In honor of adopt a senior dog month I am sharing the story of the first old dog I adopted. It was February of 2014. I was scrolling on Facebook when I came across the sweetest frosted face I ever did see. A face so sweet and endearing I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Her name was Tyra, she was 11 and left at the shelter. I am not kidding I could not stop thinking about her! I enquired about her with the friend who posted her then promptly thought “There’s no way you are gonna adopt an old dog” I laughed and thought it was a pretty crazy idea. Me?? Adopt an old dog??? No. That wasn’t for me. I WILL NEVER DO THAT! I knew many friends for years and years who had adopted old dogs and boy did I love them for doing that. I knew if I adopted an old dog I would be way too sad when they passed away, I would have to do a lot of work for them probably, I wouldn’t really be equipped to take care of one because I had never had a real old dog as an adult. There was no way I could take care of an old dog, that was just crazy thinking.
About a month later my friend had posted about her again. Now she posted that Tyra was diagnosed with bladder cancer and that the rescue wanted a hospice home for her as soon as possible. Well that sealed the deal for me. There was NO WAY I was even going to think about taking in this dog since now she was on the fast track to heaven. Nope, no way, not gonna do it. I shared her on facebook and told some friends about her and one of them said “you should take her” I told her she should shut up! HAHA How was I prepared or equipped to take care fo this dog? Not to mention I didn’t think I was strong enough to take on something that seem so big and so daunting, even though something for months had been telling me she belonged to me. Somehow I found myself picking up the phone and calling the rescue to make an appt to meet her.
I will never forget the first time I met Tyra. She was very thin and frail, missing big patches of hair on her body and missing hair from her face. My heart instantly melted. My heart told me this was my dog. She was super sweet and seemed happy and I was excited to have her meet Bella and see how things went. I made another appt to bring Bella a few days later. We showed up and we met in the play yard and all hell broke loose. Tyra was extremely dog aggressive. I was told that she loved dogs and was good in dog play groups by a few of the people there so I was surprised at this. I was crushed because I thought some how she was supposed to be my dog. Some one in the office said I was insane for trying that and that everyone knew she had problems with dogs. I was devastated and thought this must not be meant to be. I also figured her illness may have brought on the aggression from not feeling well too.
A few days later I thought to call her rescue and talk to the kennel manager and see if I could be a buddy to Tyra in her time left. I thought if I couldn’t bring her home I would at least try to make her life as fun as possible in the time she had left, that I thought would make us both happy. According to her Dr it was just a matter of weeks that she would be alive so I figured a few visits at the most. The kennel manager was extremely excited and said he would love for me to be her buddy. Our visits started with us just sitting together in her cage and I am not gonna lie she could have cared less if I was there. She was searching for her people, anyone that walked by she’d be happy till she saw their faces then recognized it wasn’t her people then she’d lay back on the bed. I realized this meant I needed to up my excitement with her. I started bringing her hot dogs, cheese and other yummy treats hoping to buy her affection. Did it help? Sure, did it make her like me more? Not so much. After a few visits I decided to visit more frequently and soon our visits were every day. I completed all the training for volunteering and since I only was there for Tyra I was granted permission to go off site with her. We started going on car rides, we went to the park, I took her to In-N-Out, we went for ice cream, I tried to think of anything she would enjoy. It was after that that you could see the sparkle coming back to her. She was happy, putting on weight and all her hair was coming back. She was looking like a new dog.
What I thought would be a few visits turned into 6 months of daily visits. All the while I still played the fantasy over and over in my mind that some day she would come home with me and Bella. Then one day in early October Tyra fell very ill. She was going down hill for a week and then we all had the “this is the end” talk. I thought if this was it we had a great 6 months together, not the 6 months I thought we would have but the 6 months we were meant to have. It was a Tuesday night and they said she would be going to heaven in the morning. As she sat in my lap that night I told her “if you feel better tomorrow I will bring you home this weekend.” With as sick as she looked I didn’t think there would be a real chance of that. I cried the whole way home and in looking back I don’t think I slept at all that night. I got up the next morning and stopped for all her favorite treats just incase she felt like one more meal. I got there as soon as the rescue opened and I walked in the office expecting the worse and there she was up at the gate, happy barking and excited to see me! I burst into tears. I was so happy she looked so much better. One of the caregivers who was also a dog trainer had heard what I said to her the night before and said “You can bring her home, I’ll help you” How on earth was I gonna do that??? I am definitely a dog person but I had no experience with aggression at all. Tyra was feeling better and better as the days went on and the kennel manager after listening to my plan with the trainer agreed to let me have a trial run with her at home. I had to try, especially after I made a promise to her.
The trainer came and we set up my house to keep Tyra and Bella separate. He gave me a schedule of what to do and when to do it, I felt prepared and as ready as I could be for this. And thankfully Bella is a great dog, had she not been so good I would have never attempted this. Saturday came and I picked up my girl. Everyone at the rescue thought I was losing my mind for doing this and they told me it will never work but I had a feeling it might and we needed to try. The trainer came and helped us all get settled and this is the part of the story where I wish I could say things went better than I thought they would but things were a complete crazy nightmare. The rescue completely neglected to tell me she had severe, and I mean SEVERE, separation anxiety on top of the aggression so that added to the stress of everything. She ate through my solid wood kitchen door, then ate 5 through baby gates over the period of a month. The good news was within that month Tyra didn’t want to kill Bella any more, I still kept them semi separated and didn’t have them off leash or together without me but this was progress. This was HUGE! To be truthful I wasn’t even sure she would’ve lived this long let alone get along with Bella. After about 6 weeks the trainer came back and was impressed with our progress so we took the next step of being off leash. They had a little fight but then after that they never fought again. I never left them alone together but as long as I was there they were fine and I was thrilled. They spent hours a day playing, digging holes together, and chasing but never catching critters in the yard.
I felt so blessed having been able to spend more time with Tyra. She dressed as an angel for halloween and helped us pass out candy to the neighborhood kids. I also threw her a “giving” birthday party for her where we collected donations for the animals at the rescue and let me tell you that was amazing. Our friends spoiled her and the shelter with so many donations. She got to spend Thanksgiving with us. Of course at Christmas time Santa bought her a bunch of presents that she loved like an extra comfy new bed and blankets, she loved blankets. We went on lots of adventures still and all walked as a family everyday, my neighbors thought I had found Bella’s mom since they looked so similar. Her separation anxiety was getting better but I had to drop her off at the rescue if I was going to be gone from home for more than a few hours. And they were fine with that especially since she had a bed to sleep in at night and a mom and sister who loved and adored her the rest of the time.
In mid March, about a year to the day of being diagnosed with bladder cancer and given a few weeks to live, she started to slow down and just wasn’t as sparkly as she had been. I had dropped her off at the rescue one morning towards the end of the month because I had to go to work and a few hours later the kennel manager called me and said “Tyra took a turn for the worst, it’s time”. I left my work in such a rush, I ran to my car and drove as fast as I could to get there. I didn’t want her to leave with out me being there, I didn’t want her to think I had abandoned her when she needed me most. When I got there it was clear that time was up and this was it, our adventure was about to come to an end. I laid down next to her, hugged her, and told her how much I loved her and how proud I was of her for being such a good girl with Bella. At one point she got up and laid with her face right next to mine and gave me one last kiss. Our entire year flashed before my eyes, all the good times, the bad times, the laughing, the crying, all the friends I had met because fo her, hard to believe it all happened in just less than a year. The time came came and thankfully the vet on staff who I love and adored was there for us and Tyra went peacefully to the life after this one.
I couldn’t believe it, she had made it a year when the dr said maybe 2 weeks. It was a really fantastic unforgettable year. A year that almost didn’t happen because I was going to let my fear tell me I couldn’t do this. In looking back I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to take care of her in the ways she needed and once I decided to try and make her life great for her sake and taking me and my feelings out of the equation that it was easier. It was easier to be in the moment with her and It was like magic how all the people I needed to help me showed up, all the things I needed to know showed up. I knew the end would eventually come but tried to never let that steal joy from the fun we had. I was scared but I did it anyway and it all eventually worked out, not the way I planned but the way it was meant to be. Yes it was extremely sad to say good bye, a year wasn’t nearly long enough with her. But what a great year we had, a year I will always remember. It wasn’t always easy with Tyra but it was absolutely worth it. I hope she knows how much she meant to me, how much she still means to me and how blessed I feel to be a part of her story. I wish I could share all the good times we had and miracles I witnessed with Tyra, including why she moved her bed in front of the fridge or what she did one time at In-N-Out that left scratches on my car that I still have to remind me of the day, or how her and Bella played for hours everyday, or what happened the day we watched “Saving Mr. Banks”, so many precious times I get to keep in my heart forever.
And that my friends is the short version of how I became an old dog mom. I guess the old saying is true, never say never.