Senior dog finds love on the beaches of California

Spots the dog lying on the floor with eyes closed and mouth open smiling with Ellie behind him petting his chest
Spots came to Best Friends with an aggressive form of cancer and captured the heart of his foster person.
By Andrea Pitts

They say age is just a number, as long as your heart stays young. At 12 years old, Spots has clearly adopted this mantra as his personal key to happiness. He embodies the spontaneity of a free-spirited puppy, along with the strength and wisdom of an old friend who just seems to have the meaning of life all figured out. Simply put, Spots is a cool dog, and everyone knows it within minutes of meeting him. That’s not to say he hasn’t had his fair share of challenges. In fact, his arrival at Best Friends unearthed the beginning of what has likely been his toughest trial yet.

Dog gets the medical attention he needs

When Spots arrived at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Los Angeles, staff and volunteers discovered he had the ability to charm the socks off anyone he meets. So they began bringing him out to their front office to greet volunteers and visitors. It was there he met the resident office cat, Cashew, who could easily pass as his twin sister. The two of them have nearly identical spot patterns and matching fur color palettes. Neither Spots nor Cashew seemed to notice they were two different species. They just enjoyed making people smile together.

And Spots needed some good friends by his side. When the Best Friends medical staff first assessed Spots’ health, they noticed he had significant dental disease and two concerning skin masses near his groin that needed to be removed and biopsied.

Our goal at Best Friends is for all shelters to reach no-kill in 2025, and taking in pets like Spots, who need a little extra time and care, is one of the ways we support our partners in saving lives.

[A senior dog’s journey home]

Due to his age and the location of the skin masses, the team felt it was best to address one thing at a time. They decided to remove the masses first and let him recover before tackling the dental disease.

Spots’ best chance for recovery would be in a foster home, where he could be given a comfortable place to lie and enjoy naps in a calm environment. Lucky for him, a group of college students agreed to take Spots in for the week after the surgery, and they doted on him from head to toe.

“You can almost see the stress melt away the second a senior pet gets out of the loud, stressful shelter environment and into a quiet foster home for some naps and cuddles,” says Ana Pulido, Best Friends senior coordinator of lifesaving outcomes in L.A.

As the Best Friends team looked for a foster volunteer who could care for Spots for the next part of his health journey, his mass biopsies came back with some very unfortunate news. The lumps were cancerous, and even with treatment his prognosis would likely be a matter of months.

Foster person finds solace caring for senior dog

Ellie Logan came to Best Friends looking for a dog to foster after losing her longtime canine companion. Though she was open to fostering any dog who needed her help, she was drawn to the idea of giving a senior dog a comfortable place to stay during what would likely be a very stressful period in their life. Little did Ellie know, she would feel a deep connection with the first dog she met, a black-and-white pit bull terrier-type dog named Spots.

Ellie describes her first time meeting Spots: “Spots was still recovering from his recent surgery when I first met him. He wouldn’t come near me, even for a treat. He was totally despondent. Ana told me he could really use some TLC, and given my experience with caring for a senior dog, something told me he was the dog I needed to help.”

When Spots first came home with Ellie, he was very shy and reserved. Ellie says, “I could tell he was just uneasy. He acted like he was looking for a familiar face.” Ellie did her best to help Spots feel comfortable during the transition period, and with time and a regular routine, Spots began to see Ellie as his trusted person.

After a few weeks, Spots had healed enough to tackle the dental disease. He needed 10 teeth removed, but this time around, Ellie was with him from start to finish.

Dog finds his happy place at the beach

Once Spots recovered from the dental care, Ellie felt it was time to show him one of her favorite places: the beach. She is a competitive volleyball player who practically lives at the beach any chance she gets, so it was only natural she wanted to show her new friend how magical the sand and water can be.

Ellie was pleasantly surprised to see that Spots appeared to love the beach as much as she does. When she brought one of Spots’ favorite toys to the beach with them one day, Ellie was overjoyed to see Spots bury the toy deep in the sand with a giant smile spread across his face.

Ellie continued to work with Best Friends to ensure Spots was as happy and comfortable as possible. Yet, with each passing day, she couldn’t deny the deep connection the two of them had developed. In fact, everyone in Ellie’s social circle had fallen in love with Spots. He had become the resident mascot for Ellie’s beach volleyball club and never missed a game. Even Ellie’s neighbors in her apartment complex found themselves invested in Spots’ happiness.

Because Ellie worked from home, Spots grew accustomed to having her around all the time. This made leaving the house without Spots a bit difficult for Ellie. He was never destructive, but a camera she had set up in her apartment showed him pacing and whining until she returned. When Ellie mentioned this to her neighbor, the neighbor instantly volunteered to watch Spots whenever Ellie had to leave the house without him. Ellie says, “They have the best time together.”

Dog gives love and wisdom to his fans

After about a month together, Ellie knew she, Spots, and their beach volleyball and apartment friends were meant to be a family. So she made the trip to the pet adoption center one last time to make Spots’ adoption official.

Ellie says, “Spots is just the best dog. He has hundreds of people here in Santa Monica who love him, and he gives so much love back to all of us in return.”

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

Since adopting Spots, Ellie brings him to her veterinarian every three weeks for chemotherapy treatments. She says, “Chemo days are lazy days for him, but he’s usually back to his bouncy self within a day or two. Once Spots completes his last round of chemotherapy, Ellie plans to foster another dog so Spots can impart his love and wisdom onto another dog in need.

Ellie and Spots are a beautiful example of how love, loyalty, and compassion for others are life’s greatest gifts that keep on giving.

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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