A most joyful doggy duo

Elton and Hannah the dogs next to Tom, a Dogtown caregiver
Feeling the holiday blues? Meet Hannah and Elton, dogs with a chronic condition called brucellosis, who are best known for their capacity for love and happiness.
By Sarah Thornton

Ask anyone if they know Hannah and Elton, and they’ll greet you with big smiles and enthusiastic gushing about what sweet seniors they are. To these two, every new face is a potential new friend. And while the aches and pains of a long life mean slower walks, they step out for each and every one with the zeal of pups half their age.

Though Hannah and Elton arrived separately at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, a shared diagnosis brought them together as friends and roommates. Now, caregivers say that their powers, combined, can brighten up just about any day.

An unlikely meeting

When Hannah first arrived from a nearby rescue group, she had, sadly, just lost a litter of puppies and there was no clear reason for the loss. Hannah seemed healthy, if a little shy. But the lack of an explanation gave Sanctuary veterinarians a clue that prompted them to run a test, the results of which came back positive.

She had brucellosis, a bacterial infection easily transmitted to other dogs that primarily affects their reproductive systems. Though it would, largely, not impact Hannah’s quality of life, the contagiousness of the disease, which is uncurable, meant she couldn’t live with unaffected dogs. But she wouldn’t have to live alone. There were other dogs at the Sanctuary with brucellosis, and when Hannah met Elton, the two hit it off immediately.

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Just a few months earlier, Elton, diagnosed with the same condition, arrived by way of a shelter from the same rescue group. He’d been transferred to the Sanctuary because he needed special medical care for his allergies. Medicated baths, antihistamines and regular allergy shots were part of his routine, as well as a special diet. None of that troubled him, though. To Elton, any time was a good time as long as he could be the center of attention.

Hannah moved in with Elton, and with her already sweet-but-shy personality paired with his own outgoing nature, she quickly warmed up to caregivers and settled into her new home-between-homes. Together, they charmed everyone they met.

Special setup for special dogs

After a round of antibiotics to help ease the infection, Hannah and Elton’s lives were not much different from those of their canine neighbors. They filled their days playing, snuggling with caregivers and volunteers, and going for car rides. “The day-to-day symptoms (of brucellosis) are almost unrecognizable,” says caregiver Tom Williams. “You wouldn’t know they had this condition unless you were told or you specifically tested for it.”

The only thing different for Hannah and Elton (because of their condition) was that they couldn’t use the common areas shared by the other dogs. They could still enjoy the same things as their neighbors. They just needed their own exclusive activities. “When we found out these dogs did have brucellosis,” says Tom, “(we built) special facilities for them.”

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The staff cleared a new trail and fenced off a new dog park that is just for dogs with the condition. With their own areas to explore, they don’t miss anything the canyon has to offer. All sights and smells are available to them.

Now nine and 10 years old, respectively, Hannah and Elton still enjoy their romps in the park just as much as they did on their first visit, although they may play a bit more carefully.

Elton goes to the clinic each week to receive laser therapy for his stiff back. The treatment involves using a deep-penetrating cold laser to stimulate blood flow, reduce inflammation and aid healing. Hannah, meanwhile, gets both a daily pain med and a monthly injection for her arthritis. But since they get plenty of snacks and attention to go along with their medical care, they don’t have any complaints.

It can be more difficult to place dogs with brucellosis into homes, but it’s not impossible. They either need to be the only dog in the home or, like Elton and Hannah, live only with other dogs who have it. Everyone who knows these two sweet dogs are rooting for them to land an amazing home (or homes).

Until then, they are safe and loved. “They’re just awesome dogs to be with,” Tom says. “If you need a bright spot in your day or you’re having a bad day and need a little pick-me-up, these two are a good antidote for that.”

Silver muzzles bring silver linings

Looking for an active senior for long walks or maybe a couch potato to keep you company? You’ll find both of them at your local pet shelter.

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