Best friends at Best Friends: A real dynamic doggy duo

Winter and Abbott the dogs inside with a bucket and raised bed in the background
Meet Abbott and Winter, a couple of sweet senior dogs with a surprising past.
By Sarah Thornton

If we were casting Abbott and Winter in a sitcom, they’d be the unsuspectingly sweet older neighbors who were rebels in high school. They’ve been together through thick and thin, and through their adventures — plus time and experience — they’ve mellowed into buddies enjoying a slower pace these days. And they definitely have a Breakfast Club story to tell.

For these two senior dogs, that story starts just before they each arrived at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

The city girl and the mysterious stranger

At 2 years old, Winter had landed in a shelter in Los Angeles, and she was having a hard time. The hustle and bustle of dogs and people had her fur standing on end. She reacted defensively to anyone she didn’t know approaching her. Her behavior was overwhelming for potential adopters and staff alike.

What she needed was somewhere quiet to unwind and time to be understood. Best Friends’ goal is for all shelters across the country to reach no-kill in 2025, and collaborating with shelters and rescue organizations to take in pets who need extra care and understanding before being placed in new homes is just one of the ways we work together toward that shared goal.

Dogtown, at the Sanctuary, was just what the veterinarian ordered. Winter had space to stretch out and the wide-open sky above her, the din of the city a distant memory. Her caregivers took their time getting to know her, figuring out how to approach her in ways that she felt comfortable with and building solid relationships.

[The right roommate helps calm anxious dog]

And then a new dog blew onto the scene.

Abbott’s past was a mystery. He’d shown up at a house just under an hour away from the Sanctuary, but he didn’t get along with the resident pooch and needed a safe place to go. When efforts to find and return him to his family turned up no leads, the Sanctuary became his home-between-homes. Abbott had similar behavioral needs as Winter. He would bark and lunge at people, especially when he was on a leash, and he needed the same gentle patience to start warming up to people. He also wasn’t a fan of other dogs — with one notable exception.

When Abbott and Winter met, it was friendship at first sight. It was like the two had known each other their whole lives.

The growing-up montage

For a while, because of their tricky behavior and the relationship building needed to get invited to Abbott and Winter’s hangouts, the friends’ social circle was limited to staff members. They did adore their human friends though, and according to caregiver Tom Williams, they were quite the adventuresome duo when he first met them.

Dogtown staff would take them for long walks off-trail out in the woods, trekking up the side of hills and buttes and exploring various places. “I’ve taken them water hiking through a slot canyon,” Tom says. “I've taken them on a sleepover to a cottage with me on a couple of occasions.”

After a day of exploring, Abbott and Winter could collapse into a cuddle on their bed, tucked comfortably together for a long nap. Their easy companionship made everything that much smoother. Their friendship with each other and their caregivers — as well as the good old-fashioned passage of time — was mellowing.

Abbott and Winter got plenty of practice interacting with people through their caregivers, and when it was time to open up their friends list for newcomers, they were old pros at it.

Golden friends to their golden years

Things have slowed down a bit since Abbott and Winter first met. Abbott’s developed a heart condition that means his activity needs to be limited, and he can’t go too high up in altitude — so no long mountain hikes these days. That suits his gray-muzzled buddy just fine though. Winter’s still got a prance in her step that her caregivers affectionately refer to as her “whippet dressage,” but it’s a slow, stop-and-smell-the-bushes kind of prance. Of course, whatever Winter stops to sniff, Abbott has to get a noseful of, too.

But even if the big adventures have slowed down, their personalities are as bright as ever. “They're still just so sweet and affectionate and interested,” Tom says with a smile. “Whenever I go in their run, it’s always: ‘What's going on? What are we doing? Do you have food with you this time? Are we going for a walk? Are we going for a car ride? What are we doing?’”

[A most joyful doggy duo]

They delight in their dog park days and are both perfect passengers for car rides. They have more friends than ever before. Abbott, Winter, and their caregivers have an easy routine that allows them to meet volunteers and visitors without a fuss (hint: treats are half the trick), and they’re always down for a leisurely stroll with a new acquaintance.

Fingers are crossed that their series finale includes going home with families who love them (either together or they could take their own roads). But no matter what, the friendship between them has made their whole story, and their lives, that much more joyful.

Let's make every shelter and every community no-kill by 2025

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill by 2025. No-kill means saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved, accounting for community safety and good quality of life for pets. 

Shelter staff can’t do it alone. Saving animals in shelters is everyone’s responsibility, and it takes support and participation from the community. No-kill is possible when we work together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively.

Silhouette of two dogs, cat and kitten

You can help save homeless pets

You can help end the killing in shelters and save the lives of homeless pets when you foster, adopt, and advocate for the dogs and cats who need it most.

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