Faces of No-Kill: Loving a dog who has limited time

Rosita the dog with her new family, sitting outside on green grass
A senior dog with inoperable cancer, Rosita has her ups and downs — but her family makes sure her tail never stops wagging.
By Sarah Thornton

The Faces of No-Kill series highlights stories about pets who have become a statistic in the best way. These are just a few of the many pets who once slipped into danger; they lost their homes, they had health or behavioral challenges, their families couldn’t care for them, or all the above. But each one of them got assistance, and today they are thriving thanks to an animal shelter program that helped them rather than killed them. Best Friends’ goal is for every animal shelter and every community to reach no-kill by 2025. The story below is just one example of why it’s so important.

It is impossible not to fall in love with Rosita. As far as the charming 12-year-old pooch is concerned, there’s no such thing as strangers — only friends she hasn’t met yet. Her greetings are full of energy, and her full-body wiggles easily turn frowns to giggles. Not to mention her signature pajamas, which really tie the whole show together. Basically, Rosita is the perfect cure for a bad day.

However, even with that energetic, outgoing personality, the senior dog had already spent a few years in the shelter system, and at some point she’d suffered a wound that stretched from her neck to her torso and all the way down to her right front foot, which refused to ever completely heal (hence the pajamas). The odds weren’t exactly in her favor.

So Rosita, in need of time and TLC, landed at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. She wouldn’t stick around long, though, before someone fell in love and took her home at last.

A strong first impression

Rosita’s first few weeks after arriving at the Sanctuary were spent in the clinic. She needed that large, open wound on her side cleaned and treated — and time to rest and recover. And while veterinary staff tended to the injury, Rosita laid on the charm thick. She loved the attention. No matter what was going on, her tail was wagging, and she had a big ole grin on her face, enjoying the medical attention as much as any good belly rub or back scratch.

She ended up with some permanent hair loss around the old wound and one spot that remained open. But when Rosita moved out of the clinic to an office in Dogtown, she was feeling better than she had in a long while. Even so, caregivers and veterinary staff began to suspect there was more going on. They were right.

Rosita was diagnosed with inoperable, terminal bladder cancer. But the super senior didn’t slow down for a second. She didn’t know what any of that meant; she was too busy enjoying every little moment of life.

[Senior dog with medical issues charms new family]

So when Jamie Prewett stepped into Rosita’s office (because, let’s be fair, it was Rosita’s office) for the first time, she was greeted with a blast of enthusiastic tail-wagging and excited wiggling that wouldn’t have been out of place on a pup a decade younger.

Jamie had come to the Sanctuary for a working interview, intent on joining the team to match pets with families and send them on their way to bright, happy futures. And it seemed like Rosita wanted to help her get a head start on that. “I fell in love with her right away,” Jamie says. “It’s nearly impossible not to. Shortly after meeting her, it came to my attention that Rosie is somewhere around 12 years old and has terminal cancer. I was shocked to be honest. That bright, energetic, wildly exuberant dog?”

In the five days that the two spent together at the Sanctuary, Jamie only fell more in love. And as her time was wrapping up, and her return home to California loomed ahead of her, Jamie’s heart was heavy at the thought of saying goodbye. Then, on her last day, a double dose of good news: She’d gotten the job, and it wasn’t going to be goodbye — only “see you later.”

Sleepover guest, here to stay

“When I came back two months later to officially start work, Rosie greeted me as if we’d known each other our whole lives,” Jamie recalls. “I’d like to say this made me feel special, but in all honesty, she greets everyone this way. Every person she has ever met is her best friend.” Of course, that didn’t stop all those warm fuzzy feelings of their first meeting from rushing back. They were reunited, and it felt so good.

It wasn’t long before Jamie decided to bring Rosita home from work with her — just for a little while, as a sleepover guest a couple nights a week. Then, a few more nights a week. Then, eventually, the pair were heading to and from the Sanctuary together every day. And at that point, Jamie thought to herself, she might as well foster Rosita. Just for a little while.

“My wonderful husband is always supportive of my crazy ideas, so he had no oppositions,” Jamie says. “We honestly weren’t sure how she’d fit in with our dogs, cats, and daughter. And while she doesn’t like sharing her things with the dogs, she enjoys their company from a fair distance. I think we were all surprised by how much she ended up loving the cats. One in particular, Smokey, is her best pal. And it was instant love with our 7-year-old human child, too. All Rosie wants to do is smother her with a million kisses.”

[Finding an 80-pound senior dog’s happy place]

The whole family loved Rosita, and Rosita loved them right back. Seeing the happiness they all brought one another, Jamie says it was clear there was no going back. Rosita wouldn’t be spending another night away from home. And this was her home now. For good.

“Some may question why didn’t I just continue to foster her? Why did I feel the need to officially adopt her?” Jamie observes. “Simple — I felt she deserved to have a family of her very own all the way until the very end.

“Of course, cancer is a roller coaster full of ups and downs, good days and bad days. Caring for Rosie through those hurdles is pretty simple. The medications, the wound care, and the doctor’s visits are just a small part of it. Most importantly … we love her, we give her comfort and peace, and we make sure that each day is as good as it can possibly be.

“I think as long as there is a couch to cozy up on, a lap to rest her head on, and a hand to scratch her behind the ears … she’s reliving the best day of her life over and over again.”

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.

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