Adopting a Senior Dog Was More Than I Barkained For

by Kristin Boes  |  photos by Olivia Ungemach

“Let’s go pick up your dog!” my friend declared one fateful Friday evening. She knew that I had fallen hard for a senior beagle at CHA Animal Shelter in Westerville, and she had decided that after two months of listening to me pine, enough was enough. It was time. 

As I filled out my application, the staff told me what little they knew about the dog. She was approximately 10 years old and had been transferred to them from an overcrowded rural shelter about two months prior. She had sad eyes and a droopy expression and hung to the back of her cage. Worse, they’d saddled her with the unfortunate moniker of Edna, which sounded to me less like a happy dog and more like a cranky librarian who always smells of mothballs and Brussels sprouts. “My dog isn’t an Edna,” I decided. “My dog is a bright cheerful flower! My dog is a Daisy! This is going to be great!” 

It wasn’t.

From day one, it was apparent that she had never been a cared-for pet. When presented with an array of toys, she just looked confused. She had obviously never seen stairs before. Her front teeth were worn down to the gums. She knew zero commands. She had not been spayed [see Editor’s note below]. And her version of being housebroken was licking up her urine after peeing on the floor. 

This last issue, of course, was the toughest to deal with, and my husband, Jeff, and I tried everything. We researched house-training methods and followed the directions verbatim, with no success. She had lab work and diagnostic tests. We tried Reiki and essential oils, and while she enjoyed them, they did not magically turn her into a housebroken wonder-pet. We even discussed taking her back to the shelter, but Jeff and I both knew that it would destroy her, in soul if not in body. Years of mistreatment had eroded any den instinct she should have had, and we were paying the price for someone else’s poor dog ownership. 

So if our dog wasn’t going to change, we had to. And amazingly, over time, we have adapted. It requires compromise and measuring success a little differently. It was exciting, for example, when she started to empty her bladder on the hard flooring rather than the carpet. It seemed a major victory when she stopped trying to lick up her urine; she’d left that part of her life behind. We’ve learned how to understand her signals. We buy paper towels and air freshener in bulk. And while it’s never a pleasure finding a mess on the floor, it’s just part of the care she needs. 

And she makes up for it a hundred-fold. She is the kindest, most gently forgiving soul I have ever known. She gets along beautifully with my three cats. Any destructive puppy tendencies are long behind her. She has overcome a horrendous past to become a joyful, loving, goofy dog, who gives daily lessons on patience and living in the moment. She has wispy white eyelashes, pigeon toes, and a tongue that never seems to fully stay in her mouth. She loves Starbucks “Pup Cups,” Timbits and Raising Cane’s french fries. (Always in moderation, just in case my vet is reading this!) My return from work is like Christmas, every day. She is my devoted shadow and loves nothing better than a snooze next to me on the couch. It feels like she was storing up all her love for that first 10 years, and now it overflows from every cell in her body. 

Daisy has helped me to see my city with all-new eyes, because she adores going on car rides and meeting new people. We have several fantastic dog parks where she can roam off-leash and put that beagle sniffer to good use. I discovered that many of the local craft breweries allow dogs on the patio, which has led me to join the Columbus Ale Trail. We have attended a doggy Halloween party, Wagfest, Gahanna Creekside’s Paws on the Plaza, and the Westerville “Easter Beg Hunt.” All over the city, her sweet demeanor and lopsided grin have won the hearts of everyone she meets.

People say they are nervous about rescuing a senior dog because of the limited time. But for me, the shorter time means I never take a day for granted. I’m cramming a lifetime of love into the years that we have together, and we are both reaping the benefits. Daisy might have been more than I bargained for, but this little dog has forever changed my home, my life, and my experience of Columbus. Our time together may be finite, but the love that she gives, and the love she inspires, is limitless.

Editor’s note: Daisy had not been spayed prior to coming to the shelter. CHA spays or neuters all pets before adoption.]


Kristin swore she was a cat lady … until she got a dog. Now she’s not sure. When she is not doting on her four fur babies (three feline, one canine) and husband (human), she is working her day job at a managed care company, participating in community theater, enjoying a book and a coffee, or training for a local race in which she will run, very slowly.