Sadie’s Valentine Angel


Kathleene Baker has allowed us to share a favorite Valentine’s Day memory, based on an event in her life that she will never forget.

“I was finishing lunch at our local restaurant, when a scruffy, poorly dressed fellow entered and approached the clerk at the counter, apparently asking for some sort of handout. When speaking, he glanced out the front window several times, which motivated me to do the same. He wasn’t alone. He had two companions outside, one a terribly thin dog.

After a few minutes, the man at the table next to mine got up and walked to the counter. “I want to order a couple big broiled chicken breasts for that poor dog out there, and bag up a couple of to-go meals for the dog’s owners.” The chicken was ready before the meals, and the stranger grabbed the chicken and headed outdoors. Being curious, I hustled outside and lingered by my car. The aroma of chicken had the dog’s tail wagging…actually her entire body wagged.

Her new- found friend offered small bites while stroking her lackluster, drab coat. “Her name is Sadie,” said the caregiver. “She’s a real good dog…We found her roaming the streets, and she just kind of took to us. My name is Ed. The guy inside is my brother, Charles.”

Sadie was obviously in need of the chicken she was smelling…I wondered how long it had been since she had enjoyed a full tummy. Then out walked Charles with the to-go meats, and both men got teary-eyed as they expressed thanks. “You know we love Sadie. She is all we have and we try our best to care for her. You know, we took her from the animal shelter because she was pregnant when she found us. They said they would find homes for the puppies, but Sadie was old and wasn’t likely to be adopted. We couldn’t stand to think they might put her down, so we went back and got her. We are a family.”

The generous stranger looked at them, and said, “I’ll make a deal with you. When you can’t feed Sadie, she will have a running tab at this café. All you need to do is tell them that Sadie needs a chicken breast. “ He pulled a card from his pocket, “and I know the managers at the shelter down the street that offers aid to both men and their pets. You go down and give them this card, okay?”

Tears welled up in the eyes of both men, as they knelt and wrapped their arms around the skinny old dog. “And,” continued the stranger, “perhaps they can help you until you get on your feet again.. I will be getting reports from the folks who work there, They’ll be watching out for all three of you.”

I climbed into my car and dried my eyes as I watched the benefactor walk back inside, where, through the window, I good see him speaking with the manager, who was nodding his head, and shaking hands with Sadie’s Valentine Angel.

May the spirit of love and compassion make you someone’s Valentine angel.

An Almost Irreplaceable Bond

Most of us consider our dogs to be members of our families, and our goal is to make sure they are as happy and healthy as possible throughout their lives. Too quickly they pass through puppyhood, adult hood, and become seniors. Dr Michel Selmer, DVM, offers specific suggestions that pet caregivers should do to make life easier for their aging dogs:

  • If your dog is more than six years old, schedule a complete exam at least twice a year, in hope that any problem will be discovered early. The exam should include a complete physical exam, blood test, urinalysis, nutritional analysis, and fecal testing for parasites.
  • Better bed….they make special orthopedic beds where dogs can relax and be more comfortable.
  • Exercise, but less intensity! Keep a senior dog moving because movement helps lubricate the joints and maintain muscle mass.
  • Handicap accessibility. Jumping up gets harder as dogs age….Build or purchase a ramp or steps to make it easier…..and they have ramps for the car as well as the home.
  • Many homes have hardwood floors or slippery tiles. Be aware that a slip and fall can be just as much a safety hazard for your aging dog as it is for humans,.
  • Elevate the food bowls. Raising the food bowls make it easier for her to eat and swallow foods.

The reality is that our beloved dog usually leaves us too soon, as Valsa George explains:

“Out through the window of his lonely cottage the man vacantly gazes; his eyes wandering over the dew dampened meadows and the sloping paths. Over them, how many times, he had rambled with Jack, his spaniel who died a few months earlier. Never before had he felt so lonely, and the memories of his dog haunted him. With nothing much to look forward to now, he is in no hurry to leave his cottage ….there is no one to walk with him. Each day as he sips his tea, he misses his dog. Old memories swirl around in his mind. It is with a wave of deep regret that he recognizes that he is alone. There is no one to care for, and no one to care for him. His world is so cold and he feels so lost. Once his dog shared his board, and owned his bed. How he misses him…with mist blurring his eyes and with a sigh, the man once more looks into the meadows for away.”

Every day, amazing dogs leave us.. We pay special tribute to two: Tyler was one of 6 abandoned ditch puppies who were brought to the TLC in 2003….. he was soon adopted by his forever family, Lee and Karen Kraemer. Tyler traveled the country, enjoying family and friends wherever they went. We were eagerly looking forward to their yearly visit to the shelter this fall, but Tyler, a much loved and pampered fellow was old and tired, and we mourn his loss.

We met John Adams, manager of the awesome Hearts United For Animals Rescue in Nebraska, years ago when we assisted in a puppy mill rescue. In late August of 2005, John and a host of volunteers journeyed into the treacherous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. What they encountered was unimaginable. John and the HUA crew pulled dogs from flood waters, abandoned homes, rotting piles of debris, and even rooftops. The conditions were incredibly dangerous and heartbreaking for all. HUA transported more than 100 dogs from the wreckage of Katrina back to the HUA shelter. Eartha was one of them. Eartha stole John’s heart and she became his best friend in the world, and it was decided that she should live for him forever. Over the years, Eartha left her mark in many ways…she won many ribbons at agility meets, but most importantly, she traveled with John and spent many hours on the road while they rescued dogs from puppy mills and hoarding situations. She had a special way with those so sick and frightened. A couple weeks ago this amazing dog—whose mysterious connection with her beloved human John and her ability to communicate with and calm some of the most troubled of animals, earned her angel wings. Brave, beautiful, silver-muzzled, Eartha had just grown too tired. John instinctively knew that his precious dog was saying, “I came. I left my mark! Dad, it’s time to move forward.”

Old dogs: their affection is timeless; their devotion is ageless; their love is unconditional. Blessed is the person who has the love of an old dog.

A Tribute to Old Dogs

Older dogs, like fine wine, only get better with time. Gene Weingarten, in his book, Old Dogs are the Best Dogs, explains that “Old dogs can be cloudy-eyed, gray of muzzle, graceless of gait, eccentric of habit, hard of hearing, wheezy, lazy, and lumpy, but to anyone who has ever loved an old dog, these things are of little consequence. There is something special about older dogs.” Older dogs enjoy the simple things: a gentle stroke on the head, a soft bed, a kind word. They offer unconditional love and loyalty. If you are not privileged to have an older dog in your own family, reach out to a lonely senior dog and make life better for him. Perhaps a neighbor or friend’s dog could use a little attention, or visit your local shelter, and you will find needy dogs who will appreciate any bit of attention that you offer them. As they share their beauty, dignity, and character with you, you will realize that old dogs are indeed the best dogs.

Dave Lucas, winner of the 2012 Ohioana Book Award For Poetry, and recently appointed second Poet Laureate of the state of Ohio, shares his thoughts on what it is to love an old dog:

“For 15 years I loved a hard-luck mongrel mix that I brought home from the pound where he’d lived most of his first year in the world. He kept at my heels through my twenties and thirties. As my own youth ended, I watched him grow old, rickety and lethargic , deaf, and half blind …

There were good days and bad days, until the bad became the new good days, with worse ones ahead. He could no longer even wag his tail. I admired the nobility in how he would bow in his weak legs to stand, how they would shake. That the vet said this was normal made it no easier to watch. Dogs make do. They do what they can, or, when they can’t, they look to us. Let me not be maudlin….this dog did not save my life, but there were times in those years when my sorrow was such that the only solace for it was to bury my face in his fur. Walt Whitman, in his “ Song of Myself #32, explains:

They do not sweat and whine about their condition;

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins…

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented, with the mania of owning things.”

What is there to say of the end? It was as I had imagined, but worse, because it was real. I gathered him into my arms in a blanket and carried him to the car. When the time came, I leaned down close to him, put my face on his long face, and since I did not know what to say, I said” It’s okay, it’s okay, you are a good dog, you are my boy.” The words weren’t right but they didn’t matter. The last gift you give to your old friend is to stay with them until they sleep. Their last gift to you is that sometimes in your own sleep you see them again. In mine, he comes to me with his tail sweeping a slow arc, back and forth, resting his chin on your knee. I bend my face toward his. I speak some secret nonsense, I scratch around his ears.”

Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog!


Old Dogs are the Best Dogs

It is always time to celebrate senior pets, but November is National Senior Pet Month, and animal welfare groups stress the importance of acknowledging, embracing, and truly celebrating our mature pets. As Doris Day explains, “Puppies are wonderful…romping and playing, tearing up things, chewing on furniture. Then they bond with you, and you learn that they are capable of giving unconditional love. No matter what happens, they are always there for you, through joy and sorrow, sickness and health, loneliness and despair. And when the years have taken their toll and they can no longer romp and play, they continue to give you all the love in their hearts…they deserve every bit of love and care that we can offer, for they have given their all to us Old dogs are grateful, devoted, and very faithful, and have earned our respect.”

Too often, older pets are viewed as disposable due to medical challenges, changing family situations, or simply because they’re not as much fun as they once were. There’s nothing sadder than senior pets who spend years with a family, and then find themselves homeless or in shelters, frightened and confused, where they are usually passed over by potential adopters who want a younger dog. The truth is that older dogs often have the perfect traits that people are looking for—they are quiet, calm, housebroken, and affectionate. They are true treasures!

A GRAND OLD MAN by Jeri Chrysong

My friend, I remember our earlier walks when you, in your youth, strained at the leash. I marveled at how a creature could walk so powerfully while simultaneously being choked to death by his collar. Today we walk together in the silence of great companions, my pace slower now to match your own, the leash of long ago abandoned. Your playful antics as a pup made me laugh. Your exuberant diligence as a watchdog in your middle years comforted me because I knew you would hear and alert me to every sound. I slept peacefully for many years. The realization that you have aged more quickly than I puzzles me..I am still middle-aged, yet you’ve entered your golden years without fanfare or much notice. You are a grand old man, and you are my best friend. Now, old boy, it’s your turn to lie in the sun and relax. Let me take watchful care of you and tend to your needs. Fear not that you have lost your usefulness, for when you look at me, still in trust and undeserved adoration, I find unconditional love and I am reminded to be a better person.

If you are blessed to have an older dog in your family, there are things that you can do to make life a little easier for your aging best friend:

  • Slippery hardwood floors can be difficult to navigate for aging pets. Non-slip rugs can ensure your pet has better traction when venturing around the house.
  • If your senior companion is losing her eyesight, it is important to keep clutter off the floors. Make sure there are clear pathways from your pet’s lounging spots to her food and water dishes. Keep her toys in the same place so they are easier to find.
  • Chances are, your older dog has some degree of joint pain. Make sure he has an extra comfortable place to rest those achy joints.
  • If your dog has trouble jumping into the car or up into his favorite chair, a ramp is an easy solution.
  • If you are not privileged to have an older dog in your own family, reach out to a lonely senior dog and make life better for him. Perhaps a neighbor or friend’s dog could use a little attention, or visit your local shelter, and you will find needy dogs who will appreciate any bit of attention that you offer them. As they share their beauty, dignity, and character with you, you will realize that old dogs are indeed the best dogs.

He is your friend, your partner, your defender—your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.


Senior Dogs

Animal Welfare Groups around the country salute our senior dogs during the month of November with National Senior Pet Month, but actually it is always time to celebrate our older dogs. One of my very favorite books is Gene Weingarten’s Old Dogs Are the Best Dogs, a collection of profiles and awesome photos revealing the unique appeal of man’s best friend in his last and best years. The book is a tribute to every dog who has made it to that time in life when the eyesight and hearing begin to go, when the step becomes uncertain, but when a dog attains a special sort of dignity and charm all his own. If you have ever been blessed by the company of an old dog, you will recognize him in this book. It would make the perfect gift…for yourself or someone else.

Another book that offers a loving tribute to our senior best friends is Beautiful Old Dogs, edited by David Tabatsky with photographs by Garry Gross, who writes, “ I think we need to have a change of mind, a change of heart, so that we can look at faces that are old, and actually see the beauty of them, not just dogs, but also humans. The dogs in this book are beautiful …they have love and compassion and are willing to give it to anybody who takes care of them…They’re faithful and they’re dedicated. It is my great hope that all of you will see the beauty in these senior dogs as deeply as I do. The older the better…dogs with soul in their eyes.” This book also includes a section listing resources for those who would like to get involved with senior dogs. Every dog lover needs a copy of this book…and it would make a great gift!

I sometimes feel like our TLC Canine Center is a Senior Citizen Center….we have quite a few older residents…there through no fault of their own…a death or an illness or sometimes just because they are old. These dogs have stories to tell…often sad stories, and all shelters and rescue groups have older dogs that are often passed by just because of their age. Most potential adopters are looking for a cute, cuddly puppy, and fail to see the wonderfulness of the older ones.

An Old Dog’s Lament

I’m sorry I’m not cute anymore. I’m sorry I got all big and old and you got tired of me.

I’m sorry you don’t have time to play with me, and think I’m more trouble than I’m worth.

It must be my fault that things turned out this way. Please forgive me.

Please tell me how to be cute again. Please don’t throw me away.

I am more tired than I used to be and I sleep a bit more.

I don’t see or hear as well, but what did I do wrong?

My human family I have been with for so many years is gone.

Here at the shelter, potential adopters pass right by me, pausing to let out a sigh,

“Too old… too worn…we want a puppy who will run and play, not one who limps.”

It must be my fault that things turned out this way. Please forgive me.

What did I do wrong?

—author unknown.

Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way that its animals are treated. I believe, we can tell even more by the way the older animals are treated. In today’s throw-away society, it seems that little thought is given to preservation or conservation , and little patience is applied to making possessions or relationships last. If it’s old or broken, obsolete or unattractive, just put it on the trash heap. Old dogs are truly the best dogs, and we urge you to get involved in helping these precious animals, maybe neighborhood dogs would enjoy some extra attention, or volunteer at your local shelter to visit older dogs, play with them, and get to know them. You will soon find yourself in love  Old dogs are devoted, grateful, and very faithful. You may even decide to take one home with you. We promise you will never regret loving an older dog.