Dale and JoJo: A Muttmatch made in heaven!
Video by Elijah Nouvelage
We wanted to share this poignant story written by Mark Klaiman of Pet Camp (originally posted on May 17th on Pet Camp’s blog and re-posted with permission) that we know how senior-loving supporters would appreciate. Thank you Mark for this beautiful piece.
There comes a time when you realize that your pet is old. No longer is your pet “getting older” – he or she is just old. I’ve known for a long time that my 12 year old Newfoundland was getting old – I mean she is 12 and the average Newfie life span is around 10. But just in the last few months I have come to the harsh reality that she is old.
She spends most her day sleeping under my desk (which while very comforting can make it hard to reach the keys or my laptop) and increasingly has trouble standing up. Her bark has changed from a deep majestic Newfie song to that faint old dog bark. She is on Rimadyl and doesn’t seem to be in any pain, but it is still sad. Long gone are the days of her pulling a cart loaded with three of our kids or having the fourth child use her as a pillow. The question before me now is just how long before she is gone too.
Like many dog guardians I have faced this terrible situation in the past. My Labrador Retriever made it to 16 and our last Great Dane was 11 when she faded over the course of a weekend. They had wonderfully long lives but just thinking about it years later still brings me to tears. Intellectually I completely understand my obligation to the pets that I have loved for so many years (and who I think have loved me too) but of course emotionally it is a different story.
Faced with the hardest decision you question yourself: is it time? Is there something else I should do or try? You seek guidance from the veterinary professionals in your life, but that guidance is often lacking. You talk to others that might be in a similar situation but that often leaves you with even more questions.
Just last week, a client with a 12 year old Great Dane was checking in and said that he hoped she simply passed away on our watch so that he wouldn’t have to make the decision. Remarkably, this was not the first time this conversation has been had in our lobby. In many ways, after years of caring for someone’s pet when they are away from home you take on this surrogate role. We are not veterinarians and in some ways I think that makes it easier on folks to have the conversation with us. We don’t approach the situation from a medical point of view – we look at it as if we are the pet’s guardian too.
I still don’t know how to quantify when it’s time, I simply hope that when it is I have the ability to make the right decision.
Thanks for reading.
From his mutt mom Lauren:
Myles is becoming a regular at the park. He has even started running (yes!) around the grass, and he loves following the other dogs around the fenced-in dog park. Even after long park days, he’s still super excited to jump (sort of J) into my car for a ride home. I don’t know how we lived before his little face came to live with us. He never fails to make us laugh, and even when he’s sleepy, he needs to be near one of us. He’s been my shadow since the first night we brought him home. One of the new techs at work said she was shocked to find out that he was only recently adopted, since he’d obviously been carving out his spot in my lap for years.
Myles is absolutely a testament to the wonderfully unique love an older pet can bring to a home. We adore him and I feel lucky every day to have him here.
Thank you all so much,
...And Muttville thanks Lauren for being an amazing mom!
Thank you to our volunteer and foster dad, Larry. A bittersweet story of how Larry helped Muttville save Tucker and then, as so often we fosters do, Larry chose to be his forever home. In Larry’s words:
This is Tucker at his very, very, happiest, at the place (Baker Beach) and with his “pack” he loved so dearly. He would bunny hop into the creek, and play “chicken” with the waves crashing on the beach; never would you see him express so much unbridled “joie de vivre”. This is where, and how I will remember him best.
It’s difficult for me to write these words, they bring such sorrow to my heart and tears to my eyes; just over a week ago now, Tucker along with my 13yr old Aussie Digger and the newest member of the pack, and another Muttville Alumni like Tucker, Cassie a 10yr old female Aussie, were all happily walking together at Fort Funston, one of Tuckers favorite places in his world!
Then last Saturday morning I had to say goodbye to Tucker on the floor of San Francisco Vet Specialists as we freed him from his struggle with a bacterial infection that was ravaging the limbs of this already broken little body, a scant 8 months after rescuing him. It is too soon for him to leave his pack.
He had contracted a bacterial infection that rapidly attacked his leg joints swelling them to elephantine proportions and later attacking his kidneys, to the point where there was no hope. In his memory I wanted to share a few moments of his life with me.
I 1st met Tucker late one Saturday night last October in the car park of the In-n-Out Burger in Petaluma; he was in a crate and was very unhappy and frightened, unable to walk it was a challenge to get him from the van he had ridden in for the last 7 hours into the relative comfort of the back of my wagon for the journey home to San Francisco and his new foster home.
I had seen Tucker on the Muttville website a few days earlier; having lost my 15yr old Border Collie Hamish in July, I finally felt ready then to look at all the “old folks” that needed our help in obtaining a 2nd chance at life.
Tucker needed a foster; he was in a facility somewhere north near Crescent City where he had been for 3 or so months; the concrete floors and boisterous recreation with younger dogs were apparently taking their toll on his little body, and the local volunteers had contacted Muttville to see if he could be helped. That is all we knew of his history.
I have loved dogs all my life, however I believe that some dogs are “meant” to be with certain people; I was certain of this when Hamish leant up against the cage door of Silicon Valley Humane and looked up at me pleading to be freed, and again when I met Digger at his Hopalong fosters house, both many years ago.
This is how I felt when I saw Tuckers picture here
When I brought him home that night, he was too scared to get out of the back of my wagon, so he slept there overnight. In the morning when I took stock of his condition it was much worse than Muttville had been led to believe; he was unable to walk with his right rear leg rigid and motionless, he had green mucous discharging from his nostrils and eyes, a cough, and an ulcerated eye into the bargain.
Tucker spent the next couple of days at S.F.V.S where they evaluated and treated him as best they could. He was still scared and very frightened and thus growled at anyone that came near him including me!
The excellent Vets there soon had his various ailments under control, and discovered the extent of his joint damage; his right rear leg (hip) was partially (and permanently) dislocated, the knee fused, his left leg also suffering joint degeneration, as well as about 1/3 of his spine not to mention some damage to his larynx and facial nerve issues.
They believed it was unlikely that he would walk again, and further that he was unadoptable due to his apparent aggression issues, I, perhaps naively, believed otherwise, so I took him home.
Slowly Tucker recovered… and began to bloom into the dog, and character we fell in love with.
Because of his disabilities Tucker was not able to walk on wood floors, so our home suddenly sprung a patchwork of rugs to create an environment in which he could safely roam around, resembling a pirate with a wooden leg! We got him an orthopedic dog bed to rest his weary bones on, but in typical Tucker fashion he decided that his bed was in fact a large pillow upon which he would rest his head but not his body… although he occasionally would tease us by ‘nesting’ on it only to climb off and settle down with his head on the bed and body on the floor.
It did not take Tucker too long to settle in his new home with us; he fell in love with Digger, and seemed intent upon convincing Digger to allow him to be his sidekick and Best Friend Forever.
Quite early on we introduced Tucker to Fort Funston, this was perhaps the turning point for him, he at last had an opportunity to be a dog and enjoy the outdoors. He would awkwardly but none the less quite rapidly bunny hop around in big circles, occasionally dashing back to receive a quick pat on the head, or to join Digger in some serious sniffing.Another of Tucker’s pleasures was howling at fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars as they passed in the distance. Tuckers howl, day and night, resembled a bizarre combination of some noble wolf ancestor’s call and (because of his damaged larynx) some poor beast being tortured!
Tucker only had 2 potential adopters visit him; he was a poor “1st date”, he would cuddle up next to me and occasionally growl at the people as they tried to pet him, no way to get adopted!
It was during the visit of a very nice lady late in December that I realized looking down at Tucker looking up at me that he had no idea that I was simply his foster, he thought he was my dog and that I was his trusted and beloved “Big Dog”, and when I realized that, I also realized that he was in fact my dog, and so he was, January 1st 2011.
Our bond from that point on only grew stronger, Tucker became my home office mate, spending his days with me, by my side, watching me when I moved, following me around the house, and occasionally howling with concern if I left the house on an errand or going into work.
Coming home, or whenever visitors arrived, Tucker would greet people with his “Elvis” impression, probably as result of some of his nerve damage, he would curl his lip and shake his head in what appeared to be quite ferocious display, but it was more a “thank you, thank you very much…” display of joy!
Tucker also instituted a new rule at home; anything on the coffee table that was chewable was his; this included 4 remote controls, and two pairs of spectacles before the coffee table bonanza was replaced by some naturally shed deer antlers from Pawtrero Hill Bathhouse & Feed!
Life was good…. We were all very happy, so much so, it was time for another dog that was “meant” to be part of our pack!
A little over a week ago, Cassie came into our lives and our pack; I think it was love at 1st sight for Tucker…
Tucker although shy, was a lover, or more accurately a licker, he would lick Diggers ears, and my feet, hands, legs, ears, face etc incessantly if given the chance; I think it was his way of expressing just how much he loved you!
Which makes it all the more poignant for me that moments before he passed away last Saturday, he sat up in his cage at the vets, not a good place to die, or to say goodbye, leant over towards me and gently licked my nose twice, as if to say “I love you” one last time…
This is my tribute to a brave and adorable little dog that will forever have a big place in my heart; a little dog that was given a second chance at having a good, if albeit too short, life in a loving home through the work that Muttville does. He, Cassie, and all the old dogs like them are the reason that I will continue to be a Muttville Guardian, volunteer, foster and adopter.
Tucker, I love you and miss you.
Your forever “Big Dog”, Larry
Thank you Nancy Wong! Not only is she a great foster mom, she is now a forever home for Dandy (now Dante). Read their sweet Muttville success story:
I got Dandy, a 12 year old blind miniature poodle last month on my birthday when I officially turned into a senior myself.. Dandy was back at Muttville after outliving one owner and his present owner had just suffered a stroke. This blind dog may have been one of Muttville’s first dogs from about 3 years ago. He shivered when approached, not knowing whether you were friend or foe, and with his black teeth, had very stinky dog breath. His hair was ½ inch long, leading me to believe that he was shaved to get an unruly coat in shape.
Another Muttville volunteer, Terri, arranged for a checkup appointment after getting permission from the Muttville office. At Healthy Pets Veterinary Hospital on West Portal in the city, Dr. Adam (Piaseczny) found two rotten teeth, which explained the bad breath. Before the oral surgery, Dr. Adam wanted Dandy to gain some weight on his 7 lbs.
While he was fattening up, one night we were watching (me watching, him listening) a not very good film directed by one of my old friends. I noticed at the end credits for “Maid in Manhattan” that this Cinderella story was credited to “Edmond Dantes”-the protagonist of Alexandre Dumas’s novel, “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Edmond Dantes is the nom de plume (pseudonym) of the late film director John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink). I had been thinking about a new name for Dandy—something similar, but different and “Dante” seemed just right.
Two weeks after the oral surgery, Dante is a different dog. He no longer shakes and shivers but comes to the door, wagging his tail, when I enter my apartment. His bad breath has cleared up and he loves to take walks on grassy areas. The other day after our walk at Aquatic Park, I decided to find a street artist to draw his portrait. I found a good one at the corner of Leavenworth and Jefferson Streets at Fisherman’s Wharf. When I read the 1999 San Francisco Examiner article that Catherine Zhang posted at her booth, I knew she was the one. As she sketched Dante in my arms, she said to me, “You have a nice demeanor—you seem to be a gentle person.” I let out a laugh and said, “Some people would disagree with that, but the truth is, this dog has made me more human.”
New home, new name, new life—just another Cinderella story. At the end of Alexandre Dumas’s “The Count of Monte Cristo,” are the words: “wait and hope.”
To every unwanted senior dog, lonely and neglected, please “wait and hope.” Somehow, somewhere, someone wants you and we will find you. You are all loved.
“Is time my redeemer?
Loneliness my only friend?
Just once in a lifetime
Strangers share a common end….
At sometime someone cared
Maybe just for a moment
Or maybe for a lifetime…”
-Eva Cassidy, “Somewhere”
It’s official! In recognition of Muttville’s dedication to saving senior dogs and in honor of Maxwell, our 1,000th rescue, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee proclaimed May 10, 2011 as “Muttville Senior Dog Rescue Day”! What an enormous honor!
We had a grand celebration on the steps and plaza of City Hall. Supervisor Scott Wiener and Muttville founder Sherri Franklin addressed the enthusiastic crowd of Muttville fans, both two- and four-legged. Thank you all for coming!
Individual pictures are available for purchase here. All proceeds go to Muttville!
Sherri, Bert & Ernie bask in the limelight as Oprah’s video crew tapes her at Vista Point in Marin for Oprah’s farewell show to air at the end of May!
Bert & Ernie were on perfect behavior because they know Oprah loves Cocker Spaniels!
Sherri got the opportunity to thank Oprah for being such an inspiration and for being chosen to sit in her last My Favorite Things Show evahhhh!
Easter weekend, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence had their Easter extravaganza celebration,”HARE- The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Easter Fun” at Dolores Park. Mutt Mom Sherri and star foster mom Kay showing off on stage for the “Hunky Jesus Contest” with Muttville’s own “hunks” Bertie and Artie. And the best news of all…we got a grant! Read the SFWeekly story here!Thank you Sisters!
The very next weekend, at SF SPCA’s “The Whole Enchihuahua” contest and party, also at Dolores Park, Muttville’s Winston captured hearts and SFGate’s attention! See his adorable face in SFGate’s “The Whole Enchihuahua” slideshow.
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