Nothing but love for a senior Chihuahua

Best Friends in New York works collaboratively with city shelters, local animal welfare organizations and individuals to save the lives of pets in shelters in New York City and the surrounding tri-state area. As part of this work, Best Friends has a national lifesaving concept space and pet adoption center in SoHo, hosts adoption and fundraising events, and runs a foster program in partnership with Animal Care Centers of New York City. Together, we will Save Them All.

Griff, a senior Chihuahua, was recently adopted from the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in New York City, and today he shares a home with two fellow Chihuahuas and two cats, including one who likes to playfully bop him on the muzzle from time to time.

It’s a full house, but Griff doesn’t mind. He’s just happy to be in a home where he’s considered a part of the family.

When Vanessa found out that Griff had all sorts of medical issues, including a painful one that affects his spine, she didn’t mind. She was just happy knowing she’d be able to fill the rest of his life with comfort and happiness.

“With old dogs like Griff, all they really want is love,” says Vanessa. “We’re trying to give him a good life while we can.”

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Looking past a senior dog’s medical issues

Griff the senior Chihuahua wearing a sweater and looking out over some water with blue sky and clouds behind him

Griff’s journey to his new home with Vanessa, her boyfriend Josiah and new four-legged friends began when he was brought to the adoption center after being surrendered to Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC). Many of the dogs at the center are from ACC, where it would have been a challenge for a dog like Griff with so many medical issues to find a home.

Griff had a lot going on inside his little body. He had kidney and liver problems, heart disease and a history of seizures. He also has degenerative disc disease, which means he doesn’t want to be petted when his spine is sensitive.

At the Best Friends center, Griff not only received care and attention from the medical team, but he was surrounded by volunteers and staff who saw beyond his aches and pains to what was still possible for him ― namely, a life with a loving family.  

Because Griff had so many issues, the staff knew a foster home would do his body, mind and spirit good while he waited for his home. And he was in luck, because there was room at Kirstin Burdett and her boyfriend Kevin’s place.

A dog’s personality unfolds in a foster home

Woman holding Griff the senior Chihuahua in front of some water and building of New York City

Griff’s a naturally happy dog, but the adoption center was bit too much for this little senior to handle with all his medical needs. He needed quiet time and some personal space, which he found at his foster home. “On the first day, he was rolling around and sprinting up and down the hallway,” says Kirstin, who is the community programs and events manager for Best Friends in New York. “We could really see his personality then.”

To keep the good vibes going, Kirstin and Kevin met Griff where he was in life. They didn’t try to make him adjust to theirs. Instead, they adjusted to his. For example, Griff has different levels of comfort with people. He found it easy to let Kirstin touch him when he was relaxed and lying down, but Kevin had to wait until Griff was sitting to pet him or pick him up.

They watched Griff’s movements and mannerisms closely to gauge how he was feeling, so they didn’t touch him when his spine was sensitive. “We spent time learning his language,” says Kirstin.

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One very special adopter is all it takes

Griff the senior Chihuahua wearing a red bow tie with white polka dots

With Griff flourishing in his foster home, Kirstin knew he was ready to meet his new family. It would take someone very special, though.

“Lots of people in New York City want to adopt small dogs,” says Kirstin, who talked to several people looking for a dog like Griff. “They’d be excited at first,” says Kirstin. “But then they’d hear about Griff’s health issues and I’d watch the excitement leave their faces.”

Then one day Kirstin met Vanessa, who had come to the center looking for another Chihuahua to join her family. This time when Kirstin explained Griff’s challenges, the smile that Vanessa walked in with remained. In fact, the more she heard about Griff, the more she wanted to meet him.

Griff finds a home

Griff the senior Chihuahua lying on a person's lap with his eyes slightly closed

Kirstin, along with Peter Vega (a volunteer who helps with the center’s most special-needs dogs) brought Griff to see Vanessa and Josiah’s place. At first, Griff barked defensively at Vanessa’s two Chihuahuas, but Peter encouraged everyone to be patient. Sure enough, after a few minutes of barking, Griff had two new friends. It was clear he was going to be just fine at Vanessa’s home.

Older dog, newest family member

Griff the senior Chihuahua with multiple colored pillows behind him

Like Kirstin and Kevin, the daily routine for Vanessa and Josiah has been adjusted to make sure Griff has everything he needs to feel comfortable and content. They placed a dog bed in every room, baby gates in the stairwells so he can’t tumble down stairs, and potty pads around the house in case he as an accident. If Vanessa is late coming home, Griff lets her know it. “He’s grumpy sometimes,” she says. “He lets us know if we’ve kept him waiting.”

Still, Vanessa wouldn’t have it any other way. Griff is a part of the family now, and in families, love is unconditional.

About every two weeks, Vanessa sends Kirstin an update and a photo of Griff. “It makes me feel emotional, but in a good way,” says Kirstin. “Griff was a little harder to get adopted but seeing how much he’s loved makes it all worth it.”

Griff the senior Chihuahua wearing a sweater and looking out over a lake from the shore

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Photos courtesy of Kirstin Burdett and Vanessa Monroy