Senior dog with medical issues charms new family

Zoey the senior dog with her new adopted family, outside in front of some bushes
Older dogs can be overlooked in shelters, but 10-year-old Zoey was exactly what her new family had been looking for.
By Karen Asp

With age comes wisdom. That’s true whether you’re a person or a dog — senior dogs holding unique advantages over their younger counterparts. And 10-year-old Zoey is no exception.

She was adopted on St. Patrick’s Day, so you might say she had the luck of the Irish on her side, especially given that she’s not only older but also has several medical conditions. Yet ever since her adoption, her new family may have been the lucky ones, as Zoey has provided comfort in more ways than one.

A Best Friends repeat

In 2014, 2-year-old Zoey landed in a Los Angeles shelter. Soon after, she was transferred to Best Friends and spent several years with her adoptive family. However, unforeseen circumstances caused her to return to Best Friends when she was 10.

Now a senior, Zoey had developed cataracts and glaucoma, as well as an enlarged liver. To get her ready for adoption, the team decided a foster home would suit her best. “Because she’s a senior and has medical needs, we wanted to give her a temporary home,” says Carmen Hidalgo Kirschner, Best Friends lifesaving outcomes specialist in Los Angeles. Plus, no matter the dog, the shelter environment can be stressful, and Zoey’s age might have made that stress worse.

Another benefit? The time in foster care would allow the staff the chance to learn things about Zoey’s personality that would prove critical in finding her the right family. They found, for instance, that Zoey craves human attention, which could work in her favor and perhaps help overcome any age bias.

Senior dogs, after all, can often be overlooked in shelters. Yet the advantages of an older dog are numerous. “A senior animal has so much love to give, and adopting one can be rewarding and fulfilling,” Carmen says. “They can be easier to integrate into your household and life, as most seniors don’t demand much and are perfectly happy with a comfy bed and a nice window view.”

In Zoey’s case, Carmen had no doubt this sweet, affectionate pup would charm her way into somebody’s heart. It didn’t take long for that to happen.

Adopting an older dog is a family decision

When Cristina Nieto and her family, including her husband and two kids, moved into a new home in August 2019, they started thinking about adopting a pet. They’d had many throughout the years but at the time were animal-free.

There was just one requirement: Cristina was looking for an adult dog because she knew she didn’t have the time to commit to a puppy. Her daughter, Julianna, is 15, and her son, Adan, is 8. “I wanted them to get used to caring for an animal without having to go through the rigorous training that puppies take,” she says.

[Senior dog with a heart of gold now has a new home]

The family decided they would look for an older dog, perhaps even a senior. Cristina’s grandmother, after all, had adopted two older dogs from shelters specifically so they might be more suitable for the kids when they came to visit. The dogs proved her right.

The pandemic delayed their search, but they kept looking, only recently finding Best Friends. Although they saw many adorable adult dogs on Best Friends’ website, Zoey stood out for two reasons. “Her cute curls and bearlike face,” Cristina says. The medical issues didn’t even faze her. After all, she’s used to giving her mom’s dogs their medications for glaucoma, and the liver issue requires only a supplement.

The day the family of four met Zoey, they knew she was the dog they’d been looking for.

An unexpected therapy dog

Since then, Zoey has firmly cemented her position in the household. “She’s a constant shadow and is always in everybody’s business,” Cristina says.

Not only does she love checking in on the family, but Zoey also loves exploring her huge backyard where neighborhood cats congregate. “They’re company for her, as she hangs out with them,” Cristina says. Zoey’s other passion? Walks. When she hears the leash, she gets excited and walks like she’s showing off. Once home, however, she zonks out. The tough part is deciding where to snooze, as she has a bed in every room of the house.

[8 reasons to adopt a senior pet]

The one place she gravitates to most is the kids’ room. At night, she sleeps in Adan’s bed, which has brought an added benefit. “Adan tends to be hyper before bed, but Zoey helps reduce his anxiety and calms him,” Cristina says.

And in May when Cristina’s father was diagnosed with cancer, Zoey unleashed her superpowers. “Zoey has brought a different level of comfort we didn’t know we needed,” Cristina says.

Zoey is now helping Adan and Julianna process what’s going on, attaching herself to them and going everywhere in the house they do. “When they’re down and stressed, just petting her and rubbing her belly has given them a sense of comfort and love,” Cristina says.

Never could Cristina have imagined how much Zoey would add to her family’s life. She credits much of it to Zoey’s age, something her kids have embraced. “My son tells everybody she’s 70 in dog years,” she says. As he notes, that’s older than his grandpa, but who’s counting? Certainly not Zoey.

Zoey the senior dog wearing a bandana between two people
Photo by Lori Fusaro

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