One story that I remember from a few years back really shows the power of the bond we have with animals and how sharing your home with a pet can change your life for the better. I’m happy to share it with you today.
She romped and barked in the backyard of the home for 10 years. The beloved pet of an oilman’s widow, Sparkle was named for her shiny, sparkly eyes.
She ate every meal in lavish style sitting on the woman’s lap. Mildred loved Sparkle like a child, as she brought comfort to her loneliness. Mildred fed her only the best food and talked to her as they took their daily walks through the neighborhood.
They were growing old together and that was okay with Mildred. “This little mix is the reason I wake up in the morning,” she told friends.
Dementia started slowly. One day Mildred forgot to lock the door. The next, she forgot to turn off the stove. When the neighbor hadn’t seen Millie, as he called her, in a while, he knew he needed to check on the woman he always saw walking a white dog in the mornings. He found her on the floor with Sparkle guarding her like a lioness protecting her family. When the ambulance arrived, they whisked Mildred away. She ultimately became a resident in a memory care unit, where she reportedly spent her days repeating the name Sparkle over and over again.
Mildred had not prepared a will that planned for Sparkle’s future. No family member stepped up to take her, and Sparkle found herself being taken to the animal shelter.
The very dog that for 10 years served as the rock for a woman was now homeless and alone, as if her purpose was no longer important.
Shaking and scared, the sparkle in her eye was replaced with fear. At the shelter, Sparkle saw the veterinarian, who checked out a few lumps and bumps that came with being an older dog. She was given a clean kennel and some good food, but she only nibbled at it. It just didn’t taste like the food she was used to.
For the next few days she slept at the back of the kennel with one eye always looking at the front, waiting for Mildred to return. The volunteers took her for walks, but it just wasn’t the same. The staff was concerned that due to her age she would be difficult to place in a new home, but they were committed to trying.
Sparkle was at the shelter for 30 days, losing weight and suffering from depression. One afternoon, Max, a 75-year-old man, came into the shelter just to look. His daughter thought he needed to get a dog to keep him company since her mom had died a few months earlier. He wasn’t convinced, but figured he would go and look.
Walking through the kennels, he felt overwhelmed by the barking and the energy level of the dogs, all who seemed to say, “Take me, take me.” He was about to leave when he spotted Sparkle. Crouching at the front of the kennel, he called to her and she crawled to the front as if to say hello. He knew right away he had found his new purpose. He adopted her and it didn’t take long for Sparkle to resume her role as a needed friend and confidant.
But the story doesn’t end here. A few months later, Max decided to visit his friend Manny, who had just entered a care facility within walking distance from his home. The center gave him permission to bring Sparkle to visit since she was well trained and fully vaccinated.
As they entered, Sparkle started acting funny. Her ears perked up and she was pulling him to the left. She had never done that before, Max thought. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a woman approaching and he heard her start to cry, “Sparkle!”
The staff was shocked. The dog looked just like the dog in the picture Mildred showed them daily. After a bit of research, everyone realized this was indeed the same Sparkle. There was not a dry eye in the house. Max started to bring Sparkle to the center daily to visit and they all built an amazing relationship.
While Sparkle’s story has a happy ending, unfortunately, it’s not the case for all older animals. There are many senior pets in animal shelters right now that need homes. At the Pasadena Humane Society, Sundance a sweet, 10-year-old Chihuahua pictured here, is one of those senior dogs looking for a new home. His ID number is A445610. View Sundance and other adoptable animals at pasadenahumane.org/pets.