|Annabelle's happily ever after story
From foster home…
Annabelle had only ever known one person in her life, her Daddy, for 13 years. When her daddy died at
home, Annabelle stayed by his side for almost an entire day before someone discovered them. Within a few
short days, Annabelle’s life had completely changed. After a few weeks of trying to find the right
placement, she came to live with me, her foster mom, and she was here a total of 8 months. Overtime, it
was clear that Annabelle was beginning to suffer from CCD, Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, and through trial
and error, I got Annabelle started on Hills Science Diet B/D formula and a supplement called Senilife which
made a big difference in her ability to focus and be calm. The night pacing and licking stopped.
It was also discovered that Annabelle had severe arthritis in her back for which she would need medication
for the rest of her life and treatments including cold laser for her pain along with special food and
Once Annabelle got some medical attention and she felt better, I was surprised at the amount of energy she
had. Annabelle was like a young pup in an old dog’s body. It was evident she needed an active person in
Asking a foster to keep an older dog until the right home becomes available is not that easy; asking a foster
to keep a dog for almost a year is also difficult. There were so many times that I was ready to give up, but
I knew that Annabelle was worth the investment and she was counting on me to keep her happy and safe
for all those months. I knew that if I did not keep her until the right home came along, things might not
have turned out for her the way they did. Fosters are key to rescue. If a foster agrees to take an older dog
they know that that dog might become a long term guest in the home with all of the attendant issues.
Without foster homes, the whole process fails.
Despite the odds being against her, sweet Annabelle has been adopted by a wonderful family with English
Setter experience. I’m going to miss the old girl like crazy but I’m thrilled that this placement is giving
Annabelle the things that she needs, some of which she could have not gotten with me. She is very happy
in her new home. So, thank you Diane, for opening your heart to my sweet Annabelle.
To forever home…
Annabelle burst through the waiting room door and spied me. The Veterinary Tech, who had
dropped the other end of the leash seconds before, watched as Annabelle padded across the
floor to me. She sat at my feet and looked up, with a question in her eyes. I answered by
leaning in, first to let her sniff, and then to give tentative licks, of my face. It was our first hello.
Bringing a senior dog into my home has been a process of discovery. Unlike adopting a
puppy, which is greatly a journey of teaching, I have found getting to know Annabelle to be
more like making a friend. Annabelle had over 13 years of experiences prior to our meeting
and has a pretty firmly constructed view of the world.
Rather than teaching, I have spent my two shorts months with Annabelle, learning. I ask a lot of questions
and hope my conclusions are correct. It was apparent immediately that Annabelle knows the basics of
cleanliness and manners. Questions such as, what commands does she know and where does she like to
sleep were also answered quickly. Over a series of interactions with dogs and people, I learned she likes
both. Like most of us mature folks, she has some limits and she will let you know them. She is not
aggressive, but she is firm, especially when she is tired.
With a puppy, I would push hard to change some things, but with Annabelle, I accommodate. She let me
know in the first days of my leaving her alone while I went to work, that she did not want to be in the
kitchen. She pushed through the gate I bought, hightailed it for the bathroom and camped out there until I
returned home. Somewhere around the third day of this, I realized she feels safe in the bathroom. She
doesn’t cause any trouble and comes out as soon as I arrive home. So, I asked myself another question,
“If this works, why am I trying to fix it?”
I also know that Annabelle enjoys yogurt, and has a great appetite but only when well exercised. She LOVES
riding in the car and it really doesn’t matter if you go anywhere, she just likes the ride. She enjoys having
her belly rubbed but she is very tentative about it. I only do it when she asks and I am very gentle. When I
am home, Annabelle wants always to be with me. She loves to sleep in my lap or by my side. She thinks we
get up at a ridiculous hour in the morning. Consequently, she would like us to go to bed around 7:30pm.
My favorite answer to my favorite question has been this one: Will Annabelle, at 13 plus,
like running and hiking with me? The answer has been a resounding yes. I was resolved to take this slowly
and go at her pace. Lucky for me, I have had trouble keeping up with her! As I write this, she is lying beside
me, napping after this morning’s two-hour hike. My questions have now moved up Malsow’s Needs
Hierarchy. Today I am asking things like this, “What new experiences can I provide for her?” and, “I wonder
if she knows how to swim?”
If the fates are kind, I will undoubtedly take more puppies into my home. I will also make room for more
friends like Annabelle. There is joy in both the teaching and the learning. Puppies bring us the magic of their
youth and the joy of watching their discovery of the world. Older dogs bring us a fully formed self, a product
of their unique history and they offer us a challenge. Can we allow for that history and provide them a future?
If we are able, this joy is at least as deep, and perhaps wider.
George “Bird” Evans, the famous upland hunter, writer and illustrator, said this about old dogs. It pulls at my
heart every time...
“There is time, and you must take it, to lay your hand on your dog’s head as you walk past him lying on the
floor or on his settle, time to talk with him, to remember with him, time to please him, time you can’t buy
back once he’s gone.” George “Bird” Evans