Netty, a mixed pit bull, was adopted three days after arriving at a shelter in Philadelphia. But this summer, her 12-year-old owners dropped her off at the same shelter. They said it was time to put the 15-year-old dog down.
“She was discharged with a request for euthanasia,” said Maddie Bernstein, rescue manager at the SPCA of Pennsylvania. “She was elderly and had incontinence issues around the house.”
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Netty’s owners, who adopted her in 2010, “weren’t interested in talking about other options for her, like medication,” Bernstein said.
Next, the shelter’s veterinary team evaluated Netty.
“They felt like she still had a quality of life,” Bernstein said. “They put her on medication, and she did very well. She was starting to get better.”
Thus began the search for Netty’s new home – which, given her age and needs, would be a challenge. Senior dogs, Bernstein explained, “normally don’t get much traction for adoption.”
The staff decided to share Netty’s story on social media, where they managed to place the elderly in the past.
“We hate to break your heart, again, but here we are,” Pennsylvania SPCA wrote in a Facebook post, which included background information about Netty. “We are looking for a house where she can spend the time she has left.”
“Netty is VERY low maintenance and could live with respectful dogs, cats and children,” the post continues. “Can you please help us spread the word about this beautiful soul to get her out of the shelter and into a warm, comfortable bed?”
The post was quickly inundated with comments and shared thousands of times.
Amy Kidd, a veterinarian in West Chester, Pennsylvania, saw the post and immediately offered to adopt Netty.
His family had lost their 12-year-old rescue dog, Monty, to cancer a month earlier, and they were keeping their eyes peeled for a new senior pet to take. What constitutes a senior depends on the breed, Kidd said, but generally the age category consists of dogs over 8 years old.
“As soon as I saw her face I was like OK, she’s the one to come to my house,” said Kidd, 48, who has six senior dogs, ranging in age from 12 to 16.
For the past eight years, Kidd and her husband have taken in senior dogs – many of whom were considered “hospice dogs” with life expectancies of a month or two. In several cases, Kidd explained, they ended up living three or four more years. “When they come to us, it’s kind of a fountain of youth,” she said.
“We try to do what’s best for them, for as long as possible,” said Kidd, owner of Popcopson Vet Station in West Chester. Her husband works remotely and takes care of the animals during the day. “Our plan is to only take in older pets in our family, or pets that are in trouble and need extra medication and care.”
While Kidd was at work on August 9, his daughter and two sons traveled to Philadelphia — about 40 miles from their home in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania — to pick up Netty. They brought two of their senior dogs with them to make sure they get along.
“It was time to meet her, and I saw her walking down the hall,” said Emilea Suplick, Kidd’s daughter, who also works as a veterinary technician at her mother’s clinic. “She sniffed me and gave me a flick of her tail.”
Shelter staff said Netty rarely wags her tail, “and that just closed the deal,” said Sulick, 20, a junior at the University of Pittsburgh.
With Kidd on FaceTime, they went over Netty’s medical history and discussed what kind of care she would need in her new home. While her brothers – both in high school – waited in the car with their two dogs, Suplick signed the paperwork.
“The staff was so nice. They were absolutely wonderful and they all thanked us for taking her,” Sulick said.
Netty did well in the car during the hour-long drive to Kennett Square, and once they arrived, “she settled in right away,” Sulick said. “She knew she was home.”
“She immediately became part of the family,” echoed Kidd, who bought Netty a giant teddy bear from Amazon to cuddle and carry around the house.
With medication, they quickly brought his incontinence under control, and the arthritis in his lower spine and elbows is steadily improving.
“She’s medically much better,” Kidd said, adding that they’ve been doing hydrotherapy in their backyard pool, which has done wonders for Netty’s mobility. “She’s getting stronger and stronger, and it’s really fun to see her personality come out.”
“She’s a pretty stubborn girl, and it’s kind of funny because she’s supposed to be this old lady who can’t walk,” Kidd added. “She’s officially the queen bee of the house. She walked up the stairs on her own, no problem. She does that every day.”
In Netty’s case, “it’s crazy to see the transformation,” Kidd said. “I have a feeling she’s going to be here for quite a while.”
For Kidd and his family, caring for senior dogs is especially rewarding. While it comes with responsibilities — both financial and emotional — “it’s definitely worth it,” Kidd said.
“It’s so rewarding to bring in a senior rescue dog and watch them thrive,” she continued. “Even if it’s a short period of time, every day is a blessing.”
Her daughter agreed.
“She has so much to offer, and we’re so lucky to have her,” Suplick said of Netty. “I hope other people will be inspired by her story and give adult dogs a chance.”
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