Helen in convertibleAre you looking for something to change your life? We live in a world that is a mile a minute. Social media, streaming shows, and news things are constantly in our face telling us something needs to change; we are missing out. What is something that changed your life was not the next thing to buy or consume blaring from your Facebook or Instagram feed. What if it was a senior dog? For me, it was.

In 2015, I was like everyone else scrolling social media feeds on a Friday evening when I stopped on a dog with a gray muzzle, an insane growth between her back legs, and the sweetest face I’ve ever seen. Instantly, I told my now-husband that I wanted to adopt this dog. He thought I was crazy and gently told me we should talk about it later. Her name was Helen. She was somewhere around 14 and lived in Florida. She had recently undergone surgery for the removal of a mammary tumor the size of two softballs. I talked about her nonstop for a few days. I reached out to the rescue, filled out an application, and scheduled a home visit to be approved to adopt this dog that was 3000 miles away.

I did not know what I was getting myself into, but off we went to adopt Helen. She flew home in the cabin from Fort Lauderdale and had a real family for the next four months. She had a house with a big yard, a big bed, a brother, two feline sisters, and tons of attention. She went to the Pacific Ocean, had puppacinos (thanks to Starbucks), loved riding in my convertible, and had her share of plain cheeseburgers. While she probably did have the time of her life, I was the winner in the relationship. I learned far more from her and got the better end of the deal than she ever could have. I am sure of that.

Helen was my first rescue dog. But she would not be my last. Opening up my heart to her in what unfortunately ended up being the end of her life showed me a value in what is important that I did not know I was missing. I already had a dog, Denzel, who had been with me since he was a puppy. But this was my first time adopting. Why did Denzel and I never do this before? Dogs are capable of showing unconditional love and support beyond what most humans ever can. Every day is the best day of your dog’s life. Senior dogs possess a love and an utterly indescribable warmth. Earning the love and trust of a senior dog when they have no reason to trust you at all is flat-out humbling.

I needed to heal from so many things in my life when I adopted Helen. My divorce. My earlier cancer ups and downs. So many things. We all need to heal. Life is hard. Helen was a big part of that for me. After Helen died in my car on the way home from my office, I knew that the best thing I could do to honor her memory would be to adopt again from Dachshund Rescue of South Florida. Since that time, I have been back to Florida multiple times and have adopted four more times. I tell you this not, so you adopt from Florida, commend me for saving animals, or anything like that. I tell you this because this was something I had never done before, would never have considered doing, but the love of one senior dog changed my life. In a time of transition and crisis, there is no better friend than a dog.

Humans are resilient, but animals take it to a whole new level. As humans, we need help. We are imperfect. We go through transition, crisis, and while we usually keep going, we cannot do it alone. We need strong support systems. For many of us, our animals are a big part of that. They may rely on us for food, shelter, and primary care. But we come to rely on them for love and companionship that will never let us down in a way that we cannot rely on most humans.

November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month. It is a time when I think back on rescuing Helen, all of the goodness that she brought into my life, and the other animals that have enhanced my life simply because I saw her photo on Instagram and decided to send a message. Including Helen, I have adopted two senior dogs, two special needs/wheelchair dogs, and two non-senior dogs. And the counting certainly won’t stop there. I expect my rescuing to continue to take place for decades to come.

There are so many local shelters and rescues to support. Living in Washington, I actively support a handful of my favorite rescues (listed below).

If you’re considering adding to your family in the future, I encourage you to consider adopting a senior dog. And if/when you do, find me and share your story with me. I do not doubt that if you open your heart to a senior dog in need, the reward in your home and heart will be exponentially larger than anything I can describe here.