53: Golden Oldies

53: Golden Oldies

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

Golden Oldies

Fun fact: Dogs are considered “seniors” at different ages depending on their breed. Generally, bigger dogs are considered “old” at a younger age than smaller dogs.

“We’ve got the perfect dog for you,” the woman from the rescue group said. I knew what that meant. It was the kind of dog I never wanted — the kind I thought I could never let into my heart.

It all started when my husband Mike and I were looking to adopt a dog after losing our faithful old yellow Lab. Although we had an adorable Spaniel mix at home, something nudged us, telling us it was time for another dog in our family. We contacted Peppertree, a local dog rescue group. “What kind of dog are you looking for?” they asked.

“Oh, we’d love any,” I answered. Or so I thought.

Before long, they sent us a picture of a large Golden Retriever. “He’d be perfect for you,” they wrote. I gasped. Were they serious? This dog was gangly, with crooked teeth and patchy fur. He was so thin that his ribs protruded. Likely he had a bundle of health issues. Then, there was his age — they estimated he was eleven. And every one of those years had taken a hard, miserable toll on him.

“Can we get him?” Mike asked, eyes pleading.

“Oh, Mike!” I said. “Eleven!”

I thought the issue was resolved, but Mike couldn’t stop looking at the pathetic picture. Peppertree was holding an adoption event the very next day. I was to be out of town at a conference. I was sure he’d rush over and rescue that old dog.

“Whatever you do, don’t get that dog,” I said firmly.

“But someone else might adopt him.”

“Who’d take an eleven-year-old dog? He’s probably got arthritis, heartworm, Lyme disease — who knows what. Besides, how could we take him, knowing we won’t have much time together? I couldn’t bear it.”

When I returned from the conference, Mike told me he’d gone to the event and seen the dog. It took all his resolve not to sign the adoption papers then and there. He begged me to just meet the old boy the next day. He was so sincere, how could I say no?

When we got out of the car, there was the rescue worker with a reddish-blond dog, standing still as a stone. When I looked into his eyes, he averted his gaze. I accepted his leash and took him for a walk. He matched my stride, obedient yet detached. I kept thinking about his age.

“Mike, I don’t know…” I said, turning to walk away.

“He needs us,” Mike said.

I stopped abruptly. He needs us. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Maybe it wasn’t about what this dog could do for us. It was about what we could do for him. We could give him a warm, loving home for however long we had together. We could give him the comfort and dignity he deserved in his golden years.

I sighed, and nodded. “Okay.” I came back and stroked the scrawny dog’s side. “What do you think? Do you want to live with us?” His tail wagged, just a little bit.

Brooks, as we named him, responded immediately to our love. Despite having lived possibly for years on his own, he had no emotional issues or bad habits. He didn’t run around or chew on the furniture or cry at night. He napped during the day and was content with a few ambling walks. An older dog, we found, fit perfectly into our lifestyle. He followed Mike around the house, and in the evening he climbed into my big green chair with me and cuddled as I worked on my computer. I hugged him tight. “I love you, Brooks,” I said. And I meant it.

It’s no surprise, however, that just what I feared came to pass one day. Sadly, we lost Brooks to cancer only a year after he came into our lives. Mike said the reason we grieved so hard was because it was so good while we were together. It was a powerful loss, but we felt better knowing Brooks had had the comfort of a loving home for the last year of his life. Maybe that was just the reason he came to us. Maybe that’s what we were meant to do.

Since then, we decided to open our hearts to rescuing senior dogs. So when Peppertree called, telling us they had “the perfect dog for us,” I knew what it meant. Another senior was looking for a forever home.

Today, our Spaniel is thirteen years old, and we also have a ten-year-old Golden Retriever, Ike. It’s a perfect match. We provide him with the love, comfort and security he deserves in his golden years. He gives us just as much in return. And when the time comes that we’ll have to say goodbye, another senior dog will be out there that needs us. And we know we can bear it. Sometimes, we discover things in the most unexpected way — like through a skinny, abandoned, eleven-year-old Golden Retriever that just needed some love.

~Peggy Frezon

More stories from our partners