This is our story of adopting a senior dog named Happy.
Meet Happy. Happy is 14 years old. She has a tummy full of mammary tumors, a broken jaw, an enlarged heart, cataracts, and a few bum legs, but she doesn’t want to focus on any of that. She’s just the happiest dog. She came to us via Richmond Animal League, which is a long way from Bryson City, but I’ll get to that part of the story a little later.
Last night was Happy’s first night with us and she just nestled right in, as if she’s always lived here. We quickly learned all about her: she loves to be held, she loves to be swaddled like a baby, and this was my view last night as the family was glued to the new Gold Rush episode. (Note: Max is the only one that knows I exist while Gold Rush is on.)
Happy has to be carried in and out of the house because it’s hard for her to get over the door threshold, or any obstacle really, but once outside she scurries off to take care of business. When she was carried back in last night she lined right up with Max to get a treat. I think Max likes her, his tail wags really fast when he’s watching her. Sienna asked, “Is Happy Max’s sister or is she more like his grandmother?” I told her probably a little of both.
So far we’ve discovered that Happy is scared of bowls. Right now she’s drinking out of a mayonnaise lid. It’s a little less scary for her. She also doesn’t really like wood floors because it’s hard to get her balance. We have a bunch of small rugs and bathmats around for her to stand on now and she navigates them like they are lily pads in a pond. After the obstacle course she always has a voracious appetite and she loves gnawing on bones too. She’s stolen a few bones from Max already, which makes me think she’s just an eternal optimist since she barely has any teeth left:
Last night she watched on with interest as Sienna played Legos. While she was captivated we set up a humidifier in Sienna’s room and it relieved Happy’s cough, and Sienna’s cough too! When Sienna had friends over this afternoon Happy got locked out of Sienna’s room. She whined at the door just to be let back in, as if she was missing out on all the fun, and then she took a long nap right in the middle of all the action.
She even had a chance to meet the flock today. As soon as she saw the chickens she took off in a little bumbly waddle…so giddy to have spotted REAL chickens!
This morning she woke up and ate breakfast like nothing was out of the ordinary. She sat with Brett while he drank his coffee and then she curled up in her little bed in front of the wood stove. And this is what I imagined her saying:
“If it’s okay with ya’ll I’m just going to stay in this comfy bed by the warm fire all day, because I’m 98 years old and I just found my forever home. I just want this little bed to always be in this spot so I can find it. My new family says it will be and I believe them.”
She’s a quirky little creature. Happy reminds me of a little possum, or maybe a little mouse, like Stuart Little. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Because of her broken jaw she often looks like she’s grinning. She’s so cute I just can’t stop looking at her:
So how did we end up with Happy? I found her through my friend Amy who is the executive director of the Richmond Animal League. Amy had posted a photo of Happy a few weeks ago and I said that I wanted her, but I wasn’t really serious. Then Amy kept sharing photos with me and I just fell in love. I talked with her foster mother Kenslea as time went on and learned all about Happy’s medical issues and special needs. Our hearts have been open for another dog since Diesel died and we decided as a family that we wanted to make sure that Happy had as much love as Diesel did in his last few years with us.
Once we were approved for adoption I had to wait a week to pick Happy up because she had just had surgery. She had a few tumors removed from her lumpy tummy and a few teeth removed that were causing trouble. Two days ago I drove eight hours to Richmond to pick Happy up and she and I stayed overnight with Amy. That first night Happy developed a horrendous cough and neither of us slept a wink. Amy contacted the vet first thing the next morning and at RAL I was able to get Happy some antibiotics and cough medicine. Finally we were ready to start the long drive home.
As I was leaving Richmond I felt exhausted, from lack of sleep and from worry for Happy’s health. Then, after only a mile, Happy began to have an anxiety attack in the car. It turns out that Happy doesn’t like cars, at all. I tried putting her in a doggy booster seat so she could see out the window but that didn’t help, nothing helped. Eventually I had to put her in a crate to keep her from hurting herself but in the crate she just yelped and cried. The crying made her cough so bad that I thought for sure she was going to have a heart attack. I pulled the car over and that was when I started crying. I wondered if I’d made the right decision. I was scared to keep driving because the farther away I got from Richmond the farther away we were from RAL and a veterinarian. I sat for a while, begging Happy to please help me help her. I told her that I couldn’t drive eight hours home with her so upset. I just couldn’t do it. I told her that I was worried she wouldn’t even make it to North Carolina. I prayed for the spirit of fear to leave her and for the spirit of fear to leave me as well. I also prayed for a sign that I should keep driving and resist the urge to turn the car around to drive right back to the shelter to admit a failed adoption, probably the shortest adoption in history. I took a deep breath and I swear Happy took a deep breath too. And then Happy stopped crying. I asked Happy if she wanted to listen to an audio book. She didn’t answer me…but she looked so thoughtful that I took that as a yes. I turned on A Man Called Ove, a lovely book that I’d already finished but didn’t mind listening to again. I put the car into drive and turned back onto the highway. Happy sat for a few minutes staring at me and then she quietly curled up in the crate.
I stopped every two hours so we could get out of the car and stretch our legs. She was so excited to experience each new place and greet all the people she saw. Each time she had to get back in the crate I gave her a pep talk and she was very brave. It took us almost ten hours to get home, but she was such a good little girl. And the drive was so peaceful, for both of us. I think she liked the story of Ove, especially the cat that Ove befriended.
During the whole drive I just kept looking over at her periodically, wondering how we’d ended up together, and wondering about all the days she’d already had in her long little life. Her story was that she had been surrendered because her owner had to go into a nursing home but it was her second shelter, so there was no way to really track down her previous owner. I hope if she was truly loved that her owner will somehow get a glimpse of her new life, to have the peace of mind that Happy is in a safe place and loved.
I don’t know how much time we have with Happy but I know that we are going to try to make her last few years the best years of her life. She’s already changed our lives forever. Welcome home Happy!
Thank you Richmond Animal League, Amy McCracken, Kenslea Crawley and everyone else that took care of Happy and I. Thank you to everyone who pitched in for Happy’s adoption fee, a huge blessing I learned about when I arrived. And thank you to Bryson City’s own wonderful local PAWS director Beth Cline for lending me crates and booster seats, anything she could to make sure that Happy made it home safely. I feel very blessed and I know Happy does too!
P.S. Tonight Happy is sleeping on a pillow curled up near Sienna’s bedside. She’ll pretty much just sleep where you ask her to. I just peeked in and both Happy and Sienna are both in the same position, sleeping peacefully on their sides. And neither is coughing.
P.P.S. Sienna is still working on her United Paws of America Fundraiser too. We just got a little sidetracked with Operation Happy. We are working on getting a few donations at a time from all the middle states! You can read about her project here!