I sure wasn’t planning on adding a new dog to the household last month.

But I wasn’t planning on losing one either.

Or for that matter, the second one I lost earlier in the summer.

I choose to believe Grandma Greta, my chi-doxie diva, and Mariah, a sweetheart of a corgi, are calm and comfortable this day.

Such sweet seniors they were.

I envision them now young again, playing in fields of green grass and pink wildflowers.

Still I was growing more restless after Greta passed seeing another empty dog bowl.

And another empty bed.

I’m also aware that my lame senior corgi Maggie is now 13.

And my aging Yorkie Tucker, age 9, would never do well as an only dog.

So I thought I would start my research, study up some. Maybe even look at a few dogs.

Just to get an idea or two.

I became enamored with the idea of taking on a big black senior dog with one of those sweet gray muzzles.

I knew they were having trouble finding homes in my town.

Yet I also knew it wasn’t realistic for me. I need to be able to lift a dog myself if necessary. I’m having back issues now lifting my 25 pound corgi Maddie to take her outside or to see the vet.

So I went on line to look at pet adoption websites.

Another black senior chi doxie mix showed up, just like the one I’d just lost.

Amazingly, her name was also Greta. Yet I knew there could never be another Grandma Greta in my heart.

And this one was living close to the Canadian border.

Much farther away than I could ever safely travel in January.

So I continued my research on my lunch hour at the local shelter.

I was charmed by the first dog I saw.

He was a gentle, senior beagle mix. At 12 years old, I wondered if he’d ever find a home.

But he did.

And only an hour after I’d driven back to work.

My research continued the following week when I drove back to the shelter.

This time I met a sweet and stout spaniel, age 9.

Sally, I believe was her name.

I knew Sally was beyond a weight I could manage, but oh the way she looked up at me.

What a beautiful soul.

Did she need me, I wondered?

But I was distracted suddenly by the dog in the next cage.

He was a tiny thing, and a little funny looking with his long spindly legs and hair that spiked up.

But he was kind of a handsome man, too.

His card said he was very shy, and that he’d participated in a program to help him overcome it.

This dog must be the type that cowers in the corner I was thinking.

And as a result, often passed up for adoption.

Yet this happy guy appeared to have graduated with honors.

He marched right up to me to introduce himself when I read his name out loud.

He then met my eyes and and kept the eye contact going as I spoke to him.

I heard the dog had been transported from the south with a group of other chihuahuas.

Former puppy mill pooches, I wondered?

Yet this one before me was only half chihuahua, with the rest of his pedigree still a mystery.

No matter.

His personality wasn’t a mystery at all.

And the little fellow knew exactly what he wanted.

He wanted me!

As I walked out of the shelter with my new buddy, we both stopped to greet the stout senior spaniel.

She, too, was leaving with her new adoptive parents. And she looked up at me again, beaming.

“Hey boy,” I said. “Doesn’t she look happy?”

Then looking back at my own handsome man, I added, “And so are we!”

Good grades, good dogs

No matter our age or breed, we all like a good report card now and then.

Take Tucker my terrier, for example.

Today he excitedly pulled out the dog’s report cards from a box I used when I moved recently.

I’d boarded my canine crew the last night I slept in my old house to reduce their stress from the commotion of moving day.

My boarding facility provides me report cards with each stay, but I hadn’t looked at them until Tucker found them this morning.

These cards always provide gentle reminders of what makes each of the dogs so special.

Tucker’s latest card reported, “Tucker is always excited for some good pets! He is always so happy to see you…!”

Corgi Maddie’s card declared, “She is always so happy to be with her family in the outdoor runs, and is so good about being carried out there.”

Maddie may be lame, but at 13 she remains a trooper.

And then there was Grandma Greta’s dog eared report card.

She was my 16 year old chi-doxie who I lost earlier this month.

“Greta gets so excited to see her siblings outside and just LOVES the sun!”

That report made me smile.

I like to think her presence still shines bright over Tucker and Maddie on these gray December days.

And that kind of performance definitely deserves a grade of A++.

One Dog’s Christmas Story

It was five years ago this week when I drove through a snowstorm to meet Grandma Greta, a soon to be 11 year old chi-doxie mix.

She was signed up for a holiday adoption event with a local rescue group.

I’d noticed her image on the masthead for the group’s website. Those jet black airplane ears taking half of the width of the page definitely caught my attention.

I was about to retire from short term dog fostering at the time.

My husband Richard’s rapidly declining memory loss had made conducting home visits and attending meet and greets with foster dogs unrealistic.

I’d been thinking instead about becoming a permanent foster of a hard to place black senior dog.

I had no particular interest in 4 pound yippee pocket dogs, but there was something about Greta’s gray muzzle and those big black ears.

And also her life story.

She’d spent the first 10 years on the road with a trucker who was ill, then a family with young children who terrified her.

After dropping off my husband at his adult day care center, I finally arrived at the busy pet warehouse that chilly Saturday.

I wandered inside, past the line for Santa to the back of the store, where I immediately recognized little Greta.

Instantly, I was smitten. I knew she was going home with me that day.

Against my better judgement, I decided to bring her over to Santa for a picture. The challenges of my husband’s dementia had been bringing me down and I thought a photo would put me in the holiday spirit.

Greta wasn’t exactly thrilled as I placed her in Santa’s lap. One photo was taken and then she jumped to the floor, slipping and sliding across rows of shiny linoleum and underneath ceiling high shelving units.

A store employee and I finally trapped her.

Santa never even got Greta’s wish list.

Still I bought Greta an extra small snowflake sweater and raw hide even though I was thinking she probably deserved some coal in her stocking.

The first couple of weeks at home, Greta was very icy towards me. I saw those tiny teeth of hers a few more times than I would have liked.

Yet she seemed to immediately warm up to Richard.

I would place her in his lap each night. Though he no longer spoke more than a few words, Richard would always instinctively stroke her back and Greta would peacefully doze off.

As Greta loved food, I was finally able to bribe my way into her heart some as well.

Not long after Greta moved in, it was necessary to transition my husband to a group home. Greta loved it there and would twirl around in her 25 cent garage sale pink tutu for all the residents to see.

And she would continue to nap in my husband’s lap on those visits until he passed away two years ago this Christmas.

Yet afterwards Greta reinvented herself once again.

She decided she was now my lap dog.

And she also became a social butterfly.

Greta loved to visit dog friendly coffee shops and bookstores. She’d be in her glory on long road trips or even short jaunts to McDonalds. And she was a big
fan of pet friendly church services where she’d always try to steal the communion bread and wine.

Greta discovered too that she was no longer afraid of young children in the area. They all believed she was still a puppy at sixteen because of her tiny size and spunk.

I like to think she really was flattered as she was quite the little diva after all.

Yesterday morning I wrapped up my little diva in her favorite red velveteen blanket from the couch.

And we took a drive in a snowstorm.

This time it was to the vet, as she hadn’t been feeling well.

The vet told me it was time for Greta to move on once again.

Crying some, I agreed. And I let her go.

Afterwards, I bought another red velveteen blanket at the store. And last night my other dogs Tucker, Maddie, and I watched “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” on TV while resting on Greta’s favorite couch.

I dozed off a bit, and awakened later to the sound of a train whistle from the tracks that run by the depot where my husband’s memorial service was held.

I smiled, thinking perhaps Greta was helped up to that holiday train and found her way back to my husband’s lap wherever he may be.

The thought gave me comfort, and I slept like a baby.

And Grandma Greta, I hope you are as well.

Shake it off

It seems that Grandma Greta has a hangover this morning after a little too much partying last night.

The soon to be 16 year old, 6 pounder spent New Year’s Eve perfecting her new sport of channel surfing.

She tweaked her tiny toe tapping technique just enough so she could seamlessly switch back and forth with the remote watching Pitbull, her favorite rapper, while ‘shaking if off’ with Taylor Swift.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Once Greta managed to come to this morning, we decided to catch up on some reading together.

While conducting a Google search on her beloved singer Pitbull, Greta pointed out an article indicating pitbulls, black dogs, and chihuahuas are the hardest canines to place in homes.

Greta, being a black chi-doxie mix herself looked a little anxious and blue with that news.

I thought I better take action.

“Hey Greta, but check this other article out. It seems as we grow older, people who volunteer for two or more organizations have much better health. Maybe we should step up our altruistic efforts again and see if we can help out our canine friends”.

I then pulled up a website for an animal rescue group we have assisted before by fostering dogs.

Pedro, one handsome 12 year old chihuahua with ears even bigger than Greta’s, immediately caught her eye.

Greta’s always had a thing for younger men.

“Greta, he surely is a looker but apparently has a foster already. But take a look at the smiling handsome senior black pug in this pic. He’s only 11!

With that, Greta joyfully jumped off the couch doing a perfect happy dance.

I just love how that girl can still just shake it off.

Month of Gratitude: Day 30

I admit I am grateful this Sunday for Grandma Greta.

It was four years ago today that I met up with the graying gal at a holiday adoption event. The shaking four pounder ran away from me, and the store Santa, hiding out beneath feathered red and green Christmas cat toys.

I finally lured her out an hour later with a candy cane raw hide.

Greta was yipping in laughter as she recounted the story to her brother Tuck, the terrier, this morning. She was trying to console him after the vet pronounced that Tuck has now joined the ranks of my senior canine clan and is eligible for his own senior discount.

Tuck was not at all amused.

So Greta then offered Tuck her tried and true tips on aging from the perspective of her 100 plus dog years, barking them off loudly so he’d listen:

1. Naps are bliss. Like a zen moment, they’ll help you find your joy.
2. When life gets too stressful, just ‘shake it off’, or…
3. Pull a blanket over your head, or…
4. Twirl like crazy, while you still can. (Wearing a tutu, of course, or a maybe a tie).
5. You’re never too old to wear pink, or baby blue.
6. Keep traveling to new destinations, be it below the toy rack at the pet store, or chasing even smaller critters in a canyon.
7. Keep strutting your stuff. It’s all in that attitude.
8. Shriek, sing or howl at least once a day. Just to be heard, and because you have something to say.
9. If you bat those gray eyelashes, you’re sure to get a treat at the Golden Arches’s drive thru.
10. Always snuggle with family or friends as much as you can. You’ll stay warmer, especially in your heart.

And you’ll be forever grateful.

Upon hearing that last tip, Tuck jumped right up on the couch next to Greta and gave her a big sloppy kiss on the nose.

Lessons from the half pint

I can not tell a lie.

Grandma Greta annoyed me big time Friday night.

I’d just walked in the door after work with a headache, and there she stood staring right up at me.

And shrieking with all her might.

It’s amazing how much noise can come out of 4.9 pound, 15 year old.

I admit I raised my voice back in response and told her in not the nicest way to “be quiet!”

And also in the process, chipped a big chunk of of a front tooth from grinding my teeth so hard.

Afterwards, Greta felt badly about my upcoming dental bill.

And I felt guilty about losing my patience, especially when I discovered the root of her irritation was an empty water bowl.

I hadn’t filled it to the top Friday morning.

We both decided to step up our downward dog yoga poses this weekend to de-stress.

And in spite of it all, we really did enjoy our Halloween night.

Greta adored scaring those little kids as she twirled in her bat woman costume.

And I loved doing the same in my brand new toothless wonder costume.