Paws for a Moment by Bonny Corbeil

Adopting Senior Animals

It is with both sadness and deep appreciation that I said so long to a dear furry companion, China, recently.


Miss China died on May 11 before I was to leave on vacation. She was a senior member of our household and the Shih Tzu canine, right, in this picture. As with most losses, there is opportunity to emotionally reflect.


Of course, choosing to help animals in need is rarely done out of practicality, as many of us will concede. We just do our best to do the right thing.


I remember my first interaction with Miss China. It was four years ago, when a former ACC shelter manager called me crying, with deep sorrow because she felt she had failed to find a home for a senior dog whose owner had no choice but to give her up. I had no intention of getting another dog — especially one who was blind and old and in need of regular medical attention.


The ACC board had just discussed and written policies to address ACC shelter over-population. We decided that sick and old animals which were the least likely to be adopted, had to be reconsidered in comparison to the many other animal needs and shelter limitations. It was an emotional issue that left many of us uneasy.

Heart-wrenching Issues

Of course, these are the usual heart-wrenching issues that animal lovers and supporters constantly struggle with. As a board member, my intent was to support and comfort this worker and remind her of the realities. This intellectual approach quickly turned emotional.


Our dog runs were filled to over-capacity with three or four pit bulls barking and yelping. In the corner, in a crate, sat an old, blind dog shivering with fright! Perhaps her being part Shih Tzu breed immediately connected me to her as I had three previous dogs of this kind. I picked her up to comfort her fears. I learned of her history. 


China had had a series of abusive homes. She hid a lot. Being afraid had become a part of her nature. Interestingly, I had recently turned the big five-o so had many “fear issues” about getting old myself. Could I let an old dog like this, live out her last days in this way? My heart said “no.”


I offered to take her home for the weekend because there was no room at the ACC; however, knowing myself, I had a sense we would bond. We did. It only took a weekend. This darling old dog was incredibly responsive to love and patience. It took awhile for her to come out from under the house — it was a familiar pattern for her to hide from people and other animals! Fear reigned. She seemed always ready to be hit. 


After some time, she seemed to reassess her situation. She developed an adorable habit of rolling on her back and flicking her long tongue, as if sending out kisses, in hopes that the “cuteness” would be to her benefit and cease any potential abuse.


In a matter of a few long months, she realized that she had a real home, with both animals and humans who loved and accepted her for both her blindness and old age. That was when this old dog turned back into a puppy! Her confidence grew and she started barking ferociously to let us know when there were visitors. (Of course, she ran and hid after doing her job, yet that too was endearing). 


China even learned to “dance for her supper” and get excited about her daily walks. Her turn-about interest in life emerged strongly. The power of love is so clearly demonstrated in our interactions with animals, especially those we rescue. China gave me so much more back than I gave her. 


She is buried on my property with a pretty pot of flowers. She lives in my memory as a dear and sweet furry friend, reminding me of the power of love. I hope that others will consider adopting “senior dogs.” They can be ideal pets in your life for companionship. I am so grateful that I did.


Apologies are in order from me to those I neglected to mention in my “Waga Thank You” column: A.J. from St. John Ice (who always supports any and all community events), St. John Rescue, Tom Shirey and Michael Beason. Your help was truly appreciated! Thank you so much.