87: Grandma’s Journey

87: Grandma’s Journey

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Grandma’s Journey

Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog.

~Sydney Jeanne Seward

We named her Grandma. I know it’s not your typical name for a dog, but it fit her. Grandma and one of her puppies were tossed into a shelter that had a reputation for not holding onto pets long. Adoption rates were low, as they were in a secluded rural area. Grandma had never had a name—she had only been known as a number. She had survived the horrors of a puppy mill, forced to breed puppies for the owners to sell.

Now huddled in the back of a filthy cage lined with feces and urine, she shook uncontrollably and growled anytime someone tried to come near her. Her nails were curled into her paw pads, her hair had fallen out and she was infested with parasites and fleas. Severely emaciated and dehydrated, shelter workers did not understand why the small Chihuahua refused to eat.

When I heard her story, I immediately offered to rescue the two Chihuahuas in need. I did not have any foster dogs at the time, just two dogs of my own, and I was happy to offer my home to save their lives. As a foster parent for rescue pets, I drove them to safety and got them to our veterinarian right away. Among a litany of other ailments, Grandma had rotting teeth. No wonder she had refused to eat at the shelter. Shelter workers had also said that they could not touch her or vaccinate her because she growled and was angry. But the minute I reached in to take her to safety, she pressed against my chest and seemed to understand that she was now free from harm. I cradled her in my arms and promised the two dogs they would never know pain again.

I knew immediately that her name should be Grandma. At fifteen years old and having endured more than any of us could imagine, she had a spark in her eyes. She moved with pain, but I knew in time, with good nutrition and medical care, that she would be sprinting around and healthy. The veterinarian told us that all but three of Grandma’s teeth needed to be pulled. We also had the girls spayed and vaccinated right away. During Grandma’s spay surgery, the veterinarian discovered she had a severe case of pyometra—an internal disease which can lead to immediate death. Overbreeding in filthy conditions may have caused this. Had the surgery happened even one day later, Grandma most likely wouldn’t have made it.

But she did make it and each day she grew stronger. Her hair started growing in, and her eyes continued to fill with light. She loved to sit on my lap and go for walks. She ran easily in the yard and loved to play with the other dogs. She slept beside me in bed and trotted after me throughout the house. Grandma had never been house-trained, having spent her entire life in a wire crate. But she quickly understood the concept, as she followed the lead of my two resident dogs. She fit into our family like a glove.

Watching her run after her tiny toys and wag her tail, my eyes filled with tears every time as I marveled at the miraculous recovery she had made. No one had been able to touch her at the shelter, but here in my home, her foster home, she had become a different dog. Each time I foster a pet in need I realize what a huge role environment plays in their wellbeing. In the shelter, behind bars, they are terrified. But in the loving arms of a foster home they thrive; they understand they are safe.

After several major surgeries and knowing Grandma’s age, I decided to officially adopt her myself. She was attached to me and I had bonded to her. Now she accompanies me on vacations, road trips, hiking adventures—she may be a senior but that doesn’t slow her down. She must be making up for lost time, because she is the most energetic of my three dogs. She is always ready to hop in the car and ride or go for a walk.

Her journey is nothing short of amazing. Now, four years later, she is a healthy, happy girl. But as astounding as her transformation has been, Grandma has taught me that senior pets have just as much, if not more, love to share with us. As happy as I know Grandma is to have been rescued and safe, I am beyond blessed to have her in my life. No matter what kind of day I have, when I come home she is always there to greet me—the smallest of my three dogs—always wagging her tail with a spark in her eyes.

~Stacey Ritz

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