Lessons Learned from Lucille, a Senior Dog
When searching for inspiration for this blog, I didn’t have to look too much further than my couch. Actually, I didn’t really have to look at all, because my senior foster dog Lucille is always by my side, and she snores. Loud.
I heard about Lucille through a fellow rescuer, Laura Oliver of Lionel’s Legacy. She was languishing in a shelter in Orange County. For a 9-year-old pit bull with extensive muscle atrophy and a smell that belied a vicious infection somewhere in her body (it turned out to be her anal glands), this was pretty much a death sentence. Thankfully, Lucille’s charm and sweetness shone through her myriad health problems. She quickly won the love of shelter staff and volunteers, and she gained a strong Facebook presence. Laura spotted her and kept an eye on her, and when I told Laura I was ready to foster for Lionel’s Legacy, she asked me to consider Lucille.
I will admit that I had my reservations. First of all, Lucille was not well. Years in a backyard doing nothing but apparently having puppies and sitting on her backside had left her whole hind quarter weak and almost unusable. Upon initial examination, Lucille’s new vet told Laura that she had most likely been hit by a car sometime in her life and had not been properly treated for her injuries. By the time Lionel’s Legacy got to her, her spine was completely fused and her hind legs were extremely unstable. The pain must have been almost unbearable.
And boy, did she stink. All those years of sitting, and probably holding her pee and poop because it was too painful to go more than once or twice a day, had left Lucille with extremely infected anal glands. The word “gross” does not even begin to cover that situation.
I had two other main concerns about bringing Lucille into my home.
The first was that I have two dogs of my own, including my own senior lady, who is very selective about her canine companions. We have had our share of fosters at this point, but none as old or dominant as Lucille. The second, and I have trouble admitting this, is that Lucille is a pit bull looking dog, with cropped ears and all, and while I have known the breed to be loyal, smart, and loving, I was worried about what other people’s perceptions might be, and what kind of feedback I would get trotting this gimpy girl around.
Laura brought Lucille over a few days after Christmas to meet me and my dogs to see if fostering with us would work. My old lady did her usual bluster and fuss, trying to make sure Lucille knew she was #1. My younger boxer boy tried to get Lucille to play, which she did not appreciate. Our initial meet and greet was not exactly a love at first sight kind of situation. And did I mention her smell? Good lord, she smelled. Bad.
But, I decided to give Lucille a chance. Laura left me with Lucille and all the supplies I needed, including anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and pain meds, several blankets, and Lucille’s own dog bed (my dogs wouldn’t go near anything she touched because of her funk). I ran out and bought all the air freshener I could find, and Lucille, apparently oblivious to the olfactory discomfort she caused the rest of us, happily settled in.
And when I say settled in, I mean SETTLED IN!
Once she realized this was going to be home for awhile, she found her spot and took a deep, blissful nap. She relaxed. We relaxed. It was going to be OK. As for my fears of the “kids” not getting along, those were soon put to bed too. Lucille has a dominant personality, but in her old age, has learned to appreciate the important things, namely love, sleep, food, and walks, in that order. Once we had those four things established, she happily let the rest go, and my dogs followed suit. And once her infections were cleared up (it took a couple of round of antibiotics and three flushes), snuggling and sharing of beds and the couch ensued.
As for the pit bull issue, shame on me, mostly. My concerns have been largely unfounded. Once I came to realize that Lucille was pretty much unflappable in the face of other dogs, new people, new places, or pretty much anything period, I started to bring her out. Her (and my) favorite outing was to The Home Depot, where she got a lot of “hey mama”s and head pets, and even made a friend with a nervous miniature poodle. People seem more concerned about her puppies (she has obviously had her share) and her limp than her breed. The comments I get are things like “Where are her puppies?” (ie, “How could you breed that poor dog?”) and “I hope her limp gets better” (ie, “You better take care of this dog lady”). Once I explain her story, people are heartened and relieved, and Lucille basks in it all.
The ASPCA has a great online article titled “10 Reasons to Adopt an Older Dog” and it’s pretty much right on the money. It all rings true, especially “#1: What You See Is What You Get”, “#3: Seniors Are Super Loving”, and “#4: They’re Not a 24-7 Job”. After loving Lucille, and watching my own girl grow older, I can highly recommend adopting or fostering senior dogs. Although their time with you may be shorter than a young pup, their needs are so much simpler, which leaves a lot more time for the good stuff.
Like snuggling and snoring on the couch.
Co-Founder of The Rescued Dog
The Rescued Dog proudly partners with Lionel’s Legacy, a San Diego based senior dog rescue and humane education program for elementary school children.