Greta and Pearl: Two Seniors

Greta and Pearl: Two Seniors

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Greta and Pearl: Two Seniors

When the phone rang and the gentleman on the other end said he wanted to place his dog, an eleven-year-old German shepherd named Greta, I winced. He had sold his house, was moving to a temporary apartment and would soon be leaving the country. As the director of Southwest German Shepherd Rescue, I agreed to see and evaluate the dog with a note of realistic caution to the owner: he’d better start thinking about a contingency plan.

Greta sure was a nice old gal. We put her information on our Web site right away and did receive a couple of inquiries, but no one wanted to deal with the little annoyances that sometimes come with an aging dog.

Rescue organizations function within a large cooperative network. One day I received an e-mail from a woman named Suzanne who ran another rescue group. She said that she had an elderly woman, Pearl, looking for an older, large German shepherd. I suggested that Suzanne visit our Web site, where she could view the two senior-citizen canines currently in our rescue program. About a week later Suzanne e-mailed me Pearl’s phone number and advised that, although the woman was eighty-six years old, she felt that it would be worth while to pursue the adoption.

I immediately phoned Pearl and told her all about Greta. I explained that she was on medication, and Pearl laughed and said they could take their pills together. I made it clear that the average life span of a German shepherd is between ten and twelve years, but many reach thirteen to fifteen years of age. I also asked about her mobility and ability to care for such a dog. Pearl was undaunted and informed me that, in her younger days, she’d run a Great Dane rescue program. She told me that she would make arrangements for Greta to live with her granddaughter, on her forty-acre ranch, should anything happen to her (Pearl). Further, Pearl said that she was still driving her car, and if need be, was able to make trips to the vet.

I explained our policies and advised that I would be paying her a home visit.

We don’t usually place German shepherds in apartments for a number of reasons, however in this case, it seemed appropriate. Greta didn’t need a lot of exercise— what she needed was a lot of TLC, a sense of security and a devoted companion who was around all the time. And Pearl’s needs were exactly the same.

After meeting Pearl and her husband, Bert, and checking out what would be Greta’s new home, I agreed to introduce them. We arranged to meet at a nearby park. The meeting went so well that Greta went home with them on the spot.

Every time I made a follow-up call, I held my breath. And each time, Pearl told me everything was going great. I asked that she periodically contact me with updates. Whenever I heard Pearl’s voice on the other end of the phone, I found myself waiting for the other shoe to drop.

During one call, Pearl told me that Greta had a bath and had gone to the vet for a checkup. She had her tested for every disease known to man or beast, and apart from a sluggish thyroid, Greta was in fine shape. In subsequent conversations, Pearl related that Greta shadowed her everywhere. She spoke about how Greta would place her body across Pearl’s if she sensed any unsteadiness. The next call was to tell me: “If I were to have molded a dog from clay and given it life, it would have been Greta. I cannot imagine life without her.” I assured Pearl that I was certain Greta felt the same.

We were into week five of Pearl and Greta’s union when I received a phone call from a very distraught Pearl. The management of her apartment complex had informed her that, despite the fact that she was permitted to have pets weighing up to a hundred pounds (which we had verified), certain specific breeds were excluded: Rottweilers, German shepherds, Dobermans, chows and pit bulls. There was no mention of this restriction in her lease, nor had Pearl ever been made aware of this policy. Nonetheless, Greta would have to go.

I assured Pearl that we would fight all the way to court if necessary. She informed me that she would rather live in her car than part with her new companion, yet I could sense the panic associated with the possibility of being uprooted at nearly eighty-seven years of age—with an ailing husband, to boot. I advised Pearl that I would need a few days to do some research. I had to read the Landlord/ Tenant Act and familiarize myself with that aspect of the law.

In the meantime, I suggested that Pearl obtain a letter from her doctor stating that she needed Greta for her psychological and physical well-being, that Greta assisted both her and her husband with balance issues and provided them with a sense of security. Pearl’s husband, Bert, was going blind as a result of his diabetes and spent a good deal of time sleeping, leaving Pearl lonely and depressed. That is, until Greta came along. Both she and Greta had become reignited. This was truly a mutually beneficial relationship.

I put in a call to the cofounder of REACH (Restoring and Extending Ability with Canine Helpers). I asked if she thought getting an eleven-year-old German shepherd certified as a service dog was feasible. In essence, she said that as long as the dog could fulfill Pearl’s needs as outlined by her doctor, and provided Greta could pass the Level One Assistance dog test, “Yes, assuming you feel that Greta’s temperament is sound enough.” I asked her to start the process and told her I’d get back to her.

I checked with Pearl to verify she had her doctor’s letter and to let her know that a small army would be marching into her home in a few days. She had no other information and no preparation.

One week after that distraught call from Pearl, the certified REACH evaluator (with clipboard and score sheet in hand), an additional temperament tester, two strangers to the dog and family, two children and one female German shepherd unknown to both Greta and Pearl arrived at their home. It was a cool day but I was sweating. I had no idea how the obedience aspect of the evaluation would go. I did not know how much control Pearl would need or have over Greta as Greta faced strange dogs inside her home territory, unfamiliar kids bumping into her, food temptations while being called and so on. I was confident that Greta would be fine with everything else.

Forty-five minutes later the score sheets were given to the REACH evaluator: Greta had passed with flying colors! At the tender age of eleven, Greta became a Certified Level One Assistance Dog, and Pearl became the proudest lady in Arizona. As they were presented with their official certificate and Greta’s badge, Pearl held out her arms to the entire room, proclaiming, “I love you!”

As the “team” was pulling out of the parking lot, we saw Pearl, with the letter and certificate in hand, and Greta, with her badge hanging from her collar, heading in the direction of the manager’s office. I phoned her that evening to ask her how it went. Upon seeing their credentials, the manager had said, “Well, I guess she can go just about anywhere now,” to which Pearl had crowed triumphantly, “You got that right!”

Stefany Smith

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners