Pet Connections

Old Dogs and Bucket Lists

When Annie, a 19-year-old black Labrador retriever mix was brought to the shelter, she wasn’t in the best shape. She had trouble walking and not much of an appetite, common signs of stress for senior animals in a new and often scary environment for them. The medical assessment at the time said she likely had only one month to live.

Her life changed when she was taken in by a local senior rescue and placed in a foster home with best friends and roommates Lauren Siler and Lisa Flores.

Annie went from only expecting to live for one month to blossoming and taking a golden journey for whatever time she has left.

Lauren saw Annie’s photo on the Dallas Animal Services Instagram page and knew that Annie deserved more.

By the time she reached out to the municipal animal shelter, the nonprofit The Pawerful Rescue had taken her in. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.

When she saw Annie’s age and situation, it reminded her of the death of her own dog, Bear, in 2022. “I knew I was strong enough to do it because I just had to do it… I couldn’t have imagined not being there with my dog and it just made me feel like, if all I get is Annie for a week, then at least she will die with somebody that she knew loves them.”

“It would have broken my heart more for her to have been put down in the shelter surrounded by nobody that she knew than it would have for us to have to go through that grief when that time comes,” she said.

The rescue wanted to make sure about setting the expectations of taking care of an elderly dog and how much time they might get with her.

“In the beginning, we were just excited to love on her and have her," Lisa said. "So we didn’t really think much about how hard it would be to let her go. I think we are just really focusing on the joy that she was bringing us at the time and just us enjoying loving on her and giving her all of these great experiences.”

Annie is bringing joy to not only her family but also to some newly found fans. Trying to make the most out of Annie's golden years, Siler and Flores decided to share her story on Instagram (and create a bucket list for her.

Over the last few months, Annie has had a birthday party – with a date that was chosen for her – painted a picture, had Christmas in July, been on a hamburger tour, and had a professional photoshoot.

“As people started following the Instagram page, they were really just loving watching these pictures and these little videos of the bucket list,” Flores said. “And that’s when the suggestions started coming in. And so we were like, ‘Oh, this is great! Like, now we have more ideas,’ because it seems like Annie’s gonna be sticking around for a while. So we have more things to do.”

“And people want to be a part of it,” Siler added. She said it’s amazing to see people connect with Annie even though they have never met her. And it also raises awareness for the need to foster elderly animals.

Unfortunately, many senior dogs or those with severe medical cases are surrendered everyday. A lot of the time, the reasons (like what was listed for Annie) tug at the heartstrings. She’s old, she can’t walk, she can’t eat or she’s too much to care for.

For whatever reason, owners often think that’s the best they could do. Also, the emotional toll of seeing their pets die is people surrender them to shelters. Lauren and Lisa explain that’s not that’s not even a concept. “We love our animals so much and they’ve given us so much, in Annie’s case 19 years, how could you not be there with her in her final moments?”

Annie, meanwhile, is thriving. Next on her bucket list includes a chicken nugget tour, being a chef for a day and even serving as principal for a day. She also has a new roommate.

This month, her owners added a new roommate, offering that a new boyfriend might be on her wish list.

In Siler’s IG post introducing Tippy, she wrote, “You have landed right where you are supposed to be… where old dogs come to fulfill bucket lists, live life extravagantly, and be spoiled rotten.”

Annie’s caregivers stress how important it is to shine a light on how rewarding it is to love older dogs and animals. There are many animals out there that are just like Annie dropped off at shelters to spend their final days alone. They added that they dogs like her prefer to be in quieter homes, filled with love and to be able to do bucket lists while being “spoiled silly.”

Local Rescues can provide tips to share with people who are looking to foster elderly dogs or ones with medical needs. Siler offers that it doesn’t take special training: “It just takes somebody that’s willing to spend a little bit of time with an animal, somebody who’s going to commit to it for the rest of its life, especially for these seniors,” Siler said. “They’ve given so much joy to somebody out there. Don’t be another person that lets them down, just open your home and be committed to them.”

Some local rescues that focus on caring for older dogs include Gray Paws, Senior Hearts Rescue and Renewal, and Senior Pet and Animal Rescue. Larger shelters often have seniors as well, as senior dog advocate Becky DiLucia can share. She adopted a 12 yr old Golden Retriever named Ethel from Animal Friends and loved her for the last 2.5 months of her life. “We didn’t have her for very long, but I’d do it again.”

You can visit Stella’s Instagram page read more about Stella in the Today article by Liz Calvario

www.greypaws.org https://seniorhearts.org www.seniorpetandanimalrescue.org

 

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