I know the hesitation, I have said it myself. The thought of adopting a senior dog was taboo for me, as it is many. What a heartbreak, you adopt this dog and give it all you can to have it leave you a short time later. It’s true, loving a dog always leads to heartbreak, their lives are much shorter than we’d all like.
When I started fostering, I knew I’d be sad as the dogs left me but I also knew they’d be going onto wonderful lives with loving families. I was, so I thought, mentally prepared for this.
Nine months ago, I was waiting for my fourth foster to arrive, her name was and still is Dahlia. She’s an eight year old Catahoula mix, and had a lot of baggage, including recovering from a 5 hour surgery as she was saved from her abusive owner and rushed into surgery to fix the leg he had broken in three places.
I have lots of experience with dogs who need to recover from ailments, such as ACL injuries and chronic arthritis pain. I knew, as the rescue did, I could rehabilitate this dog and get her ready for her forever home. What I didn’t know, is the forever home would end up being mine!
Dahlia loves me, and I mean LOVES me, like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Don’t get me wrong, I know Flipflop loves me and we have a special bond. But with Dahlia its different, its deeper than love, in her mind, I saved her.
It wasn’t an instant bond with Dahlia and I, she feared me at first, as she did all people. I loved her instantly, however; as I saw the damage the blows to her head had done to eyes, the scar down her leg from surgery, the fear eight years of abuse and mistrust did to her. And yet, she still wanted to be loved, she still wanted to try and trust humans. It broke my heart. That was in April 2017, I adopted Dahlia is June, although I am pretty sure she would say she was adopted in April.
Dahlia gets excited to see me, she loves to be near me, but what makes her so different, is her gratitude. Dahlia will dance with delight and glee at every meal time, knowing she’s being fed, even after 9 months of consistency. When we are at off leash parks, she will go off for a moment or two and then return to me constantly for reassurance that I’m there. And unlike most dogs, she gets so excited at anytime to be put back on her leash, much like at meal time, she dances when she is being clipped up to her leash, knowing she’s staying with me.
Like most dog owners, I travel from time to time and I’m very fortunate to have amazing neighbours who will take my dogs and fosters for me. Dahlia does very well when she’s at others homes, she knows all the neighbours and that they love her. But when I return, she loses her mind, she shoves all the other dogs out of her way to come to me, and she cries while she dances around and nudges me to pet her. She tries to crawl up on me (but she’s 80 lbs) so I go down to her level so she can feel closer to me. And when we go for our first walk after I’ve been away, she refuses to do her business as it means she needs to leave my side. I have to get her home and sit on the couch with her on my lap (she doesn’t realize she’s big, she really thinks she’s a little dainty lady) for at least an hour before she recovers from her excitement that her mom is home. It’s a toss up of emotions for me, part of me is frustrated I can’t do anything for an hour but on the flip side, I am so overwhelmed that I am everything to this sweet girl.
We’ve all heard it and it’s true, dogs know when they have been saved, I see it time and time again, not only with my own fosters and dogs but also through the dogs that I meet that others are fostering or have adopted. It’s wonderful to see and hear the stories of growth in these dogs once they learn to trust and feel loved.
Dahlia has shown the me the pure joy of adopting a senior dog and the amazing way she has learned to communicate with me and show her gratitude. She was so sad when I met her, she didn’t know how to play or what toys were. Now she walks around with great pride carrying her favourite toys, or will give me a nudge with her nose if there is a ball in sight and she wants me to toss it for her.
I am literally watching Dahlia get younger every day as she becomes more playful all the time and she is so happy. When I look at her and she smiles at me, I know whether she lives to be 15 or her body retires on her tomorrow, this girl is going to leave this earth happy and knowing she has experiences true unconditional love. The kind of love and happiness that all dogs deserve.