Senior Pup Gets A Second Chance

By Taylor Huestis

Do you believe love at first sight is real? Heather and Andrew do. They’ve been lucky to experience this magical feeling 2x.

Heather has always been a lifelong animal-lover. After working in an animal shelter in her hometown in New Brunswick, she developed a deep passion for rescue and adoption. “This experience was very formative for me and cultivated an empathy for animals that for whatever reason had found themselves without a home,” she reflected.

They had their first love at sight experience with Myrtle. “Our first adoption from the Dartmouth SPCA was Myrtle in 2015,” Heather smiled. “I have a particular affection for pitbull mixes and Myrtle’s enthusiastic, almost desperate affection, melted our hearts.”

So, when Heather spotted Barbara, a small senior pup, on the adoptions website… she knew the feeling.

“I jumped right in my car and drove over there within half an hour of seeing her photo,” Heather remembered. “When they brought her out, she limped excitedly towards me with her hilarious little gremlin face and my heart exploded. I took her outside for a little walk and she rolled on her back in the grass, kicking her little legs in the air. Even though she was old, I could see she was still getting lots of pleasure from life.”

“My partner and I have a special affection for older dogs,” Heather continued. “They just make our hearts explode with love. The idea of a dog of a certain age being left at a shelter and having to start over really pulls at the heartstrings. We want to be there to give that precious animal the golden years they deserve. What animal could deserve love, pampering and devotion more than a senior dog that has found herself all alone?”

Barbara is an extra special senior with a unique heart. It was discovered that Barbara was in congestive heart failure. To help her, and her future family, Barbara joined the SPCA Palliative Care Program. The program was developed to help senior pets with manageable health concerns live their best lives. The SPCA covers the cost of medical care while the new family provides a loving retirement home.

“We are so grateful that the SPCA offers this excellent and important program,” Heather beamed. “Having the extra vet expenses associated with adopting a senior pet or an animal with ongoing health issues can be a deterrent for some potential adopters. This program gives them a second chance and provides the ongoing support they need.”

“I would like to give a special shout out to Liz at the SPCA,” Heather complimented. “She has such a huge heart and has been Barb’s champion every step of the way.”

Myrtle and Barbara did a meet-and-greet at the SPCA and it solidified what Heather and Andrew already knew. It was the perfect match. “Barb, being the older lady, wasn’t afraid to put Myrtle in her place and Myrtle took those cues very well,” Heather giggled. “Myrtle respects her elders!”

Heather and Andrew brought Barbara home on March 25, 2020 and she settled in very quickly. “She wanted to sniff absolutely everything and was so enthusiastic… it was like we were showing her a whole new world,” Heather shared. “Barbara has congestive heart failure but she doesn’t let that reduce her enjoyment of life. She doesn’t dwell in the past or worry about the future… she lives in the moment.”

“Despite her challenges, she is able to enjoy pleasurable moments to the fullest and love her family completely. I am a person that tends to worry and ruminate with anxiety and Barb helps me see that there is another way to live. She helps me see the moments of pleasure and love that life has to offer.”

One of the most special memories happened that first summer together. “We took Barbara and Myrtle to my partner’s family cottage on Parlee Beach in New Brunswick,” Heather reminisced. “Barb had a significant limp in her front left leg but with lots of walking this limp had almost completely disappeared and we were looking forward to walking her on the long beach.”

“When we arrived, the tide was out and there was a huge space to explore. For the first time since we adopted her, I let her off leash. To my amazement, she ran around the beach at full speed, exuding absolute joy, like a dog half her age. We couldn’t believe it. A dog that could hardly make it around the block without having to be carried because of her limp a few months prior was now zipping around the sand flats like she’d been given a new body. I’ll never forget the look of pure joy on her face.”

Heather continued: “There is something truly special about having the opportunity to love a dog near the end of their life. It is a privilege. Barb came along at the perfect time for us, right as the pandemic hit. She was the bright light that we needed during that stressful and uncertain time. We feel lucky to be able to care for Barb and give her all the love we can, and she gives us so much in return. It is really us, the people, who are receiving more than we are giving her. Caring for any pet will enrich your life and for us is one of life’s great pleasures. That pleasure is only multiplied when the dog is particularly in need.”

Do you have your tissues? You may need some.

“Even though it will be very hard when our Barbara passes away, it will have been absolutely worth it to have had the opportunity to love her and be loved by her,” Heather grinned. “People do often ask how we could adopt a senior knowing that they won’t be with us for that long, but I have never really understood that question. To me the question that makes more sense is how could you NOT adopt a senior?”

“We love Barb as if we have had her a lifetime. It will be hard to lose her, but you have to make it about her life and not about your pain. It is worth the pain of losing her in order to know she was loved and cared for in her golden years. When we see her running on the beach, diving headfirst into her dinner or bouncing around the backyard with a zest for life, it is obvious how worthwhile adopting a senior is.”

Love at first sight is most definitely real.


Taylor Huestis

Taylor is the Communications & Development Officer with the Nova Scotia SPCA and proud adoptive fur-mama to Bonnie and Boy. She is passionate about raising awareness and funds for local animals in need. Connect with Taylor at or 902-222-0378 today.