There is nothing more heartbreaking than an older dog spending its final years in an animal shelter. Unfortunately, this is something that happens too often. Once a senior dog arrives at a rescue shelter, they often become one of the most difficult dogs to rehome. There are very few people willing to offer a forever home to a dog in its later years. So, why is that? One of the main reasons for this is that people prefer younger dogs as they can spend longer with them. People worry that they will become attached to a senior dog and then it will die. Another reason is that they worry about the potential medical bills that come with owning an older dog. As dogs get older, they are more likely to need additional care or develop health conditions that require trips to the veterinarian and treatment. This can become expensive and the risk of this happening is reduced by choosing a younger dog.
For these reasons, senior dogs are often overlooked when people are choosing a new dog from a shelter. However, a senior dog can have a lot to offer, which is something that Beth and Michael Clark discovered when they adopted a senior dog from Friends of Anne Arundel County Animal Care & Control in Millersville, Maryland. Initially, the Clarks had only visited the rescue shelter in 2015 to donate some supplies and blankets. They had not initially intended to adopt a dog but somehow, they ended up leaving with a 17-year-old dog called Rocky. Speaking to Today, Beth said that they learned that Rocky had arrived as a stray at the shelter six times between 2012 and 2015. It broke Beth’s heart to think that the poor dog would spend his final years in a shelter.
Beth described the dog as having a gray, skinny face that she instantly fell in love with. She told Chris straight away that she wanted to take him home. Thankfully, Chris agreed, and they took him home. Rocky fit in straight away and showed them that despite his age, he still had a lot of love to give. Soon after adopting Rocky, Beth and Chris discovered that they were expecting their first daughter. Beth was really thankful to have Rocky during that period of her life as he became her rock during the later stages of her pregnancy. Beth says that Rocky did not seem to notice she was pregnant until she got a bump. He then became really gentle and stayed with her whenever she wasn’t feeling great.
Rocky was already such an important part of the family that Beth and Chris decided to involve him in making a birth announcement, says I Heart Dogs. They let their friends and family know their good news by posting a picture of Rocky on social media with a sign saying ‘Mom & Dad are getting me a human!’. As Beth’s pregnancy progressed, Rocky became unwell and there was a significant decline in his health. Beth and Chris even needed to rush him to the emergency vet at one point, and they were told it was possible the poor dog had a tumor. They couldn’t bear the thought of him staying in the hospital alone, so they took him home to care for him and give him all the love they could.
Eventually, Beth gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who she and Chris named Hazel. They couldn’t wait to take her home to meet her canine brother Rocky, who was by this time 18 years old. The first time that Rocky met Hazel was a touching moment as he sniffed her and then placed his head onto the baby. Beth found his reaction so moving that she cried. This was one of the last happy moments they had with rocky as his health began to decline again over the following weeks. His many health problems were worsening, and the Clarks realized that they needed to make a heartbreaking decision. They could not bear to watch their beloved Rocky suffer any longer and decided that the kindest option was to have him put to sleep. They made the gut-wrenching call to their veterinarian straight away.
Later that day, Rocky passed away peacefully. He had his loving family by his side, including Hazel, throughout his final moments. Beth and Chris strongly believe that Rocky only held on for so long so that he could meet his baby sister. The Clarks have since said that they found Rocky’s death more difficult than they could possibly have imagined. The staff and volunteers at the Friends of Anne Arundel County Animal Care & Control were also devastated to hear about Rocky’s death. They chose to write a post on their Facebook page that was written in the form of a letter to Hazel. It said that Rocky had been a much-loved dog that the Clarks would tell Hazel about one day.
Since his death, Beth and Chris have spoken about how they do not regret adopting Rocky even though he was a senior dog. He was still a family dog with plenty of personality and a lot of love to give. He was very much a family dog that was enjoying the world. Although he sometimes needed a little extra help, he repaid everything Beth and Chris did for him with his unconditional love. Although Rocky died, his story is a happy one. Rather than spending his final year alone in a shelter with no family to love him, he was adopted by loving parents who gave him a forever home and even a baby sister. He spent his final days knowing that he was loved. Sadly, there are many senior dogs who are not so lucky as they are overlooked in favor of younger dogs, meaning their final days are lonely and unhappy. If more people were willing to take a chance like Chris and Beth, then fewer dogs would spend their final days in this way.