Adopted dog’s health problems no match for his family’s love

It was October of 2015 when Digby went on a sleepover that would change his life. The senior dog had a few health challenges, but he had always remained happy, and he was a favorite among people who knew him. Dogtown volunteers Jamie Kelley and Jake Weller met Digby when they signed up to take a dog on a sleepover and fell in love on the spot. “He’s just a cool, relaxed and chill dog,” says Jamie. “He’s very much our speed,” says Jake. “He’s just the nicest, sweetest dog.”

Despite how smitten they were, the couple would wait nearly a year and a half before bringing Digby home. That’s because they were renting an apartment in Seattle and couldn’t adopt another pet. So, what did they do? They bought a house with a nice yard, and then brought Digby home.

Digby is now part of a family that includes five other rescued senior animals — four cats and a little Chihuahua named Hot Toddy. And he occupies a big spot at the center of Jamie and Jake’s world. There’s nothing they won’t do to keep him happy and healthy, and that includes taking him on an epic road trip to visit some his favorite people at Best Friends.

Digby is now part of a family that includes five other rescued senior animals — four cats and a little Chihuahua named Hot Toddy

Adopting a senior dog with special needs

As long as Digby the dog is comfortable and happy, they’ll do whatever it takes to keep him that way​Digby was already nine years old and had some special needs when Jamie and Jake adopted him. At the Sanctuary, Digby was prescribed medication to help control dog seizures, as well as a type of canine lupus, the latter an autoimmune disease that causes sores on the bridge of his nose and around his eyes. But Digby’s medical challenges didn’t bother Jamie and Jake, and since his adoption, the couple has dealt with the sweet dog’s new medical issues with the same can-do attitude.

As long as Digby is comfortable and happy, they’ll do whatever it takes to keep him that way.

It helps that Jamie works for a pet insurance company that not only assists employees with pet medical expenses, but also gives workers the freedom to bring their pets to work. These perks turned out to be just what Digby needed, because a few months after landing his dream home, Digby faced even more new health challenges.

First it was a dog neurological disorder that made it hard for him to climb stairs and get around. But Digby still had a lot of living to do, and acupuncture and hydrotherapy helped keep him feeling good and able to move around comfortably. And then in June, Digby had surgery for what vets first thought was an abscess in his mouth but turned out to be something much more serious — fibrosarcoma cancer. The vets predicted he’d have only five to seven months more to live.

Learn more about caring for senior dogs

Dog chemotherapy treatments

Jamie and Jake didn’t despair. Instead, for four consecutive weeks they drove their beloved Digby to Washington State University for chemotherapy treatments. Though the long treks and treatments have been hard on the whole family, they’ve bought Digby more time.

During his last checkup in December, Digby looked and felt great, and his prognosis was more hopeful. But merely giving Digby more time isn’t enough for Jamie and Jake. “Our goal is to give him the best life possible, and to do as much with him and for him, as long as we can,” Jake says. So, they began planning something really special.

Digby the dog's family's goal is to give him the best life possible

A road trip for a dog

Back at the Sanctuary, Digby still had lots of admirers, including his caregivers at Dogtown and Kris Dooley in human resources. Jamie and Jake thought Digby might like to visit the Sanctuary to see Kris and some of his Dogtown friends again. That meant a road trip from Seattle, Washington, to Kanab, Utah — a drive that takes nearly 18 hours one way.

Jamie and Jake thought Digby might like to visit the Sanctuary to see Kris and some of his Dogtown friends again

Since car rides are one of Digby’s favorite things and he uses travel time to catch up on his naps, this was no problem. It was a little more strenuous for his drivers, but Jake says the look on Digby’s when he saw Kris was worth the trip. “We really wanted him to have a reunion with his people here. He knew where he was when we were about two miles away (from the Sanctuary), and he was excited to be here.”

Jake says the look on Digby’s when he saw Kris was worth the trip

No matter what items are added to and crossed off Digby’s bucket list, he’s already been given the best possible gift — a familyThe best possible gift

Digby spent a long, happy day hanging out with Kris and being reunited with his caregivers at Dogtown headquarters. And he was just as happy to see them as they were to see him. “We want to start a bucket list for him, and this was a great start,” Jake says. “If it makes him feel better, we'll take him on some other trips.”

No matter what items are added to and crossed off Digby’s bucket list, he’s already been given the best possible gift — a family that will stop at nothing to give him the best life possible, for however long he is with them.

Help more pets like Digby live a long happy life

Photos courtesy of Jamie Kelley and Jake Weller