The following is a true story written by a staff member of the Broad Ripple Animal Clinic.
My grandparents are in their 80’s and last year, they went through a very difficult time in their lives. My grandmother was hospitalized for many months with a life-threatening condition and there were many days our family thought she was nearing the end of her life. During this time, my grandfather was spending most of his days going back and forth between being at her side in the hospital, and caring for their 15 year-old teacup poodle, Niki who was on medications that had to be given multiple times a day. One day, Niki began having horrible seizures and my grandfather knew in his heart that it was time to let her go. He took Niki to their veterinarian and said his good-byes. He then tried to focus all his energy on my grandmother, whose condition slowly improved. She went through extensive physical rehabilitation, and spent more than a month in a nursing facility before she was able to go home again.
Once she was home, my grandparents had to start dealing with the fact that their constant companion was no longer there. Niki’s absence devastated them both. They began thinking about the future and how short it may be for each of them and started to ask themselves a lot of “what if” questions. My grandmother hadn’t been home a month before they announced to our family that they had sold their home and were moving into an assisted living center nearby. My family was shocked at their sudden decision and tried to find out what might have caused them to make this choice. Suddenly, there was a flurry of phone calls back-and-forth between family members and a lot of division on whether or not they were making good choices.
Living four hours away, I hadn’t seen them in a few months, so I drove down one weekend to talk to them and see the apartment that was being prepared for their arrival. It was so very tiny, and knowing my grandfather’s love for gardening I couldn’t see how it would work, but they were both insistent that this had been their plan for quite some time and that since Niki was no longer with them, their house didn’t feel the same. They thought it was the best timing given the circumstances of the past year. We sat and had a good cry about the little dog who had entertained them, cuddled with them, and loved them over the past 14 plus years. I then told them I’d support them no matter where they decided to live.
So, my grandparents proceeded to “downsize”, placing their belongings in the hands of their children and moving into the assisted living facility in July of last year. In a few short months of living in such small quarters, they decided it wasn’t time for them to downsize to such a drastic extreme. They bought a small house and moved on October 13th. My grandmother was doing so well, improving beyond what anyone had dared hope. Once they were in their little house, they realized how much they were still missing Niki. One day, my grandfather saw an ad in the newspaper for a standard poodle puppy. He responded to the ad and impulsively brought her home, despite her small size and ‘questionable’ history. Everything looked good at her first veterinary visit, but three weeks later she was not growing and started losing the ability to walk. Within a few days, they had to say good-bye to this little puppy, losing another dog in less than a year.
Since I work in a veterinary hospital, my grandparents knew I would understand how they were feeling, and they called me frequently. This was a few weeks before Christmas, and I could sense they were not in the holiday spirit given their recent roller coaster ride of emotions. I asked them to allow me to find them a healthy dog when they felt the time was right and they agreed that maybe in a year or so, if they were both still in good health, they would let me help them find another dog.
I’m not a fan of giving a pet as a gift to others, and I am usually a strong advocate against selecting a pet as a gift for many reasons. But in this case, I knew that my grandparents needed a companion in their lives to fill the void Niki’s departure from life had created. I worked with a dear friend, who knew of a 2 year old miniature poodle that was in need of a good home. I met Apple three days before I was headed home for the holidays. I instantly made a connection with this dog and knew she needed my grandparents just as much as they needed her. I brought her home, and then to work with me the next day. I wanted to make sure Apple received a clean bill of health before giving her to my grandparents. Other than needing a good dental cleaning, she was in excellent health and I made plans to surprise my grandparents.
That weekend, shortly after arriving at my mother’s home we called my grandparents and asked them to come over to visit. I could barely contain my excitement! Later, my grandfather told me that as he was getting my grandmother into the car, he said to her, “I wonder if Brenda got us a dog for Christmas.” My grandmother responded, “No, she wouldn’t do that. She would tell us if she had a possible dog for us to adopt!” They arrived at my mother’s house, while I was hiding in a bedroom with Apple. The whole family was there and everyone was so excited. Once they were in the house and settled, I came out with Apple in my arms. My grandfather immediately welled up with tears of joy at the site of Apple, while my grandmother looked at me in a perplexed manner and said, “Oh, when did you get another dog?” We all laughed over her momentary confusion and explained that Apple needed a home and that I couldn’t think of a better home for her than theirs.
It has been a little more than a year since my grandparents lost Niki and just six months since they adopted Apple. I visited them last weekend and was amazed at the changes in my grandparents, as well as Apple. My grandparents have not only regained their independence and health, but their smiles and optimistic natures have also returned. I have to give Apple a lot of the credit for this transformation. She hasn’t replaced Niki, but she gives them the love and companionship they so desperately missed. The effect of this relationship is truly priceless to me and my family.