Senior, sassy schipperke finds love, acceptance in her new home

Bonnie the senior schipperke sitting on the floor
With limited vision and arthritis, Bonnie is not a fan of surprises, but after medical care and time to unwind, she met an adopter who is making her golden years truly shine.
By Nicole Hamilton

Fourteen-year-old Bonnie is old enough to know what she wants, and it isn’t endless cuddles and kisses when she least expects it. It isn’t that Bonnie is opposed to affection (she loves people) or doesn’t appreciate the sentiment, she’s just not a fan of surprises.

This was especially true back when she arrived at Best Friends in Atlanta with a laundry list of health issues that made her more than a little grouchy. But nobody on the team blamed her. This was just her way of letting everyone know she didn’t feel well. Instead, they looked ahead at what was possible for her. With medical care and a little time to heal, they hoped her golden years could be some of her best yet.

Photo courtesy of Laura Cox

A place where a grouchy dog can be herself

Bonnie was brought to Best Friends from the DeKalb County (Georgia) Animal Services shelter. She gets along with cats, makes a great traveling companion thanks to her size, and has the most adorable (and distinguished) threads of silver in her muzzle. But the senior schipperke mix does not like to be approached suddenly, and she’ll do anything to make that clear, including nipping at anyone who hasn’t gotten the message.

There was even more to Bonnie’s grumpiness that met the eye, however. A medical exam revealed that she was significantly visually impaired (if not blind) due to her cataracts. And her dental disease was so advanced that she several teeth would have to be extracted. It’s no wonder Bonnie wanted to be left alone. She was in pain.

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The first step to help her get comfortable in her new surroundings was to set up a place just for her in the office, where she could be away from any hustle and bustle. That way, Best Friends supervisor Laura Cox could keep a close eye on her.

Once Bonnie began to relax, she went to stay with Laura, who had prepared the spare bedroom in her home just for her, although she admits that at first, she wasn’t entirely ready for such a sassy house guest. “She was like a grumpy old lady,” says Laura of her former 15-pound office mate. “And she’d nip at me when I came too close to her, like when I tried to put on her harness. But she grew on me.”

Photo courtesy of Laura Cox

Zoomies: senior dog edition

When Bonnie first arrived at Laura’s, she stayed in her room, unsure of her new surroundings and not entirely thrilled to once again be in an unfamiliar place. But after a few days she started to test the waters and began venturing out. That’s when she began nuzzling Laura’s hand when she stopped petting her. A few weeks later, she was cuddling with Laura on the couch.

“It was nice to see her open up,” says Laura. “It was like she had a new take on life. She even did old lady zoomies from time to time.”

Once Bonnie started to find her stride in her foster home, it was time for her dental surgery. The procedure, which went smoothly, involved extracting eight teeth. The veterinarian also determined that Bonnie had a bladder stone. Back at Laura’s place following her surgery, she rested, healed and got used to her new diet, designed to shrink the bladder stone.

It didn’t take long before Bonnie was doing zoomies again. In fact, without those infected teeth causing her pain, there was a new spring in her step. She still needed her space and plenty of it, but it was clear she’d turned a corner. With all that behind her, she was ready for her next stop: a new home.

Photo courtesy of Laura Cox

Inspired by one senior dog to adopt another

Viv Harlow had been looking to adopt a small senior dog ever since their dog Cola passed away unexpectedly. Viv has always been passionate about adopting senior dogs. (Cola was eight when they adopted her.) And when they saw a photo of Bonnie one night during a search online, they just couldn’t get her out of their mind.

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They sent pictures of Bonnie to her mom — a sure sign they were smitten. Then they reached out to Best Friends and set up a virtual meet-and-greet with Bonnie and Laura, who says Bonnie was “really hamming it up” for Viv. The hamming was a success.

“She was so sweet on camera, just moving from bed to bed in the house,” says Viv  who decided to take the next step and meet Bonnie in person at Best Friends. That meeting couldn’t have gone better. Says Viv, “I had this sort of instant connection with Bonnie that I've not really experienced before.”

As for Bonnie’s bite history, Viv discussed this at length with Laura and others on the team and took a pragmatic approach. Viv says, “She, like a lot of dogs, has reactive tendencies that tend to get better over time, especially if you work with them. Any dog you adopt will need time getting used to you.”

Viv adopted Bonnie that day. Laura even gave her the bed that Bonnie slept in that she loved the most when she stayed with her. She still sleeps in it every night.

Photo courtesy of Viv Harlow

Every dog deserves a loving home

It’s been about two months since Bonnie’s been in her new home and Viv says she’s mellowed a lot. Although she nipped at Viv and her roommate a few times, Bonnie appears to be putting those days behind her, now that knows she’s in a home where she can be herself. “Patience really is the key,” says Viv. “I just have to make sure she hears me when I enter a room and we're all good with each other.”

Recently, Viv received good news at Bonnie’s vet checkup: no evidence of a bladder stone, which meant Bonnie no longer had to be on a special diet. As for helping Bonnie get around with limited sight, Viv says they simply make sure the floors are clear so nothing gets in her way.

It’s still not 100% foolproof. But then, what is? Sometimes Bonnie gets a little too excited to go outside and runs into the door as its opening. And she still thinks the stairs that Viv placed next to the couch are a mystery. “Baby steps,” says Viv, who has some advice for anyone thinking about adopting a senior dog.

“It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, you never know how long they're going to be a part of your life, but you have the opportunity to give an older dog a few wonderful final years and that feeling is so rewarding,” says Viv. “Every dog deserves a final, loving home, and I'm just glad I can be hers.”

Photo courtesy of Viv Harlow

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