Facebook rescues”. Every rescue I know operates a Facebook page, and there are lots of good groups for sharing. If you read that article, you’ll see that what I take issue with are those we refer to often as “armchair quarterbacks” – folks who do pretty much nothing but sit at home on their computers, finding problems for other people to solve.

  5. pommom101690 December 29, 2014 / 10:12 am

    Like Morgan, I am also ugly crying at my desk.

    I am the treasurer for an all breed rescue in Birmingham, Alabama, so I frequent the local shelters quite often. I also get tagged in dozens of photos daily, asking if there is anyway we could help this dog or that dog.

    I usually skim over the pictures, because most times, we are tapped out on fosters and funds.

    One day back in September, a friend tagged me on a photo of a dog in a shelter just a few minutes from my home. Laura knew I had a soft spot for seniors, and she knew exactly what she was doing.

    In the photos, I saw the most terrified, broken down spitz I had ever seen. As I read the description, I learned that Mia, her name at the shelter, was 16 years old. She was surrendered by her previous POS owners because she was incontinent, and they were afraid she would pee in their new home. Bastards.

    Anyway, I knew the rescue couldn’t take on another senior. A good quarter of dogs in rescue at the time were basically forever fosters. Still, there was no way in hell that I was going to let her die in that shelter. Not a chance.

    I drove down to the shelter that afternoon. It was a Friday, and I met her. The director said it was the first time Mia had stood up the whole time she had been there. She said, “She must know you’re here for her.”

    The director was shocked the rest of the board members were agreeing to pull her. I said, “Oh, they don’t know I am here.” She looked at me confused. She knew I have always been one to do things according to protocol (It’s the accountant in me, lol). I explained to her that I wasn’t there to pull this dog. I was there to ADOPT her. She was stunned. Who wants to adopt the old broken down spitz? I do, dammit!

    I couldn’t take her that day because they were about to close, and I wouldn’t have time to get her to the vet that evening, and I always quarantine dogs that have just come from a shelter. I patted her head, and I promised her I would be back Monday.

    I came Monday, filled out the appropriate paperwork, and paid her fee. They only charged me her pull fee instead of the full adoption fee. I think they were just thrilled to know she was leaving.

    I had to make it back to work, so a friend and fellow rescuer took her to my vet for me.

    I went by that afternoon. This old lady was in pretty rough shape. She was, indeed, having some bladder issues. She had tumors all over her body, many of them mammary tumors. She had teeth that were basically hanging on by a thread. She is almost blind and she doesn’t hear well. She has a heart murmur. Her little elbows were so raw from her previous owners letting her lay in her own waste. Her back end is stained yellow from the urine stains. Her nails were so long and her arthritis so bad, that she even had trouble walking.

    After her quarantine, I got her home, and she slept for like 72 hours straight. I came home each day, and, before I went inside, I said a small prayer that she would still be alive.

    After a week of recuperating, I had her groomed. Now, I had bathed her, but it was going to take a professional to get the funk out.

    When I picked Harper (I changed her name to Harper Louise, fitting for an old southern belle, i think) up, she was like a new dog. She was totally refreshed.

    After months on incontinence. joint supplements, and good food, Harper is in perfect condition for a 16 year old dog. Her bloodwork is exceptional. She can outrun me. I wish I could add photos here so you could see the difference a few months has made.

    I don’t know how much time I’ll have with Harper, but I am grateful for whatever we do have, and she is more than welcome to spend however long that is with me, in my home, leaky bladder and all.

    I am also grateful that her previous owners dumped her at the shelter, because if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have found each other.

    I guess it’s true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

    • Heather December 29, 2014 / 10:36 am

      That is a beautiful story! Just think if a few more people went to shelters each day to find an old, sad soul to take home for the rest of their days. They are usually not as bad off as they seem, either! Just a little love, warmth, and food is all they need.

      • pommom101690 December 29, 2014 / 10:50 am

        Thank you!

        I agree. They are so much easier than puppies. I won’t even foster puppies unless it is very temporary. I don’t have the patience for it.

        Out of my seven dogs, four are seniors. Dexter is a 14 year old Long Hair Chihuahua. He is a mill survivor.

        Cowboy is, my vet’s best guess, a 16-17 year old Chihuahua. AC picked him up as he was just strolling down the street. He is in liver failure, but the meds he is on are fairly inexpensive, and his bloodwork shows improvement.

        I am a self proclaimed Pom person, but the Chis own my heart. They run the show. They even have their own Facebook page (Dexter, Cowboy, & Company).

        I also have a nearly 12 year old Pomeranian, August. He is the reason why we don’t allow onsite adoptions. He was adopted totally on impulse from a local humane society. I had been waiting for months for a rescue in Georgia to get back to me about my app for a Frenchie they had. I had given up, so I adopted August. He’s an awkward little dude, He has been with us since March, and I think he has just now settled in.

        And of course, I have Harper.

        Seniors just fit so well into my schedule and life. They are so grateful for everything you give them. They appreciate naps, which is another added bonus.

        The last dog I adopted that wasn’t a senior was my Frenchie. Yeah, they called me as I pulled in the driveway with August. Go figure. Pandora is 4.5, but I wanted one for the longest time, so I adopted her. From here on out though, I won’t be adopting any dog that is younger than 10.

        I would adopt seniors cats, too, but I find kittens do better adjusting to my zoo aka my house, so I prefer the special kitties. My Fitz has one eye. Gatsby has a gimp foot. Sullivan is allergic to his own teeth. It’s how I make up for getting kittens instead of seniors.

        I urge people all the time to adopt a less adoptable, whether than means the animal is older or has some issues, you won’t regret it! I will be sharing this article on Dexter and Cowboy’s page. I think their friends will enjoy it

  6. Bobbi Brandon January 4, 2015 / 12:20 am

    Ya’ll have really made me rethink my plan to adopt a young to middle aged dog- I am going to look into adopting a senior instead. I have previously hesitated, thinking how I couldn’t take the pain of losing one after ‘not enough time’. But now I see that my pain is nothing compared to what comfort I could bring to an old dog’s sunset days. Thank you for opening my eyes.

    • pommom101690 January 15, 2015 / 9:53 am

      I am so glad you are considering a senior, Bobbi! That just warms my heart!

      You will be such a blessing to an old dog! Thank you again for considering them, Bobbi! You rock!

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