Today is my Willow's 13th birthday. I rescued her one year ago today. I know her age, but not her date of birth so I have made the day she joined my family her birthday. Willow did not have an easy life. I first saw her one day on my way into work wandering around a busy road. Even from a distance you could see that she was covered in tumors, one so big it dragged on the ground. I discovered that she had a family, but I could see that she was severely neglected.
Over the next few weeks, each time I would see Willow I would bring her back to her "home" and ask them to let me take her permanently and they would refuse. Eventually persistence paid off and they finally allowed me to bring her into my family so she could have the care she so desperately needed. They told me her name and her age, but that is basically all I knew.
Once I had Willow and following a much needed bath, it was off to the vet where we learned that along with roughly 10 mammary tumors due to not being spayed, she also had a severe heart murmur and needed to see a specialist to perform the surgery for the tumor removal given the risks. With the cardiology consult and the surgical fees exceeding $5,000 I needed help and turned to social media to raise the funds. We raised the money within 5 days!! Thank you #TeamWillow #WillowNation!
Willow had her tumor removal surgery and they were able to give her a totally new body! Unfortunately she needed three additional surgeries over the past year due to further complications resulting from not being spayed for 12 years, but she faced each procedure like a champ. I can truly say that Willow is so happy now, is loved and has a family she grows closer to every day.
There is something so special about senior dogs that I am always trying to communicate. Willow is a great example of why I love seniors. She knows who she is, what she likes and definitely what she doesn't like. And she has a spark, something I feel most seniors have. Unlike a puppy that is always in high gear, a senior dog gives you glimpses. These glimpses are so incredibly rewarding and show me that there is always an inner puppy inside seniors even if just appearing for a moment.
With Willow I see it when we go to and from work. She gallops into the office to say hi to everyone and has the same excitement when we are heading out to the car to go home. I believe that in her mind she is running as fast as the wind! At meal times she spins in anticipation for her meals and if I rub her ears just right, I get licks as if she is telling me how much she appreciates what I am doing. Seniors give you these special moments and it creates a bond on a deeper level than I ever thought possible.
Sometimes I look at Willow and can see how happy she has become and while I know she appreciates her new life, I am blown away by the impact she has had on mine. She was an unexpected addition, but I just can't imagine my life without her. I encourage everyone to open their hearts and homes to a senior dog. Embrace a senior and relish your moments!
Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.