EVERY PET HAS A STORY: CELEBRATING THE LIVES OF OUR TREASURED SENIOR PETS

In the late afternoons, between the “midday rush” and the “after work rush” the doorbell to the store will chime and we’ll hear the padding of paws, that familiar gentle panting, and maybe the bright call of, “Come on Chancey!”.

No matter where we are, we know where to find Chance. As fast as his senior legs will carry him, Chance makes his way to the end of the counter to the spot right below where he knows we keep the treats. All one has to do is peek around the corner, and there he’ll be smiling up at you, imploring eyes, front paws doing an eager little tap dance.

Sometimes, if he’s not being paid the proper attention by all Calvin & Susie staff, he’ll invite himself into the back office to “check on you”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been engrossed in the blog or new products, when I’m suddenly aware of soft doggie breath and a pair of expectant eyes watching me.

Photo courtesy of Anne Rauh

Afternoons with Chance (and sometimes his sisters Veda and Miley) are one of the major perks of working at Calvin & Susie. Really, dogs like Chance are the reason we do what we do. Food, treats, chews, the best toys, the softest beds, supplements to ease their joints, shoes to protect their paws, coats to help them float — at the heart of it, everything we do is an effort to make our pets as happy and loved as they make us feel.

While we believe all pets have the ability to bring out the best in us, there is something special about senior pets. Whether you’ve had a lifelong history with your furry family member, or your history is just beginning, senior pets can hold onto our hearts with the enthusiasm of a youngster and the wisdom of an old friend.

But don’t take my word for it.

In celebration of National Adopt a Senior Pet Month we asked Calvin & Susie friends and family across the country to share their senior pet stories. Some of these pets were adopted as seniors, some have lived long lives with their people. But unanimously, nobody could deny the positive impact their senior pet has had on their life.

It is our hope, that by reading these lovely stories (this post holds the record for “Teariest Blog Edited by the Calvin & Susie Blogger” — in a good way!) you, or someone you know will be inspired to open your home to a senior pet in need.

So in the spirit of gratitude this holiday season, we offer you some some stories from pet parents who are thankful for the senior pets who share their lives.

(Forgive the lengthiness of this post, but these stories were too great to cut down too much!)

The Treasured Life of My Senior Dog, Chance.

My life with Chance began 15 years ago, when as a young puppy, he was found roaming the streets of Sand Island. After being adopted and returned to the Humane Society four times, I decided to give this poor confused dog another “Chance” at a life filled with love and security. At the time, I had a four year old Golden Retriever, Kalika. As with most Goldens, he accepted Chance with plenty of licks. The first month was rough, as Chance was jumpy, nervous and always waiting by the door in anticipation for the next person to come and whisk him off to a new home. He finally began to relax, play with Kalika and run and frolic at the local dog park.

Photos courtesy of Anne Rauh

Nowadays, he moves a little slower than the younger dogs but he is still driven by the same scents, treats and the need to love and be loved. He adores going on his morning walk but is a bit stubborn as only he can set the pace and route. Any detour from this can only be remedied by plentiful treats. They are used to lure him in and out of the car; to lead him to places he may not choose to go and when it’s time to exit Calvin & Susie (his favorite daily excursion), these treats are a must!

Photos courtesy of Anne Rauh

As he has aged, his gifts have become more apparent. He is full of wisdom, spirit and vitality. He demands respect from younger dogs and thrives on the human touch. He has come through many near disasters, several different dog bites, requiring stitches, a severe bout of pneumonia and yet keeps on trucking with now damaged liver and kidney. He is such a precious part of my heart that I make sure, every day, he has time to stop, smell, and eat the treats!

– Contributed by Anne Rauh

Mr. Bell and Mr. Shadow

Mr. Bell was our first cat who was ‘my’ cat (he died when I was 27, so he was with me through a huge chunk of my life and I was really devastated when he passed). When we went to the humane society to look at cats, we wandered around for like two hours but we kept coming back to the cage with the outgoing white cat who kept reaching his paw out to grasp at us through the bars…

Mr. Bell (white cat) Mr. Shadow (grey cat). Photo courtesy of s.e. smith.

Mr. Shadow was actually abandoned outside a friend’s house when he was an adolescent, and I ended up adopting him when they took him to the shelter. He and Mr. Bell hit it off right away and were besties basically from the start — wherever one was, the other was right there beside him.

Photo courtesy of s.e. smith

Towards the end when Mr. Shadow was too weak to jump up onto the desk or counter, Mr. Bell would lie on the floor with him, and at night when I would lift him up on the bed, Mr. B would make a little buffer zone so he wouldn’t fall off.

– Contributed by s.e. smith. For more of s.e.’s words check out this ain’t livin’ (I went ahead and searched “cats” to get you started. Not sorry.)

Faustus the “Former Model”

This is Faustus, who was clearly a model in a previous life! Faustus came into my life about nine years ago; I got home from work or class, and found my roommate sitting on the front porch, holding a piece of chicken, and using it to lure a beautiful cat up to the apartment. He was very friendly, so we knew he had been someone’s cat, but he was also clearly hungry. Based on his beauty, and the fact that neither of us could quite figure out his gender, we named him Ophelia. We took him to the Humane Society the next day, where they scanned him for a chip, and corrected us on the matter of his sex. There was no chip, so we took him home and renamed him Faustus Ophelius. He’s about ten now, and has gotten me through some tough times! He’s always ready to cuddle, play, or hover two inches away while you eat (it’s very helpful).

Photo courtesy of Leslie Sullivan

– Contributed by Leslie Sullivan, Herbal Whimsy teas

The Real Babou

Working in professional theater has its perks. You get to see amazing shows for free, you sometimes get to have a conversation with an icon like Dick Van Dyke, there is always free food that has appeared in the kitchen AGAIN after yet another event, and sometimes, if you are really lucky you meet the love of your life.

The morning I met her I had wandered downstairs to get my mail from our receptionist. As I picked up the stack of mail the star of our next production came through the front door and with her a small off white dog who cowered as she entered the lobby. Even though this particular actress was one of my favorites I saw nothing but the dog. If there is a dog in view I don’t see anyone or anything else. I immediately knelt down to pet her and she cowered further. The actress, I’ll call her “H”, said in her well known husky voice, “It’s okay my Sweet Babou, she just wants to say hello.”

Source: Debra Pasquerette, and Furtographs Pet Portraiture by Andy Stolarek

The actress explained to me that she had rescued Babou only two weeks before from one of the rescue groups in Los Angeles. Babou was found in South Los Angeles, on the street in a neighborhood riddled with gangs and violence. When they picked her up she was filthy and upon examination they found she had been beaten, and was covered with ticks and fleas. “H” took her home and gave her luxury. She lived in a wonderful place in the Hollywood Hills, where she could roll in the grass and bark at the deer that sometimes wandered into the yard.

I told her that if at any time she needed me to walk Babou or keep her in my office I was available.

During the third day of rehearsal “H” came to my office with Babou and asked me if I would watch her during the afternoon rehearsal. The actors were up on their feet and starting to block the show and Babou would follow “H” everywhere. She was so nervous that she would be abandoned again. I agreed and from that day forward Babou spent her days in my office while “H” rehearsed. For the first few weeks she stayed under my desk. She would let me pet her but only if I got under the desk with her, which of course I did.

When the show was over “H” asked me if I would consider watching Babou when she was out of town shooting a movie or working late on a set. Of course I agreed. In the next six months Babou spent as much time with me as she did with “H”. “H” referred to me as “other mother”. Babou fit into my menagerie with ease. She became fast friends with my dog Madison and even snuggled at times with my cats Griffin and Greta.

One evening when “H” picked her up she asked me if I would consider becoming Babou’s mother and that she would take over being “other mother”. She explained that she would take care of Babou’s medical needs for the length of her life and promised to visit her often.

Babou will be 15 in January.

She no longer cowers in the corner. She sleeps on my bed, has fallen in love with my boyfriend and has stolen the hearts of all my Facebook friends who see the photos I constantly post of her.

Babou has supported me through the toughest time of my life, a year when I lost my job, five of my beloved pets and had four surgeries.

I don’t think of her as a senior. Her boundless energy and voracious appetite make her a puppy in my eyes. We take her to brunch every Sunday to a little pub in Hollywood where she orders Fido’s Dream (a hamburger patty) every week. She gets groomed every week, and her groomer, Delvis, gave her a spunky blue mohawk for Halloween this year!

Photo courtesy of Debra Pasquerette

Her hair is thinning, she is missing a few teeth, and her breath is a bit scary at times but she is loved.

In writing this I am reminded of a quote from the “Velveteen Rabbit”:

“Generally by the time you are real most of your hair has been loved off, your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and are very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all.”

– Contributed by Debra Pasquerette.

The World Traveler, Annabelle Lee

In 2010, my father built a stray cat winter survival hut out of some plywood and a Styrofoam beer cooler and hid the little box behind his office building in Dallas’ uptown. A few weeks later he realized that he had an inhabitant so he captured her and brought her home to take to a no kill shelter. At the time I was living and working in Dallas and I met her at my parents house and decided I’d take her home with me.

We initially thought because of her tiny size that she was a kitten. It was really surprising when the vet said she was already more than 10 years old! She was very grouchy about being touched and the vet suggested that she had arthritis. He told me that its not uncommon for people to get rid of a cat when arthritis sets in because it usually manifests its self in two ways: the cat won’t let you touch her anymore and she’ll stop using her litterbox (the kind with a lid) because it is too painful. He recommended that I get an open top litterbox and give her kitty arthritis supplements and see if she didn’t get friendlier. Within three weeks she was jumping onto high counters again and would let me hold her and pet her.

Photo courtesy of Hilary Kirwin

In 2012, I got married and my husband and I internationally moved Annabelle Lee from Dallas to Kaohsiung, Taiwan by way of Monterey, California and Honolulu, Hawaii. She spent three weeks in California and one week at the pet transit facility at Honolulu. She spent 52 days in quarantine at the southern Taiwan animal quarantine facility, which was on the grounds of a local veterinary college. All the students seemed to really like her and were sad to see her go — though I was thrilled to have her back with me.

I think she loved her life in Taiwan though because we lived on the 32nd floor, she didn’t get to partake of her favorite daytime activity: bird watching. Her Chinese caretakers gave her a Chinese name, Li A-Na. They fretted over her tiny size every time they would see her.

In July of 2014, we moved her back across the Pacific and she actually traveled with us quite a bit domestically during that move. She spent the night in Buffalo, New York and Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania as we took her with us on a road trip. She’s a well traveled cat and she adjusts so well to being moved all over the place.

“Where’s my present?” Photo courtesy of Hilary Kirwin

My husband never had a pet before he married me and I think this old lady cat is a great introduction to pets. She’s calm, she’s quiet, she’s clean and she basically sleeps almost all the time. I think he would have been overwhelmed by a kitten or a puppy but he’s really warmed to Annabelle and now they are good friends. She chooses his as the napping lap every time.

– Contributed by Hilary Kirwin

Birthday is Wonderful!

(Title chosen by Birthday’s mom!)

My cat Birthday was not a birthday present. I didn’t find him on my birthday and I’m really not sure when his birthday is. I just thought Birthday would be a great name for a cat and when my roommate Cynthia and I met a little tuxedo kitten at the animal shelter, we noted that he was already in his birthday suit and knew he was the one for us.

Source: Joy Nash, and Furtographs Pet Portraiture by Andy Stolarek

Birthday is the sweetest cat I have ever met. He has never met a lap he didn’t like, will let anyone scrub his face or hold his paws, only freaks out when it’s time for the Midnight Crazies, and his very favorite place is sleeping under the covers. He is exceptionally quiet, shy, yet extremely adventurous and just so so pretty.

He’s been with me for 10 years, 5 apartments, many, many roommates, a few boyfriends, and now that he has a terminal diagnosis and is taking pills like a champ, I hope I can make him feel just as safe and happy as he has me.

– Contributed by Joy Nash, JoyNash.net

Misty, My “Other” Mom

When I was growing up, my parents both worked full time.

Despite being the only human child in the house in the hours between school and dinner time, I never felt alone. Why? Because of Misty.

Misty was our little black chow-terrier-“black cotton ball” mix. She came to us all the way from Hong Kong, where her first mom, my aunt, made the difficult decision of shipping her to us in the US instead of taking Misty to Australia with her. She feared Misty, already a senior dog, would die in quarantine.

I have no memories of childhood that didn’t involve Misty. Though I never remember Misty being “young”, up until her last year, she had boundless energy keeping up with me. She played dress up with me, she was my assistant in my magic shows, she was my adventure-buddy when we went exploring in the forest behind my house. She was my guardian.

Misty may have been a sweet little puffball to me, but whenever I was scared, or there was a knock at our door that frightened me, Misty’s BIG BARK and devotion to her people always made me feel safe. She was my “other mom”, she raised me, she protected me.

Misty lived to be about 20 years old. Even now, I don’t think of her as our “dog”. Misty is, and will always be, family. I owe her a huge chunk of who I am now.

– Contributed by Louise of Calvin & Susie

Hold your pets — senior or not — close this holiday season!

~Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger

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