Elderly dogs are sadly overlooked during adoptions, but they often still have so much to offer. One woman, for example, gave a senior Chihuahua a home and didn’t realize how much it would change her life. Now she has four, and she even recently welcomed an unlikely member to the pack.
Back in 2011 Julie Docherty from Los Angeles saved a life. The victim in question was a little 11-year-old Chihuahua called MoMo, whose previous owner had surrendered him to a high-kill shelter. And the state he was left in was appalling.
Luckily for the poor pooch, he was soon transferred to California’s Tiny Loving Canines (TLC) rescue center. And that’s where Docherty found him. “My first senior adoption was a happy accident,” she told The Dodo in September 2016. “I discovered MoMo, fell in love with him, and we bonded over his rehabilitation and care.”
Certainly, MoMo was in drastic need of some tender love and care: not only did he have hearing troubles, but he also had to have an eye surgically removed. “I came to realize then how heartbreakingly overlooked this large category of shelter dogs are, and how ideal senior adoption was for me,” Docherty added.
Indeed, Docherty’s experience with MoMo led to her taking in four other senior Chihuahuas: Benito, Linda, Choli Churro and Lalo Flan. They were all rescues: one from Animal Synergy and the two others from TLC. However, Lalo only lived another two and a half years with Docherty before succumbing to cancer.
For the rest, though, Docherty’s house has become a canine retirement home; the youngest dog is aged 13 and the oldest is 16. Together they get through each day with their various ailments, including heart failure, dental problems and arthritis. And though they aren’t in their prime, they do nevertheless have some advantages over younger dogs.
“Things are pretty calm with these four. No hyper, chewing, puppy energy. No need for long walks. With senior pups you never have to nap alone. They sleep. A lot. And have an enormous capacity for love, with an attitude of gratitude,” Docherty told The Dodo.
But not being as active as younger dogs doesn’t mean that they don’t have a lot of personality. On the contrary, in fact: MoMo is a people person, Benito is the most relaxed and Chloe is the funniest. Last but not least, Paloma is the natural leader of the pack. “Each is so unique, but equally entertaining,” Docherty added.
And while, as in any household, they might tease one another sometimes, they’re usually one big happy family. “Paloma and Benito are the closest,” Docherty explained to The Dodo. “Mo tends to like his space. Choli will invite himself [and] flop next to anyone. He especially enjoys tormenting Benito.”
But was the family dynamic about to change? For more than a year, Docherty has been volunteering at LA’s Love My Neighbor Foundation on Skid Row, providing food and clothing for homeless and vulnerable people. And during this time, she fell in love with a little kitten.
The tiny cat was in the arms of a young woman who had just rescued it. “She explained she had just saved the cat from being tossed around in one of the tents (which line the streets as makeshift housing),” Docherty went on to tell The Dodo in October 2016. But the poor thing had no home.
“[The woman] knew she wouldn’t be able to keep it. [She] was asking if any of us knew a rescue where she could take the cat. Not having a game plan in place, but knowing I had to save this kitten that day, I came home with a cat,” Docherty added.
She named the two-and-a-half-week-old kitten Rosita. Of course, at that age the cat needed bottle-feeding and round-the-clock care. And while Docherty was up for the task, there was still one pressing question to be answered: how would her dogs react?
Indeed, even Docherty was apprehensive about whether the Chihuahuas would accept the little cat. But after introducing them all, she realized that she had no reason to worry. “The pups were very inquisitive with her for about five minutes and then totally unfazed,” Docherty recounted.
Still, the Chihuahuas did have to make some adjustments with Rosita around their retirement home. “[Rosita’s] energy level goes from off the charts and then immediately to a nap time, which is much more accepted by the crew,” Docherty explained to The Dodo. Each dog also had their own personal tolerance level for the hyper-kitten mode.
As a former breeder dog, Paloma doesn’t have much patience for a baby anything anymore. As for Benito, he’s still a little shy of the new furry housemate. Of course, at their age the dogs are allowed to be a bit grumpy from time to time. So young Rosita is learning to test her limits as one of the pack.
MoMo has the most patience with the little kitty, though, and has a lot of love to give her. And it’s Choli who keeps Rosita the most entertained. “Choli seemed to be most interested to play, which didn’t really surprise me,” Docherty said. “I’ve always felt he is a bit cat-like himself.”
But despite their clashing energy levels, Rosita fits in with the dogs just like part of the family. She does everything with her new pack, from playing and eating to nap time. And although the living conditions are on a trial basis, things seem to be going very well indeed.
After all, although the Chihuahuas found their furrever home later on in life, they can now finally enjoy their retirements. And Rosita is sure to keep things exciting for them! The dogs’ advanced age, meanwhile, also means that their owner really appreciates each moment she has with them.
“We don’t know how long we have together, but each day we share we see as a gift,” Docherty told The Dodo. Her commitment to helping these senior dogs is commendable – and now all five of them have a lifespring of kitten energy to keep them all on their toes.