June 4, 2014.
That was the day that I met Sara.
I had just arrived at the dog shelter for my lunch time volunteering. The dog warden was located less than five minutes from my office, so I spent what time I could volunteering at the shelter in exchange for my hour long break to eat. I had been going there for awhile at this point and had my routine down pretty solidly. I would walk in, walking down the line of kennels to say hi to each face – new and old, figuring out who I was going to spend time with. I usually leaned towards the ones who had been there awhile or the ones who looked scared or old. I had learned that most people would automatically play with the puppies or younger dogs, the ones with more energy and more open personalities. It was the sad eyes, the old eyes that drew me in. I was unable to take them home with me, so I wanted to do what I could to help them while I was there, whether it was take them for a walk or just sit in their kennel, holding them.
As I approached the second to last kennel, I noticed the paperwork on the clipboard and thought “new dog”and automatically my “hi puppy” rolled off my tongue as I kept up my stride to the last dog. But before I made it, my eyes locked with the saddest, droopiest eyes I had seen in awhile. They grazed over the dog’s body, noting the color, the size and then up to the paper to see her age. “You look just like my Hoss…” I whispered, as I lowered to my knees, reaching my fingers through her kennel. She sniffed them, and then allowed me to pet her muzzle.
Unable to help myself, I slipped into her kennel to sit with her. Usually I would read the paperwork to make sure that was okay, but there was just something….different about this one. She needed me. I rubbed her belly and talked to her and just held her and before I knew it, my hour was up.It took everything I had to pull myself away from her, promising that I would be back soon.
I glanced over her paperwork — Sara, Beagle x Rottie, female, 10 years old, owner surrender.
Owner surrender?! On a 10 year old dog? What had she’d done?
Turns out she had done absolutely nothing, and they simply did not want her anymore. She didn’t “fit in” with their growing family. Had she bitten someone? No. Had she gotten aggressive towards anyone? No. They just didn’t want her. Actually, they had told the staff they wanted to put her down. When the staff told the owner no, she left her.
Enraged, I returned to work, my mind still on this sweet, old dog. I told my husband about her that night (to which he said something along the lines of “No more dogs, we’re getting ready to move into our brand new house”) and I visited her at lunch the next two days. How could someone be so heartless, not only to dump a dog, but an old dog who they had adopted from another shelter just five years prior? This poor dog had such an uncertain past and had just been tossed around time and again. To make it worse, we all formed suspicions that she had been abused, because she was timid around men and often quick movements scared her.
On Friday, I decided to take Hoss with me to work (benefits of your office being on a horse farm!) and during lunch, I convinced some co-workers to go with us to meet Sara. I was just curious. I just wanted to see if the two dogs would get along like I had pictured in my mind.
They did. Of course. Which just fueled my desire to bring her home with me even more. The shelter staff suggested that maybe I could foster her for the weekend, get her out of the kennel and into a warm, loving house. Just see how she does. I called my husband, proposing this idea. I was shot down. He was getting ready to leave on a trip for the night and despite the fact that he had already told me no earlier in the week, he did not want me bringing this strange dog home while he was out of town.
I was so upset. He just needed to see her to know she was perfect for us, and for Hoss. He ADORED her. What Sara sniffed, Hoss sniffed. If Sara tinkled, Hoss did, too. Dejected, I gave her back to the staff, and they said to just let them know if something were to change. I returned to work and sent the picture of them together to my husband and waited.
About an hour-ish later, he called. “They do look alike. Do they get along?”
“Oh yes! Hoss adored her! And she was so good with him.”
“Okay, Ashley, you can take her home. But you’re responsible for anything she does or destroys, you cannot get attached and she must go back on Monday.”
Tears of joy sprung in my eyes. “I promise.”
Immediately, I called the shelter. “Pack her bags, I’m on my way!” I promised Hoss I would be right back, jumped in my truck, and when I pulled in, she was waiting for me. My little Sara. I got her in the truck and took her to the farm, where her and Hoss snuggled for my remaining time at work. Eventually we left for home, the two of them in the back like that was the way it was always supposed to be.
That night, Sara enjoyed an entire couch to herself for awhile, called dibs on Hoss’ bed (he was fine with it, what a gentleman) and was a precious angel the whole time. The next day, we went for a long adventure walk in the park, a car ride, a trip to Tractor Supply and then spent our afternoon on a picnic table at the local winery. She handled every moment in stride.
My husband came home that night, and that was the first time I saw first hand how skittish she was around men. She barked at him, which made him a little sad, telling me he was uncertain about this dog and that she did not like him. But when Sunday night came around and I was begrudgingly packing up her stuff, he told me that she could stay another night. And then another. And then one more.
By Wednesday night, I told him that we needed to take her back if we were not adopting her. He said, “No one will want an old dog,” to which I replied “Maybe, maybe not. But if that one person who does want an old dog comes in and she is not there, then that is not fair to her.” It was while we were talking in to Home Depot, to buy things for our new house, that we had this discussion. It was then we struck a deal.
I got to keep Sara, and he would be allowed to buy a boat. SOLD.
On June 11, 2014, it was official. Sara was ours.
Fast forward to current day, March 24, 2017. Sarabelle/Sarbear/Bear/Peanut, whichever name you want to call her, will be 13 this year. We have her birthday as the day we adopted her. She looks older now, grey around her muzzle and sprinkled throughout her coat. She has a few lumps and bumps, most of them do not bother her much. She puts Hoss in his place when she needs to, she plays with him outside (as much as she knows how – when we got her she did not know what toys were or how to truly play with other dogs) and sometimes she even runs. She loves car rides and it does not matter how cold it is out, she wants to have her head out the window. She enjoys laying outside in the summer time watching the world go by or allowing the wind to blow through her ears. She lets us know when she wants to be pet or cuddled or even put on the couch or bed. She is so incredibly special.
When we adopted her, we both said we just wanted to give her a good life, for the remainder of her life. Regardless if it was a year, or five, or more, we would spoil her rotten and give her everything that she should have had all those other years. She has two beds (three, if you count Hoss’), gets basically all the treats that she wants and is never denied a belly rub.
Most days, she is doing pretty good. She gets around, she runs outside or barks to let nearby dogs know that she is the queen. But some days are harder than others, where she is just a little slower to get up, a little more out of tune with her surroundings or where it seems like her bumps do hurt her because she limps. Today is one of those days. She has been limping for most of the day, and she knows that she should not be walking around if not needed, so she has been laying down. Surprisingly, near me, which is also a new thing for her. Unlike Hoss, she very rarely seeks the company of humans. It breaks my heart.
At the end of the day though, come what may. She taught Hoss how to be more of a dog, and he taught her how to be more human, and she taught all of us so many things, but more than anything, that senior dogs deserve the world.