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Joy in adopting a senior dog

By Pat Johnson

Published 1:15 PST, Fri January 10, 2020

Wendy Peaker knew her relationship with Puddy would not be a long one. But it was a deeply loving one. She and her husband Tim adopted Puddy when the Maltipoo was probably about 10 years old. He had lost his elderly man in a fire that Puddy managed to survive. He came to the RAPS City of Richmond Animal Shelter in pretty bad shape.

“He'd been in a fire and he looked a bit goofy,” Wendy recalls. “He was old — or older than most people adopt. But we had also just lost our previous dog a few months earlier and I'm looking in the backyard and thinking the backyard needs a dog. So when we saw Puddy we thought, we're used to having an old dog, so this is good.”

His name was actually Putz, but Wendy changed it partly because of her affection for the goofy Seinfeld character.

It was only about a year after Puddy came to his new home that the first signs emerged of what was probably lung cancer. He was becoming more wobbly and the effects of cataracts also affected him. 

There are a lot of people who would hesitate to adopt an elderly dog. The pain of the inevitable loss is certain to come sooner. But Wendy has no regrets.

“I'm a caretaker at heart,” she says. “I loved having the experience of being able to be with him because he needs that.”

Eventually, Puddy passed in December, less than two years after he came to his new home.

“We've had so many good days with him,” she says. At the beginning, she said, Puddy would approach older men, looking to find the one he had lost. “Then he realized that he was with us and he started being way more joyful.”

Coming from a townhouse, it took Puddy a while to realize that the enormous backyard at the new house was all for him. 

“But after three or four months he thought, OK, this is my yard, I'm going to go check it out.”

Puddy was an outgoing dog who loved people and other dogs, a sharp difference from Wendy and Tim’s previous dog, who was very reactive, which could make walks tense.

Puddy was totally the opposite, she says, a calm, beautiful soul. 

“He's been a super dog,” says Wendy. “He taught us to trust dogs again, to be able to relax on a walk.”

“We've had pets all of our lives and we've had to say goodbye to a lot of them,” she reflects. “We always do a little ceremony at the end. It's a precious thing that we get to share our lives with them. And I'm always heartened by how many people reach out when your pet’s going or has gone. People want to comfort you. It's really, really nice.”

In so many jurisdictions, a dog like Puddy wouldn’t have got a second choice. Because RAPS is a no-kill animal-serving organization, we ensure that even difficult-to-home animals live out their lives as happily as possible. This is possible only because of families like Wendy’s that we can keep this promise. But Wendy doesn’t see it as a one-way street. The joy she and Tim got from their short time with Puddy was worth it.

“He's just brought so much joy to us and even though it's only been a couple of years, I love him,” she says. “He filled a spot in my backyard and in my heart.”

Pat Johnson is communications manager for the Regional Animal Protection Society.

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