Elizabeth Naccarato chooses only senior dogs for her home. Beth was a Chicago foster mom for SARA senior dog Miami. Because Miami was so gentle and loving, Beth couldn’t let her go to anyone else and adopted her.

Miami battled cancer for the past two years. Because time with Miami has been short, we asked Beth to write about her senior dog experience and why people should consider adopting senior dogs. Beth and Miami have been generous with their words and photos.

On St. Patrick’s Day Weekend 2019, I agreed to split fostering a dog. Lindsay would take Miami, a senior Lab/Shepard Mix, for the first couple of days and then I would pick Miami up and house her as my second ever foster dog. 

Bringing Miami into our home with Aggie.

Miami came to Chicago from SARA Sanctuary in Texas to be adoptable through One Tail at a Time – an organization I now serve as a board member as well as an adopter, foster, and volunteer (pandemic aside).

Miami with her Texas bandana at SARA Sanctuary

I chose Miami because I had a sweet senior terrier named Aggie who wasn’t up for an energetic pup. I thought she might be a good fit. I told myself there was no way I was adopting because I had a move coming up within the month and I didn’t want a “big” dog. 

When I picked up Miami, she came right over to me tail wagging and a big smile on her face. Compared to my 15 lb. little guy she seemed massive at her (overweight) 72 lbs. She jumped right in my car and was ready to go.

Miami loves riding in the car, it’s her favorite thing.

Within a week I knew she would be hard to let go of. She fit right in like she had always been with us. She gave Aggie the respect and space he needed while still being involved in our day to day. She walked perfectly with him when we went out and scrunched herself up in the backseat of the car to give him room. 

Miami and Aggie cuddling in the car, sometimes she didn’t scrunch. 

She was a little distant for a while, but clearly comfortable with us and so easy going. I couldn’t stand the thought of her being with anyone else and a month later we made it official and adopted her.

Miami & me

Sadly, 6 weeks later Aggie got very sick with a series of upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, and a collapsing trachea. We spent much of the summer trying desperately to help him. Throughout it all, Miami was his protector and best buddy laying close to him on the couch, but not too close and always looking to see where he was on walks.

Miami comforting Aggie while he was sick.

We lost Aggie in August. Then Miami took her place right at my side giving me the comfort I so needed. She would put her head on my leg when we sat on the couch and transformed into a snuggle bug who only had eyes for me. 

Less than 3 weeks later, we discovered Miami had a splenic tumor which can be fatal if not removed. We didn’t hesitate to have it removed and our girl was a champ at surgery and recovery.

She’s such a good dog she never even needed to wear the cone as she didn’t lick her sutures at all. While removing the spleen, our surgeon noticed a tumor on her adrenal gland. We decided to wait to see if the splenic tumor had been cancerous before we decided on a big surgery like removing her adrenal gland with all its complications.

Those senior eyes.

We were overjoyed to learn the splenic tumor wasn’t cancerous and decided to go ahead with the adrenal surgery since she did so well with the spleen removal. She had one adrenal gland, part of her liver, and her gallbladder removed and recovered beautifully again.

Unfortunately, once again, we learned her other adrenal gland also had a tumor. Since removing both adrenal glands is very risky, we decided again on a wait and see approach to see what the tumor would do.

We had the best 8 months in that time going to the dog beach, for all the walks, countless car rides (her favorite) and we fostered 4 dogs. Miami is the most gracious host for fosters. She is the calm, confident guide many dogs need when transitioning from shelter care to a home.  

And for us, through the tragic and untimely deaths of several family and friends, she was there being that calm, loving presence for us too just like she is for other dogs.

After finally buying a house and giving her a yard, she had 2 good months enjoying her new space when she started having trouble breathing. It turns out she had pleural effusion – or fluid around her lungs. After a battery of tests, we learned that she has carcinomatosis and it is fatal. We felt robbed since she battled benign tumors 3 times and for all that we took out she got cancer anyway. But she was still her and had light and love in her eyes and I knew she wasn’t ready.

So, we’ve embarked on a cancer journey with chemo. What was a “weeks” prognosis has turned into more than 2 months. She has more good days than bad days, and she is still my sweet girl who flops her left ear when she is happy and relaxed, runs to the car when I come home, and pleads with her soulful eyes for a bite of whatever I’m eating.

We will keep fighting for her to have more time as long as she’s up for it. She lived most of her life at SARA and at a shelter before that. She deserves a loving home and people to be with her until the end and we are so lucky to give her that. 

She is hands down one of the best dogs I’ve ever had. She has most definitely given me more than I could ever give her. She loves everyone and everything and is happy to just lay near her people and take a car ride to anywhere.

Some may think adopting a senior is hard or sad and while we certainly have been through quite a bit in her almost 2 years with us, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Seniors are happy to just be part of a family and they ask so little in return. Aggie was 7 (ish) when I adopted him and Miami was 10 (ish).

Giving a senior dog a family and a place to call home is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. For me, knowing they have a home and can finish out their lives surrounded by love is so meaningful. While I didn’t get as much time with Miami as I did with Aggie, it has been a happy 2 years full of lots of head scratches, nice walks, and the sweetest looks ever. 

Senior buddies Miami & Aggie walking together.

Don’t discount the seniors. They have a lot of love and a lot of companionship left to give. I’m pretty sure the next dog I adopt will be a senior too.

LAST DAYS & EXTRA TIME

It’s impossible not to be wild about Miami. She is definitely one of my greatest loves. She is so generous with her love, so happy and calm.

The techs at her oncologist appointment were gushing about her today. What a big fan club she has. She’s a very special girl and she has brought so much joy to us. I wish I could do more for her. We’ve gotten extra time. She couldn’t walk me more gently to the end than she has. For these last days it’s all about Miami time.

Miami has her own Instagram page @thedivinemsmiami where Beth has been sharing all of their experiences.

THANKS FOR JOINING US ON PATREON

We hope Miami’s story will help you consider adopting or sponsoring senior dogs from SARA or our partners in Chicago: One Tail at a Time and Fetching Tails Foundation. SARA works with shelters and rescue organizations to find homes for adoptable Texas-friendly dogs.

Thanks for your monthly support on Patreon. You are helping support SARA’s mission for giving animals an unconditional life.

MIAMI UPDATE:

Easter weekend was Miami’s last. She was 14.5 years old. Miami did some of her favorite things like going on a walk but this time in a wagon. Beth made a tribute on Miami’s Instagram page.

Founder Tracy remembers Miami fondly and said, “She was happy and well-loved here. She lived with a group of older dogs while at SARA and got to go to events like doggy yoga.”

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