The stars aligned when Scooby entered my world on July 2, 2016. In honor of my beloved soul animal, Chance, who passed away six months earlier, I was moved to foster over the Fourth of July weekend.
It’s always a great choice to foster, but the explosive Fourth is a time of year when fosters are needed most. Animal shelters are overwhelmed by the high intake of dogs. Most have homes, but get spooked by booming fireworks, take off running, and land in animal shelters. Even though their stay is typically short, two to four days until their families come get them, it’s long enough to lead to massive overcrowding. To make room for the new arrivals, amazing and deserving dogs that have been living at the shelter the longest—patiently waiting to be adopted by forever, loving families—become at high risk to be euthanized. Fostering saves their lives.
Finding My Foster
With the help of two amazing women in rescue, Andrea and Hillary, and guidance from Chance, I found smiling Scooby.
A Purposeful Rescue (APR) pulled Scooby from Downey Animal Care Center just days before the holiday. His family dumped him there to be euthanized because he had a head tilt. Despite some mild neurological issues, shelter workers saw a spark in the 14-year-old Canaan dog mix. When APR met Scooby, they knew he was a Magical Unicorn—an amazing dog who deserved a home.
As soon as I found out about Scooby’s medial challenges, I knew Chance’s paws were all over this match. During the last two years of his life, Chance fought mysterious neuro issues, and I’m certain he picked Scooby in a deliberate act of kindness. His way of paying forward the abundance of love and care he received for 11+ years to a heartbroken dog with similar issues. Scooby was abandoned during a time of greatest need. Chance knew I would do everything in my power to help him feel good, loved and bring him happiness.
I met Scooby for the first time when I picked him up from APR’s go-to veterinary care, Pali Vet, where he had a full exam and 17 teeth extracted. That’s right, 17! As for his neuro problems, nobody knew for certain the cause. One suspicion was that he survived a stroke. In addition to his head tilt, he had a slightly wobbly walk. To me and the many that helped save him, he was perfect!
Scooby was smaller in person than he appeared in pictures. And quite honestly, the most serene, gentle dog I ever met. His smile! It lit up the world.
Scooby’s Greatest Love
Scoobs was an excellent communicator, which made getting to know him easy. I never heard him bark, but he did have a voice. He whimpered and whined in varying degrees to tell me his needs and express his feelings. He had definitive dislikes, likes and loves.
I quickly learned Scooby didn’t like being picked up. At all. When I lifted him into the back of my small SUV for the ride home, he shrieked. Since he was on pain meds from all those pulled teefers, and I had a secure and gentle hold of him, I knew it was fear talking. I used my voice and gentle pets to reassure him. “You’re okay, Scooby. You’re okay. I promise. You’re going to be so spoiled from here on out!” After some soothing, his practically perma-grin returned.
Another strong dislike of his was medication. Giving him pills was impossible. Well, almost. He locked his mouth shut. Packing wet dog food around his meds and rolling them into a ball won him over. It was a sneaky trick by me, but he gobbled them up!
Scooby had a ravenous appetite. He never turned down a meal or treat. He absolutely loved frozen coconut milk. It was a pint of joy that he happily helped me eat.
He was crazy about his new siblings, Hazel and Parker. They adored him back. The three of them had a secret code. Sometimes I would catch them all smiling at each other as if one of them had told an off-color joke they couldn’t share with mom.
One of our first big outings with Scooby was a trip to the beach. Watching him take in the ocean air and admire the waves was like watching the rebirth of a soul.
Although Scooby initially flinched when anyone reached their hand over his head to pet him, his expression turned to bliss as soon as they started caressing his super soft coat. He wasn’t a big cuddler, but he did love it when I laid next to him and massaged him. He loved being in the same room with everybody. He loved being part of a tribe.
Scooby’s greatest love was walking. He loved being outside, exploring, and sticking his head in the bushes to smell the smells that dogs enjoy.
Scooby’s Greatest Loss
Four weeks after I started fostering Scooby, I woke up to him wailing at 3:00 am. He wasn’t in pain. He was in panic. Using his front legs, he was frantically trying to get into a standing position. His hind legs weren’t cooperating. They were stiff as a board.
I hooked my left arm underneath his belly to get him in an upright position and held him there. His front legs strong and firm on the ground, while his hind legs hovered an inch above the floor. He calmed a bit. With my right hand, I rubbed and massaged his hind legs. They wouldn’t give. They were stiff and paralyzed. It was the worst thing that could happen to him.
A Purposeful Rescue sent us a sling right away to help me help him get around, and ease going to the bathroom. After a visit to the vet, Scooby was put on a week of rest. I pulled him in a wagon for walks.
By Day 3 he was over it. He would whine until I stopped, lifted him out of the wagon and just let him sit in the grass.
By Week 3 of his paralysis, we said goodbye to the wagon. I took him outside using the sling. I live in a dog-friendly apartment complex with turf-covered dog runs and some grass areas. Our walks were short, but each week the number of laps we walked increased.
One afternoon a 9ish year old neighbor girl walked up to Scooby and me. She asked, “What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s old and his back legs kinda quit working.”
She looked at Scooby with great sympathy, “That’s sad.”
“But look at his front legs.”
Her face lit up as she watched Scooby lead me on our walk. “They’re perfect!”
Four weeks after his back legs went on strike, I caught him standing at the water bowl. He was determined to walk again.
Over the next month, he continued to deliver doses of hope. Each day he walked more. A few steps on the area rug turned into a ten foot walk from one room to another. The day he started greeting me at the door when I got home from work, my heart leapt out of my chest!
On October 8, I was at my vet with Hazel. It happened to be my beloved Chance’s adoptiversary, and the last time I had been there was when I had to say good bye to him. As Hazel and I waited for her appointment, I received a text from Hillary at APR. She asked if I would like to be Scooby’s forever foster mom. Of course I said, “Yes!” It was magical.
Scooby fit in with our family right from the start. Now it was official. And, oh so exciting!
As the weather cooled, the four of us made more and more visits to the park so Scooby could practice walking in the grass. By mid-November, he was taking brief strolls in the grass and on turf without my support. His face beamed with pride!
The week of Thanksgiving Scooby was lavished with a triple dose of love and attention. I had time off from work, and my mom and step dad came for a visit. Scooby got to experience the beach again.
He basked in the sun. Traipsed through the sand. As the surf painted his face with pure joy, Scooby delivered smiles to passersby.
Despite conquering paralysis, Scooby’s nearly 15-year-old body and mind were struggling more each week, and then each day. Every couple of weeks, I tweaked his regime. I’d see health improvements for awhile, then he’d regress again. I had an agonizing decision to make.
There were two things I knew for certain. First, I never wanted a day to come when Scoobs didn’t flash his gorgeous smile. Second, Scooby deserved to leave this earth as a triumphant Warrior King. A miracle maker!
I asked Chance to greet Scooby when he arrived in heaven. He unequivocally agreed. On December 3, 2016, Scooby passed away peacefully surrounded by the love of Parker, Hazel and me.
His last day was a celebration. Cuddles from Hazel and Parker. Lots of love and pets from me. A few short walks with plenty of stops to stick his head in the bushes and make me laugh. We spent an hour in the park, his favorite place.
He ate his favorite chewy treats. He soaked up the sun. And he walked! Proudly. Triumphantly. With that infamous smile on his face.
Two nights after Scooby left this earth, I looked up to the sky. A glowing crescent moon was cupping a brilliantly bright star. They were together. Side by side. Chance and Scooby.
Every dog deserves to leave this earth with dignity and great comfort knowing they are loved. Scooby was a tremendous gift. His smile is carved in my heart.
How You Can Make A Difference
There are thousands and thousands of senior dogs that get surrendered to shelters every year. Some have healthy years left to live and need a temporary, loving home until a forever adopter is found. Some, like Scooby, need a loving place to live out their final chapter in comfort.
If you have the time, please foster. If you cannot foster, volunteer. If you cannot volunteer, donate.
Please join me in honoring Scooby with a donation to help support all the Magical Unicorns that APR works so hard to save.
Want to double your donation? Now through January 3, 2017, A Purposeful Rescue is teaming up with A DogVacay, who is matching contributions made here dollar for dollar up to $15,000. WOW! What a difference that will make.