As she sat in the shelter, Julep the dog probably couldn’t understand what she’d done wrong. She’d been the perfect pet for 18 years, but after the death of her owner, nobody seemed to want her. So when a man on a motorbike turned up outside her enclosure, her hopes of being adopted appeared slim.
In February 2017 Julep the pit bull mix found herself somewhere she never thought she’d wind up. Yes, at the grand old age of 18, the dog went to live at a shelter, and it was because of the saddest circumstances.
Julep’s family had always loved her very much, but when her owner passed away at the beginning of 2017, she had nowhere to go. Her owner’s family, therefore, took the ageing dog to an animal shelter.
And that’s how Julep ended up at the Humane Rescue Alliance. The shelter in Washington, D.C., has more than 100 years’ worth of experience of helping animals in need. But when Julep arrived there, she instantly became the oldest dog in its care.
“Julep is a sweet girl, who – given her age – is doing pretty well here at our adoption facility,” David M. Smith, the shelter’s communications officer told People. “We’re keeping her spirits up, and she’s getting lots of attention from our staff. But a dog at this age truly needs to be at home where she can get ALL of the attention.”
Despite her old age, though, Julep still had a lust for life. According to an appeal on the Humane Rescue Alliance’s Facebook page in March 2017, all she needed was a “fresh start.” The post went on to reveal that “just a couch to sleep on and a human to love” would suit her fine.
Due to the sad circumstances of the dog’s arrival at the shelter, Julep’s story touched many hearts, and people were keen to help her to find a new owner. Consequently, more than 4,000 social media users soon shared the shelter’s appeal post.
However, despite Julep’s fame and her lovable demeanor, the staff at the shelter weren’t sure Julep would be adopted. “There aren’t as many people looking for senior dogs,” Matt Williams, director of communications at Humane Rescue Alliance, explained to The Dodo. “So, whenever we get a senior dog, it does take them a little while for them to get adopted.”
Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., native Wayne Lerch was also overcoming grief. His beloved pit bull Jasmine had recently passed away after almost 11 years with Lerch, and the loss had left a huge hole in Lerch’s life.
“I had Jasmine for about ten-and-a-half years. She was just such an amazing dog,” Lerch told WUSA in March 2017. “A 60-pound pit bull that thought she was a lapdog. She was probably the hardest dog for me to lose.”
However, it wasn’t long before something online caught Lerch’s eye – the post about Julep needing a loving home. And because of what he read, Lerch decided to arrange a visit to the shelter the very next day.
As Lerch was still processing the loss of Jasmine, though, he needed to think clearly about adopting another dog. So as he traveled to the Humane Rescue Alliance on his motorbike, he told himself not to make any rash decisions. But as soon as he laid eyes on the elderly dog, it was love at first sight.
And with that, Lerch returned home to collect his car. Somehow, despite all the odds, Julep had managed to find a home just one month after arriving at the shelter. What’s more, her happy ending touched the hearts of all those around her.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Alix John Tolley, a spokesperson for Humane Rescue Alliance, told Today in March 2017. “We see a lot of happy endings and try not to get too emotional. But the combination of her age and Wayne’s obvious adoration for his new ‘old lady’ left us in tears.”
Once Lerch got Julep home, he decided to rename her Tootie in honor of his grandmother. And she soon got used to her new name and her new home. According to her owner, her favorite things to do are eat snacks, enjoy long walks and settle down for naps.
Having Tootie around helped Lerch come to terms with Jasmine’s death too. “I thoroughly believe that the right dog shows up at the right time,” he tearfully told WUSA. “I saw a picture of Julep on Facebook and saw that she was here and her story and I had to come see her.”
Now Lerch is determined to give Tootie the best possible life, regardless of how much time they have together. “I know she’s not going to be around for very long, but that’s okay,” he told WUSA. “She deserves to live out the rest of her life in a loving home with somebody who’s going to take care of her and pamper her and make sure that she enjoys the last bit of life she has.”
Luckily for Tootie, then, she has found her happy forever after. However, there are still plenty of senior dogs in shelters up and down the U.S. looking for homes. And it’s hoped Tootie’s story will inspire more adopters to consider older dogs.
“There are many benefits to adopting older dogs or older cats,” Williams explained to The Dodo. “They are out of their puppy stage for sure, and they’re not going to chew on things. They’re probably not going to need as much exercise and aren’t going to be as rambunctious.”
So, there’s no doubt that Tootie will live out her final days experiencing nothing but love and kindness. But for other older dogs in shelters, the future is not so certain. For them, a cozy couch to relax on in their golden years would simply be a dream come true.