This is the story of Zoe Jane, as written by her mom, Heather. Thanks to Heather and Bill for sharing their sweet senior girl with us!
Our Zoe’s story started with a senior pup. When my brother stayed with me, he brought his 11-year old girl, Powdy. I was not thrilled at first but agreed. Wow – that girl melted my heart and became the puppy love of my life. She was the best companion and always up for an adventure and great travel partner. She loved the water and even had her own life jacket for swims in the lake. We were devastated when she crossed the rainbow bridge less than two years later. My heart ached, and I have never cried so much in my life!
After a month of crying, we found our Gracie (nee Jasmine), a then 4-year-old Lab at the Hinsdale Humane Society, one of our local shelters. She was owner surrendered after being caged 12-15 hours a day, skittish, with little social skills. It took time and lots of love to convince Gracie we would never hurt her and she was safe in her new home.
We love our Gracie and knew we had more love to give. After months of building my case for the addition of a second pup to our lives, I came across ‘Marlene’ at the same shelter where we adopted Gracie.
I saw ‘Marlene’s’ photo and read her story (it indicated she was rescued from a Tennessee puppy mill) on the website. Her soulful eyes and story grabbed my heart. When we went to see her the first time, she was in the last kennel, of the last row, looking small and fragile. It was late, and we could not interact with her, so we went back the next day, and brought her potential ‘sibling’ Gracie with us.
When they brought her out to us, you could tell from her eyes and weak body; she had a rough life, yet she welcomed the pets and wagged her tail in earnest. We also learned she was deaf and we’d need to find a way to communicate with her nonverbally. Was this a deal breaker? No way! It was an instant connection between Bill and me, and even bashful Gracie took a liking to her. We were in love! We adopted her, renamed her Zoe Jane, and brought her home!
I shared the news of our Zoe Jane via social media. One of her amazing ARC rescuers sent me a message. I’m so thankful that she reached out and adore her to pieces. I learned Zoe was named ‘Marlene’ after her beloved Marlon, who she had loved and lost. Zoe was part of the American Rescue Corps (ARC) ‘Operation Fall Freedom,’ an effort to save dogs from a deplorable, overwhelmed ‘animal rescue’ in Savannah, Tennessee. During the rescue, ARC found and removed 82 dogs ranging in size, breed, and age living in filth and waste filled crates and kennels across the property. ARC found Zoe living in a 6 x 6 cage with six other medium to large dogs, her teeth were worn down, and a sore on her back. Despite living in such a confined space and lacking water and basic needs, ARC volunteers found her very dog- and people-friendly. ARC’s awesome contact with the Hinsdale Humane Society took a shine to Zoe’s beautiful face and asked to bring her into their program. That’s how Zoe became an Illinois resident and found her forever family!
Despite her bleak past, Zoe is a loving, outgoing girl. She has gotten stronger and more steady on her feet and loves being outside. On walks, Zoe is the neighborhood greeter, wagging her tail, looking for pets, and giving kisses to anyone she can. She even has a ‘boyfriend,’ a black & white Pitbull named Patches and pulls us towards his house or down the street to see him. Zoe playfully ‘harasses’ the cat, taking her spot on the ottoman and like a ‘sibling’ good-naturedly taunts Gracie by intentionally blocking her entryway to a room or snuggling next to her (and mainly out of) the bed where Gracie was resting. Zoe loves being near you, and is often found resting her head on her ‘dad’s’ chest or curled up by his feet. She brings us so much joy.
Someone once said to me ‘why would you do this, (i.e., getting an older dog), you’re just setting yourself up for heartbreak’. The question is – why wouldn’t you? Every day is a blessing with our girls, and I wouldn’t trade their little graying faces for the world. It’s a reality – all our days are limited yet I won’t dwell on the negative, I prefer to cherish the days I have with these pups and soak up the tail wags, cold nose nuzzles, and puppy kisses. Older pups are the best! Here is to giving them the best years of their lives, they’ve given me mine.
Click here to see the full photo gallery from Operation Fall Freedom, where Zoe and 81 other dogs were rescued.
For more information about American Rescue Corps (ARC):
Nonprofit rescues and shelters may apply to become ARC placement partners by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone interested in volunteering with ARC should email their name, phone number, address, whether they are able and willing to travel outside their region at their own expense, and any relevant experience and resources to: email@example.com. Volunteers will be contacted if there is a need in their area.
ARC publishes a list of each operation’s placement partners on Facebook once the animals are transferred, so anyone interested in fostering or adopting an animal from an ARC operation should contact these organizations directly to learn more about their foster and adoption processes. There are also many other animals – dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses, reptiles, and more – available through ARC’s partners and other great rescues and shelters around the country, so anyone looking to add a member to their family is sure to find the perfect match and save a life.
When we brought Goldie into our program we thought we were taking on a hospice case. Our friends at Jasper Animal Rescue Mission in Ridgeland, South Carolina, reached out for help in July 2015 after Goldie ended up in their shelter when her human passed away. We went to the shelter to meet Goldie and agreed with the shelter staff’s evaluation. This sad old dog didn’t have much time left and she needed a loving home where she could live out the rest of her days.
The only problem was, we had nowhere for Goldie to go. We were overflowing with dogs at our home base, and all of our potential hospice homes were already full. We promised Goldie that we would be back for her as soon as we could, and then we put out a plea on our Facebook page and hoped for the best. In the meantime, the kind folks at JARM moved Goldie into the office and let her be their office dog so she didn’t have to stay in an outdoor run (The staff at Jasper Animal Rescue Mission (JARM) are the best. They have huge hearts!).
We posted Goldie a few times without much luck and were starting to lose hope when we received an email from a woman named Judy. Judy wrote a really nice email and provided a lot of information about herself and her living situation so we could decide if this might be a good fit for Goldie. She also explained that after sharing 14 years with her Black Lab, Aspen, she lost Aspen very quickly to cancer in 2009 and thought she would never be able to love another dog again. That is, until she saw Goldie’s face on our Facebook page.
“When I first saw her picture I was instantly drawn to her sweet face,” Judy says. “I felt the need to make her life, how ever short it would be, as peaceful and comfortable as I possibly could. Little did I know that was all she needed to bring out the puppy in her once more. I am grateful not for what I can do for her but for what she has done and continues to do for me every day. The gift of her faithful love and companionship came at a time when I truly needed it the most. It seems I need her as much as she needs me.”
Judy and Goldie have been inseparable since the afternoon of Monday, August 3, 2015, when we brought Goldie over to Judy’s house to do a home visit. These two souls were meant to cross paths. In addition to Judy, Goldie also now shares her life with Sophia, the kitten, and with Judy’s 5-year old grandson, Lucas, who visits often. As has happened with a few other dogs we have known, once Goldie realized that she was safe and loved, she decided she wanted to stick around for awhile.
Goldie is not the “hospice” dog we all thought she was. And, Judy recently discovered that Goldie has a very unique gift. Here is an excerpt from a recent email that Judy gave us permission to share:
“Goldie, it seems, has a very unique talent. I am a brittle diabetic. I make no insulin which means I take a large amount of insulin to control my blood sugar. Although I am fairly well controlled there are times when my blood sugar goes a bit crazy and will spike very high. I often won’t pick up on the signs as it does tend to alter one’s ability to think straight and many times it will happen during sleep. If it’s not a normal time that I take my blood sugar it will go unnoticed by me…but Goldie seems to respond to the change.
Her whole demeanor changes. She gets my attention by very forcefully hitting my arm with her paw. If I am sleeping and that doesn’t work she will jump up on the bed, panting as if anxious and continue to forcefully hit me until I wake up while standing over me. She will stay in my face (so to speak) and watch until I have taken my blood sugar. When I uncap my insulin I can see that she smells the insulin. Then she won’t leave my side, curling up next to me usually with her head in my lap until she seems to be satisfied that I am okay. I noticed this behavior from her around October – November of last year. At first I thought it was just coincidence but she is very consistent with this behavior. She becomes very persistent when my blood sugar is greater then 500.”
We are grateful to Judy for opening up her heart to Goldie and for being willing to provide what she thought was going to be end of life care. That is an incredibly selfless act. And we are beyond thrilled that Goldie’s story turned out to be so much happier than expected. Judy and Goldie found each other when they needed each other the most.
“I am so grateful to have her in my life,” Judy says. “She acts as though she is still a puppy at times so I just don’t tell her anything different.”
Cesar is far from being a senior, but he recently adopted a senior dog as a brother. He has been through a lot in just a few short years so we asked him to share his story with our Retired Retrievers family.
Written by Cesar, with some help from his dad, Ken
Hello, my name is Cesar and I am a 3 1/2 year old Westie. When you hear my story you may think I am the unluckiest dog in the world, but I think I am the luckiest dog in the world.
I live in Millen, Georgia, with my human owners, Angela
and Ken DeLay, or Mom and Dad as I will call them. I have four canine siblings: Maddie, Rusty, Smokey Joe and Sparky, who just came to live with us. My mom and dad got me from a long time friend who raises Westies just a few miles down the road from where we live. My dad picked me up when I was seven weeks old and I had a great time as a puppy. The other dogs were nice to me when I came home, especially Smokey Joe. Mom and Dad were home a lot and when they weren’t I chilled out with the pack. We have a doggy door and fenced yard, so I can come in and out as I please.
My first year at home I occasionally got an upset stomach, but we just thought I had a sensitive tummy and so we tried to watch what I ate. When I was 15 months old Mom and Dad went on vacation to Europe. They had left us for the weekend before and we always had a sitter come over and stay with us a couple hours a day and it worked out fine. We could still come and go through the doggy door and it was better than being sent to a boarder.
When mom and dad went on vacation during Labor Day weekend of 2013 my cousin dogs that belong to my human sister Ashley were there for the weekend also. Ashley came to pick up my cousins on Labor Day around noon and she couldn’t find me. She was very worried. She called and called me. She got my Aunt Lisa and Uncle Jimmy to come over and help look for me. After an hour or so of searching Lisa asked Smokey Joe, “Where is Cesar?” Smokey Joe went and stood by some partially used sheets of plywood leaning against the garage. Jimmy started peeling back the sheets of plywood and there they found me. The fence was on the other side of the plywood so I had gotten trapped when I wandered in there. I can’t remember why I went in there but Westies are bad about going into tight spots. That’s why we have that carrot tail, so our humans can pull us out.
It was very hot and I was in heatstroke when they found me. It was a holiday and the vets were closed, but Lisa started calling all the vets in Statesboro as Ashley and Paul drove me. A nice vet tech met us in Statesboro, hooked me up to an IV and Ashley and Paul took me on to Savannah at the Emergency Clinic. I was in a coma so I don’t remember all this, just what I was told. Ashley left me at the emergency vet and it didn’t look good. During the night Ashley got a call and was told I was throwing up blood. They X-rays showed I had some foreign objects in my tummy. I had eaten a couple of screws and berries when I was trapped, I guess I panicked. So into surgery I went to get the contraband out. I survived the surgery but was still in a coma.
The next day I was transferred to the intensive care part of the hospital, where Dr. Pointer took over my care. She didn’t think I was going to make it, but I couldn’t die with my mom and dad so far away. Poor Ashley didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to disturb Mom and Dad’s vacation in Europe, but she talked to my human brother Kent and decided they should know. So dad got a call at the hotel in Berlin to call Ashley and he found out what happened. They were on a trip with Kent’s in-laws (yes these in-laws get along) and Mom and Dad’s first reaction was to come home, but Ashley told him what good hands I was in and they stayed. They did get together with the in-laws every night and prayed for me and my caretakers.
After a couple of days I could open my eyes. Then I raised my head and looked up. Dr. Pointer, Holly, Jessie and of course Ashley were thrilled. I slowly got better during the week and by the weekend Dr. Pointer and Dr. Woods decided I could go home with Ashley. My dad took me for a checkup when he got home a week later and it looked like my health problems were a thing of the past. Boy was I wrong.
My accident was in September and things were fine. Mom and Dad got home and I was so glad to see them. Then the following February I wasn’t feeling too well. I was acting real weird and walking around in a daze. My mom took me to see Dr. Ford my regular vet in Waynesboro. She looked at my symptoms and thought I might have Addison’s disease, which is a problem with the adrenal glands. Most people only know about Addison’s because president Kennedy had it. Dr. Ford had to give me some medicine to get me better and ordered the diagnostic test for Addison’s which most vet clinics never use. The problem was we had a bad ice storm during this time and UPS couldn’t make any deliveries for several days. When Dr. Ford got the test in it showed I had Addison’s but just barely. You either have it or you don’t so I was officially Addisonian. Dr. Ford even showed the test to the endocrinologist at UGA and she said yes he has it.
I was fine for about a month and then started feeling bad again. Dad gave me a shot and then I got to feeling better. This happened a couple more times during the spring, and in June I was back to square one. Dr. Ford decided to send me to UGA Vet School to see if they could help me. Mom and Dad went to Pharmacy college there so they were familiar with Athens. We got to the emergency clinic and they looked at me, asked Mom and Dad a few questions, and said they suspected a liver shunt. Dad said what’s a liver shunt? It turns out I had a blood vessel that should have closed off when I was young, but it never did and that blood didn’t go through the liver. The liver cleanses our blood so that portion of my blood didn’t get cleansed, and when it went to my brain I started acting loopy.
They put me in the hospital at UGA and did some tests that confirmed their suspicions. It was a liver shunt. The best option was surgery to slowly close the vessel off and route the blood back through the liver. I had the surgery on June 21, 2014 and after a period of time my scar healed up and I started feeling better. Of course dad was keeping Dr. Pointer in the loop the whole time and she was having some questions about my having Addison’s disease. We talked to the endocrinologist at UGA and decided when I got over my surgery we would wean off my Addison’s medicine and retest. When dad took me back in September we got great news. I did not have Addison’s disease! Again it looked like my health problems were a thing of the past. Boy was I wrong.
The test to see if your liver is working better is the bile acid test. Mine were very high before I had surgery. When we retested after surgery they had gone down, but only about halfway to normal. But I was feeling better so not too worried. Mom and Dad went on a vacation in September and I stayed with Ashley. I had a great time with her she is my third favorite person in the world. When Mom and Dad got back from vacation I had a sore spot on my stomach with blood showing. So off to Dr. Ford I went, and it turned out to be a suture granuloma, which is a reaction where they sewed me back up. That got fixed and in a month I got another. Dad took me to UGA to get that one fixed and they really could not tell Dad why I was getting them. Then in a month I got another, which Dr Ford fixed. Turned out the sutures had inverted or something causing irritation and making the sores form. We kept doing the bile acid test and they weren’t much changed. My liver enzymes were also high, so dad was really upset.
In January, I had an ultrasound at UGA and they told Dad I had portal hypertension, which is something they warn you about right after surgery, but this was six months later. Dad was distraught and confused. It didn’t make sense to him or Dr. Pointer or Dr. Ford. Dad wasn’t giving up though, so he contacted our family friend Liz, who was a senior in Vet School at the University of Florida. Dr. Liz asked some of her teachers about my case, and before I knew it I was heading to Gainesville, Florida, on a road trip with my dad. I wore my Bulldog jersey to my first appointment at UF, which I was super cute in. Dr. Ellison had a CT Scan done. He said he couldn’t see anything looking at my shunt, but he would have the radiology department look it over.
He called dad a couple weeks later and said we think the shunt did not close off completely, but he wanted to do an ultrasound to be sure. By this time dad had gotten Dr. Pointer back on the case and I went to see her in March before returning to UF in April. We had to get the best minds in the business on my case to help figure this thing out. We went back to UF on April 8th for my ultrasound. Word must have gotten out about me because Dr. Liz texted dad that about 20 people were in the room for my study. I guess I was teaching them something.
After my ultrasound Dr. Ellison told my dad that I did not have portal hypertension and that my shunt had not closed all the way. I could be managed on a special diet but surgery was back in the picture. Dad took me home and fed me a special diet for a while. I went back to Dr. Pointer in June and my bile acids were still high. Dr. Pointer will tell you she’s a wimp about surgery but my dad wanted to give me the best chance at a long life, which a successful surgery would do. Plus he had been agonizing over the right thing to do since April. Dr. Pointer talked to Dr. Ellison and we all decided on surgery for July 15th.
My dad took me to Gainesville the day before and I had surgery the morning of the 15th, which was a Wednesday. It was a long surgery since I had already been under the knife twice, but Dr. Ellison deemed it a success. I went home on Sunday and was feeling better soon. n August 19th dad took me to Dr. Pointer for my bile acid test. We were on pins and needles waiting for the results. The next morning Dr. Pointer got the results and they were NORMAL!! My dad and Dr. Pointer were so happy.
That’s why I think I’m the luckiest dog in the world.
I’ve got the best mom and dad and the best vets in the world. Some people call me the million dollar dog. I don’t know what a dollar is but I do know my mom and dad would do anything in the world to make me better and I love them very much. My dad told me he has made so many friends on the liver shunt group on FB and of course if I had died in that plywood we would have never gotten to meet so many great folks. I feel better and have more energy now than I ever have in my life, so I’m glad my mom and dad didn’t give up on me. It looks like me health problems are a thing of the past. Let’s hope I’m right. And that’s my story, Cesar.
P.S. dad said I had to tell my story because if he did people would say he had to make that up!
At this time last year, we were scrambling to find temporary foster homes for George and Brutus, two unlikely brothers who came from different places but were adopted from us by the same family. When that family had a sudden life change, George and Brutus found themselves back in our care. They spent two weeks in boarding because we had nowhere to put them, and then Tripp and Melissa Rockwell offered to foster them in Atlanta.
George and Brutus enjoyed each others company, but they were not what we would call a bonded pair. So just like their journeys began in different places, their life paths eventually diverged.
This is George’s story, as written by his mom.
by Melissa Rockwell
When Suzanne reached out with a need to foster George and Brutus, well, there had to be some thought put into it. We don’t have a large house, and already had one very energetic Pointer, and an 11 year old cat. But Retired Retrievers was in a bind, and you figure, well, it’s not forever, so bring them on.
They arrived smiling and having had a great road trip from Savannah to Atlanta, and got out of the car with their “we’re here!” attitudes. Eden and Calvin welcomed them with open arms and we all settled in. We were new to the foster world and you can tell yourself, it’s not forever but there are general niceties that you consider when fostering. George was very arthritic, it was plain to see and his toenails needed cut in a big way. We called our favorite mobile vet who stopped by one day to test the shocks and kick the tires on both boys. We dubbed them Statler and Waldorf like the 2 old guys on The Muppet Show. Both George and Brutus got a generous free of charge pedicure and it helped tremendously. Dr. J also came back with ear meds for both boys and that also went a long way in making them more comfortable.
Having lost a 13+ year old Aussie/Lab mix in 2014, we knew the ins and outs of dealing with senior pets, so we put everyone on glucosamine as well. That stuff really is amazing. Brutus was the more mobile of the two and went to the dog park with Eden a few times a week, but George had trouble walking and couldn’t make the ½ mile hike to get there. We did get him to doggie ice cream at Taj Ma Hound though, and he loved the attention from the outside world every Thursday night.
After a few months, the foster stint came to an end and we sat and talked about keeping one of these guys. They both had great smiles and attitudes and adored Tripp. Someone at some point in time, had been “a boy” for them and they loved to see Tripp come home and give them rolls and pats and they lapped up every ounce of attention anyone would lavish upon them. But we kept coming back to George’s mobility issues and decided we’d keep him, since he seemed the less likely to be adopted.
Suzanne drove up to Atlanta one weekend and said her goodbyes to George and loaded Brutus up to head back south. We removed the baby gates, allowed George free rein of the house now, and he marched through the doors of our hearts. And after the pedicure and two months of glucosamine, headed up the stairs every night for bed!
The regulars at ice cream noticed that once George knew he was ours forever, his attitude got even better. He went to ice cream with a new found “hey look at me, I’m part of a family!” About a week after we officially adopted George, he got some wheels.
The wagon gave him a new found freedom and his sister Eden served as his transportation director. We hitched her up to his wagon and every other day, George got to the dog park. He had a good time wandering and poking around but getting there was always too much for him. Once he had wheels, the neighborhood quickly knew “the dog in the wagon” and little kids would stop him for a hug and some love. George was living the life of a Rockwell dog and he relished it. He slept on an orthopedic dog bed, next to Tripp’s side, and after dinner each night, we’d get him down the block for his evening constitutional. When the sun went down, George got himself upstairs and off to sleep.
George was never mean, he could put Eden in her place when she’d pester him too much, but he became Calvin the cat’s buddy quickly. In fact, Cal had a say in who we kept as we’d often find him on the same bed as George when he was a foster. They probably set us up as soon as he got there!
When Tripp left the house, and I’d be working from the home office, I could find George for upwards of two hours, still waiting by the back door in case Tripp would return. If he left for a weekend, I’d finally have to pry him away from the window; he’d just stand there watching for his return.
If you own a cat, you realize you clean up pet puke regularly. And when we thought we were cleaning up Cal’s, we realized retrospectively, it was George. He was never sick after he came to live with us, so we weren’t even looking for it. But when I was traveling and Tripp was home playing single parent, George began vomiting and didn’t stop. We talked at 2 a.m. about what to do, and Tripp loaded him up and took him to the ER. The got him stabilized and even gave him some plasma after a day to see if he’d improve. But it became clear rather quickly, that George was getting ready to say goodbye. I got home the next day and we went directly to the hospital.
Poor George lifted his head when they brought him into the room but that was about all he could muster. We’ve had to say goodbye to too many pets over the last few years, but in looking at George, it was very clear that he was ready. We all said he was 14 years old but really it’s hard to tell. His teeth were worn level and his poor old body was never kind to him for the time we loved him. We helped George to the Rainbow Bridge that afternoon. He went quickly and we honored him as much as any dog we’d had for the full 14 years. He was ours through and through.
In the 8 months that we were blessed to have George in our family, he got to the BlueRidge Mountains twice, jazz nights in Oakhurst, doggie ice cream every Thursday and as much love as we could possibly have given him. He was a funny guy, he passed out smiles to anyone he came across, and we spread his ashes at the dog park, where he truly got the chance to be a real dog.
Because old dogs can’t speak for themselves, we need to try to decipher their stories for them. In some cases this is easier to do than in others.
We were told that when Zeke was surrendered to the shelter by his owner on New Year’s Eve he was depressed, emaciated, covered in fleas, not neutered, heartworm positive and had several tumors. This led us to create the story of a neglectful owner who willfully let this dog suffer. We found out today that we were wrong.
We found out today that the man who turned Zeke in to the shelter was an 86-year old veteran who rescued him from a bad situation with a family member. The man wanted more than anything to give Zeke a wonderful life but financial limitations made it difficult for him to provide enough food, let alone any medical care. And physical limitations made it difficult for him to care for a dog at all. He was in tears when he left Zeke at the shelter, but he was doing the only thing he thought he could do to give Zeke a chance, even if it meant losing his old friend.
When we found out about the financial issues, we offered to pay for Zeke’s food and medical care for the rest of his life so that the two of them could be reunited (Thank you to our donors for making it possible for us to even contemplate making that offer!). As it turns out, the shelter had already had that conversation with the man, who said his physical limitations and health problems made it more than a financial issue. He was physically having trouble just taking care of himself. When shelter staff called the man to let him know that Zeke would be joining us at Retired Retrievers, the man started sobbing and said, “that old dog deserves a good few last years.”
We also found out today that Zeke’s real name is Max. Shelter staff named him Zeke in lieu of not having a name, but someone who was working when Zeke arrived was also working this morning when our volunteers arrived to pick him up. They said the man was calling him Max. Okay, so Zeke is now Max. Or Max has always been Max. We were just calling him Zeke. Anyway, his real name is Max.
Max is one lucky boy. Our friends Jenn and Jessica picked him up from the shelter this morning and drove him from Edgewater, FL, to St. Augustine, FL. There he met up with Amanda and Jim, who drove him from St. Augustine to the Florida/Georgia border (This was just one of Jim and Amanda’s two volunteer transports today). We met them at the Florida/Georgia border and drove him the rest of the way to Savannah.
As is customary for all of our rescue dogs, we took Max through the McDonald’s drive-thru for his Freedom Burger on our way up I-95. We don’t typically feed the dogs fast food, but we believe that any dog who has been in a shelter for any period of time deserves to be spoiled on the day he gets out. The first day of the rest of their lives is a cause for celebration.
Today’s Freedom Burger was compliments of two adorable girls in Minnesota. Lucy and Becca sent us a Christmas card that included a McDonald’s gift card in it to be used specifically for Freedom Burgers. As you can see in the photo, Max was very appreciative of their kindness. We usually need to unwrap the burgers for the dogs and we sometimes break them into smaller pieces, but Max dove right in and helped himself. Thank you to Lucy and Becca for making this old shelter dog so happy.
What we know so far about Max is that he is a very sweet boy who deserves a family of his own. We think he is 8-9 years old. He seems to be housebroken. He rides well in the car. He gets along with other dogs. Despite his health issues, which are all fixable, he is in really great shape. He’s going to make a wonderful companion for someone. And he’s already handsome, but once he gets some weight on him and a little TLC he is going to be gorgeous.
Thank you to Jenn, Jessica, Amanda, and Jim for spending part of their weekend helping an old dog get a second (or third) chance at happiness. And thank you to the staff and veterinarians at the Edgewater Animal Shelter for taking such great care of Max and making sure he gets to enjoy his retirement years.
If you would like to help cover the costs of Max’s medical care, please click here to donate. And we are still looking for a foster home in the Savannah area; if you think this could be you please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.
Welcome to the Retired Retrievers family, Max. We’re so glad you’re here!
She may not be a retriever, but she is definitely retired. When we saw Button’s shelter picture online we just couldn’t look away. She is 13 or 14 (or a million) years old and has cataracts, dental disease, missing teeth, a hernia, and mammary tumors. She was also covered in ticks.
The shelter said that Button was picked up as a stray, but she couldn’t have gotten very far on her own. Based on the condition she was in, we have a feeling she may have been used by a backyard breeder to produce some very expensive Shih Tzu puppies and then dumped when she became too old to be valuable to them.
Fortunately for Button and for us, there are some really great people in the world. We reached out to our friend Wendy to ask for help and then everything started falling into place for Button’s rescue.
Button was at a shelter in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and we are in Savannah, Georgia, so we couldn’t just hop in the car and go get her. Wendy was out of town, but she asked her friends Ellis, David, and Eryn to coordinate getting Button out of the shelter and safely to Eryn’s house.
Eryn loved and cared for Button for a few days until we could move her to Savannah. She also coordinated Button’s spa day which we know had to make her feel better. The folks at Kritters with a K made Button look, feel and smell wonderful. In the meantime, Wendy coordinated an all-volunteer transport to help Button get to Savannah today.
She started her morning in Fort Lauderdale with Eryn and Wendy and then met up with Lori who drove her to Palm Beach Gardens. Ellen picked Button up in Palm Beach Gardens and drove her to meet Stefani in Vero Beach. Stefani drove her to Cocoa Beach, where she met up with Jessica and Jenn. They drove her to Daytona Beach, where she met up with Ron, who drove her to St. Augustine to meet up with Jim and Amanda. They drove her to Yulee where she met up with us and our friend Cheryl, and we brought her home to Savannah.
Every single one of us who met Button today and helped with her transport fell in love with this fragile old dog. We don’t know what her life was like before Wednesday of this week, but we know what her life will be like from here on out: for whatever time she has left, Button will know nothing but love and happiness. She will see our friends at Central Animal Hospital on Monday and we will make sure she gets all of the care she needs. If you would like to support Button’s recovery, please click here to make a tax-deductible donation.
Thank you to Just Jack’s Rescue for coordinating Button’s release from the shelter. Thank you to Eryn for welcoming Button into her heart and home this week. Thank you to all of Button’s transport drivers for spending part of their weekend helping an old dog. And thank you to Wendy for coordinating all of this and for always being there when we – and the animals – need her.
We look forward to posting more Button updates very soon.
We drove out to the country this morning to meet six senior dogs who are about to find themselves homeless after their elderly owner passed away. A neighbor is going to feed them this week, but they need somewhere to go by next weekend. Time is of the essence! We will do what we can to coordinate transports, vet care, whatever it takes to find new homes. They are all really sweet and well socialized and most are good with cats. They are currently located about 50 miles outside of Savannah, GA, and can be adopted individually. We have more photos and videos of each and will get those added as soon as possible. For more information, please email email@example.com. To donate to their care please click here to make a tax-deductible donation.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by Al Steuber, father of Sadie Steuber. Click here to read a previous post about this wonderful family: https://retiredretrievers.org/2014/11/30/sadiesretirementhome. And click here to see their interview on WTOC Mid-Morning Live: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdTGvhbGipw.
Empty No More
By Al Steuber
When we opened the foyer door that painful August afternoon I knew she wouldn’t be there. The emptiness was confirmation. Allie’s gone.
A foyer greeting had been her trademark. No matter that one of us remained, when the other left Allie camped in front of the foyer door until the person returned to receive his or her hind end wiggling, tail wagging greeting. We endured an empty foyer for six long weeks and it may have continued to this day but for our daughter Amy, a savior named Suzanne (more later) and the grace of God.
I’ve told the story elsewhere – Amy’s web search, my initial rejection, my inexplicably tapping out an email to Suzanne, our test visit with a rescue dog found wandering without ID in a Food Lion parking lot. Not a test really, an instant love affair.
Amy visited last week, the first time since she set this wonderful chain of events in motion. It was her first visit with Sadie and they bonded immediately. If I didn’t know it couldn’t be true I’d think Sadie sensed Amy’s role in her life…….it couldn’t be, could it? After four days together Amy concluded there was absolutely no room for improvement, said “I love my dog but I’d take her home in a heartbeat” and added “I think you should rename her Flawless.”
Sadie’s been a family member for seven months now and has settled in to a routine as predictable as a metronome. Her day begins when I sense a thump on my side of the bed as she slaps a paw near my head. If I open my eyes I’m looking into hers. If I don’t, she soon removes her paw and that’s the last I hear from her, displaying a characteristic repeated multiple times each day: patience.
When I do get up she’s at my side knowing breakfast is about to follow which has its own routine. With her dish on the floor I pour in the first cup of kibble with one hand while trying to fend off her head with the other. She quickly wins and begins inhaling the first cup as I pour in the other. By the time I get her incontinence pill out of the bottle to drop in her food the dish is usually empty. She’s an eating kamikaze!
She follows me to the kitchen and takes up her favored position lying just at the entryway giving me the best chance of tripping over her as I exit with my orange juice. Then she lies in front of me without complaint as I turn on the TV, check my email and finish my orange juice. Mind you she has not emptied her bladder for at least twelve hours and she’s ten years old! Not until I leave my chair does she show any sign of impatience, hurrying toward the door. Even then, and this is something Amy remarked on, unlike many dogs who push you aside as they bolt through the door she waits to be invited.
Then comes one of my most appreciated performances, her marshes toilet. Not immediately. First she sniffs and pees several places and several times, even partially lifting her leg occasionally in comic imitation perhaps of something she has observed? Then she trots along the edge of the marsh making partial entries until making her final selection where she disappears exiting somewhere else down the line. She trots back to me expecting and receiving her treat, one of her three daily glucosamine tablets. This habit, the marshes toilet, is one of two uncommon performances she shares with her predecessor, Allie.
Next comes my breakfast, usually an English muffin which, like all of our meals she expects to share, her head containing a food magnet. She lies in front facing me never taking her eyes off my movements. When down to the last bite of the first muffin she stands and waits, again patiently, knowing that piece belongs to her. After taking it none too daintily she resumes her lying-in-wait position knowing we’re only half done. Gulping her last bite she whirls, almost as if choreographed and trots into the bedroom.
Thus begins, for me, her most heartwarming performance, uncannily similar to Allie. She tucks herself as close to the bed as she can beneath mom and stays there until mom gets up, sometimes three or more hours later. This time I won’t say “as if” but “because” she senses a need. Especially as mom declines cognitively Sadie’s presence beside her chair, hand resting on Sadie’s head, is one unchanging constant in mom’s world. That Sadie returns the affection makes the bond complete.
With all the bonding description given to Sadie and mom I don’t want to leave the impression she treats me as a potted plant and food stop. During her morning bedside vigil she occasionally comes out and stands in front of me for a pet before returning. I’m pretty sure this is her way of assuring me I’m not forgotten. She’s much too sensitive to people’s feelings to do otherwise. Occasionally too she leaves mom’s chairside to join me when I’m in my den.
I often ponder Sadie’s background and wonder how anyone could part with such a complete and loving dog. She’s obviously trained, well socialized with people and other dogs. She’s already become a favorite with neighbors (the dog aware type) and staff. I marvel too at the brief moment in time when the stars were aligned. She was only in foster care for two weeks.
As a family we are whole again. We open the door in happy anticipation knowing the foyer is empty no more.
Retired Retriever Rescue
This story is incomplete not mentioning a remarkable lady without whom there would be no story. When my daughter searched the Internet she was surprised to find an organization in this small city that seemed to fit her search requirements precisely: older Labrador retrievers. My daughter, Amy, presumed the person who responded to her inquiry, Suzanne, was a spokesperson for the organization. Turns out she was the spokesperson but much, much more. Suzanne Mooney IS Retired Retriever Rescue. Along with what I presume to be a supportive husband she takes in and houses old retrievers herself, searches out foster caretakers, participates in rescue chains accepting dogs from other states, attends adopt-a-dog fairs, solicits donations thanking each donor personally, publishes a blog and maintains a Facebook presence. You get the picture. Now for the kicker – she also holds down a full time job! I don’t know how she does it but then, as I pointed out, she is one remarkable lady.
We’ve said goodbye to a few members of our Retired Retrievers family recently. In the last few weeks, we’ve lost both of our polar bears, Noah and Gus. We’ve lost Lincoln, our yellow lab from South Florida. And just last week we lost Toby, our 14-year old yellow lab who spent most of his life on a chain in rural Georgia. In the not so distant future we also anticipate losing Jake, our ancient three-legged Beagle. Recent x-rays showed a mass on Jake’s liver. We’re doing what we can to keep him comfortable until it’s time to let him go.
It’s been said that the only thing wrong with dogs is that they don’t live as long as we’d like them to. In our case, that statement gets multiplied exponentially because we rescue dogs who are already nearing the end of their lives. Sometimes we have days or weeks with them. Usually we have months. If we’re lucky we have a few years. Because we experience loss so frequently, it’s easy to forget one very important truth:
Every single one of our stories is a success story.
It may not always feel like that, but it’s true. The important thing isn’t how much time we have with our dogs. The important thing is how much love and joy we fit into that time.
Although we shed tears for each and every dog we lose, we also recognize the beauty in a community of animal lovers coming together to pick up the pieces and mend a dog’s broken heart after someone else has failed them. Because of our Retired Retrievers family – especially our fosters, adopters, and donors – our dogs don’t die scared and alone in shelters like they would have without our help. Instead, they gently cross the Rainbow Bridge being held by someone who loves them after having experienced the best days, weeks, or months of their lives.
And that is why, even when we say goodbye, we consider every story a success story. Our dogs cross the Rainbow Bridge knowing that they matter, knowing what it’s like to be part of a family, and knowing what it’s like to love and be loved. We’ll always wish for more time – there will never be enough time – but knowing that we fit as much love and joy as we could into the time we had is all that really matters.
When we decided to bring Lincoln home, we knew we were on borrowed time. He had been picked up as a stray in rough shape and the shelter notes told the story of a really old dog with a host of medical issues. But our mission is to reduce the number of senior dogs who die alone in shelters, and we decided that giving him even just a few days of happiness would be worth it.
Our friend Susan offered to pick Lincoln up from the shelter and take him to a local animal hospital for evaluation and treatment while we figured out how to get him from Miami, FL to Savannah, GA – a distance of 500 miles. The transport plan came together easily enough thanks to Team Newman, a wonderful group of animal lovers who helped another old yellow lab make that same trip last year. Susan picked Lincoln up on Sunday, February 8, and we decided he’d make the trip to Savannah that following weekend.
Plans changed, however, once he was evaluated by a veterinarian. Lincoln was unable to stand or walk on his own and, based on the x-rays and her exam, the vet didn’t think he would ever walk again. When she called us with the bad news on the morning of Monday, February 9, she said the kindest thing we could do was let him go. We are firm believers in quality of life over quantity of life when it comes to old dogs, so we agreed. We told her just to wait a few hours while we reached out to friends in the area to see if one of them would be willing to go sit with Lincoln while he crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
Our friends Wendy and Susan both said they would go and be with him if we needed them to, but for some reason we just couldn’t bring ourselves to call the vet back. There was something that just wasn’t sitting well with us and, even though we hadn’t met him yet, we weren’t ready to let him go. The only issue was, bringing him to Savannah meant he would have to stay at the animal hospital all week, unable to walk, while waiting for his transport, and that didn’t sit well with us either.
While we were trying to decide what to do, Wendy called us back and said something to the effect of, “If you want to get him to Savannah today, I will take the rest of the day off, rent a van, pick him up and start driving north on I-95. Why don’t we just start driving towards each other and see where we meet.” Our first thought was, Wendy is crazy, in a good way. Our second thought was, yes, let’s do this!
We called the vet back and explained our plan and asked if she was comfortable sending Lincoln home with some strong pain meds so we could fill his last few days with love instead of him having spent his final days in a loud, scary shelter. She said she was good with the plan but asked us not to drag it out. So she got Lincoln ready to go, Wendy rented a van, Susan paid the vet bill and then we all got a huge surprise.
When Wendy went to pick Lincoln up – he stood up. All by himself! Wendy said no one was more shocked than the vet. Somehow Lincoln must have known that life was about to change for the better and it was worth sticking around for awhile. The vet called us back, expressed her disbelief, and provided some additional treatment suggestions if it looked like Lincoln was going be with us for more than a few days. They got him loaded up in the van and Wendy started driving north while we started driving south.
Our friend Jessica from Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida was part of the Team Newman transport last year and would have been part of the Team Lincoln transport if things had gone as planned. When she heard about our revised plan, she suggested a place for Wendy and Lincoln to meet us right off the freeway in Daytona Beach, which is almost exactly halfway between Miami and Savannah. She also offered to come out and help as needed during the hand-off.
So there we were, standing in a Panera Bread parking lot on a rainy night, three dog lovers meeting in person for the first time and one very old dog.
Any doubts we had about being crazy dog people and bringing Lincoln home for just a few days and having our friend Wendy spend more than 8 hours in the car on a rainy night to help him get here – all of that disappeared the moment we saw his tail wag. He was happy to be on this journey. Wendy had already nicknamed him the “Mouth” because after she stopped and treated him to McDonald’s, they were back on the road when she saw a flash of yellow come up from the back of the van as Lincoln lunged forward and helped himself to her food as well. Lincoln had an undeniable will to live and he was going to get that chance thanks to Wendy and Susan and the rest of Team Lincoln.
We brought Lincoln to see our friends at Central Animal Hospital the next day. Not only did Dr. Alex Hill donate his time and services, but he also donated a series of laser therapy treatments to help Lincoln’s arthritic body. We were starting to see a trend with this dog – his courage touched others and they went out of their way to help him.
Lincoln loved going to Central Animal Hospital every few days for laser therapy because it meant he got to see all of his friends who work there. And he used his big brown eyes to convince all of those friends to give him “cookies”. Lots and lots of cookies. They figured out why he was nicknamed the “Mouth” and learned to be very careful with their fingers when handing him treats.
We also went to see an orthopedic specialist in town, Dr. Paul Shealy of Coastal Empire Veterinary Surgery. We did some research online and discovered that Dr. Shealy had an underwater treadmill, which sounded like it might be good physical therapy for Lincoln. We asked Dr. Shealy if he would donate his time for a consult, and he ended up generously donating his time and all of his services. It was during that visit that we discovered Lincoln had bone cancer in addition to the severe arthritis. Dr. Shealy said the treadmill was out because the pressure could cause the leg with the cancer in it to break, but he offered to donate weekly polyglycan injections to ease any arthritis pain Lincoln might be feeling.
Between the injections, the laser therapy, the pain medication, and the love, life was good and Lincoln seemed happy. He had a steak fund created by his friend Susan, which meant we were able to spoil him with frequent steak nights. We did learn that we needed to cut the steak up before setting it down in front of “Mouth”. There was a minor incident on the first night when he made a steak disappear in less than two seconds and tried to swallow it whole.
He also received special care packages from his friend Stefani. The first one was full of treats, the second one was full of homeopathic meds for him to try. He needed no help opening up his special deliveries and we know it made his day to know that his friends were thinking about him.
We also realized we had a dog stroller up in the attic that we hadn’t used in years. We brought it down and decided to give it a try. It was obvious from his maiden voyage around the neighborhood that Lincoln loved his stroller. He loved feeling the wind in his hair and being able to get out of the house for fresh air and adventures.
It was a great six weeks.
It was so great, in fact, that we almost forgot that we were on borrowed time. Until a few days ago. Unfortunately, the cancer and other issues caught up with us, and Lincoln went downhill very quickly. The day he arrived we promised him that we would let him go as soon as the pain got too great to bear, and we could see in his eyes that this was that time. This stoic dog stayed around long enough for us to love him and spoil him and for him to teach us about appreciating each day and each other. And then we had to make the painful decision to let him go.
We always hesitate to share the sad updates because it is so much more fun to focus on the happy ones. However, we hope that even with stories that end too soon – like this one – you will recognize the beauty in coming together as a community to change the lives of old dogs and show them what it means to be loved, if only for a short time. Although our hearts are breaking right now, there is a certain peace that comes from knowing that Lincoln’s last six weeks were filled with steak dinners, stroller rides, care packages, and love – lots and lots of love.
Whenever we think of Lincoln for years to come, we’ll remember how happy he was, how brave he was, and how deeply this wobbly old arthritic dog touched the hearts of everyone he met. Rest in peace, Lincoln. We love you.
Here are a few short videos of Lincoln and photos are below:
Lincoln playing with Noah: Click here to watch.
Lincoln doing laps around the yard: Click here to watch.
Lincoln rolling in the leaves: Click here to watch.