Netty, a mixed pit bull, was adopted three days after she arrived at a Philadelphia shelter. But this summer, her owners of 12 years dropped her back at the same shelter. They said it was time to put down the 15-year-old dog.
Netty’s owners, who adopted her in 2010, “weren’t interested in talking about other options for her, like medications,” Bernstein said.
Then the shelter’s veterinary team evaluated Netty.
“They felt like she still had a quality of life,” Bernstein said. “They started her on meds, and she did really well. She was starting to improve.”
And so began the search for Netty’s new home — which, given her age and needs, would be a challenge. Senior dogs, Bernstein explained, “normally don’t get a lot of traction for adoption.”
Staff decided to share Netty’s story on social media, where they had success placing seniors in the past.
“We hate to break your hearts, again, but here we are,” Pennsylvania SPCA wrote in a Facebook post, which included some background information about Netty. “We are looking for a home where she can spend whatever time she has left.”
“Netty is VERY low maintenance, and could live with dogs, cats and respectful kids,” the post continued. “Can you please help us spread the word about this beautiful soul to get her out of the shelter and into a warm, cozy bed?”
The post was soon flooded with comments and shared thousands of times.
Amy Kidd, a veterinarian in West Chester, Pa., saw the post, and she immediately reached out with an offer to adopt Netty.
Her family had lost their 12-year-old rescue dog, Monty, to cancer a month before, and they were keeping their eyes out for a new senior pet to take in. What constitutes a senior depends on the breed, Kidd said, but generally, the age category consists of dogs over 8.
“As soon as I saw her face, I was like okay, she’s the one that needs to come to my house,” said Kidd, 48, who has six senior dogs, ranging in age from 12 to 16.
For the past eight years, Kidd and her husband have been housing senior dogs — many of whom were considered “hospice dogs” with a life expectancy of a month or two. In several cases, Kidd explained, they ended up living three or four years longer. “When they get to our house, it’s kind of a fountain of youth,” she said.
“We try to do what’s best for them, as long as we possibly can,” said Kidd, who owns Popcopson Veterinary Station in West Chester. Her husband works remotely and looks after the animals during the day. “Our plan is to only take senior pets into our family, or animals that have problems, need medication and extra care.”
While Kidd was at work Aug. 9, her daughter and two sons drove to Philadelphia — about 40 miles from their home in Kennett Square, Pa. — to retrieve Netty. They brought two of their senior dogs with them to make sure they all got along.
“It was time to meet her, and I saw her walk down the hallway,” said Emilea Suplick, Kidd’s daughter, who also works as a veterinary technician at her mother’s clinic. “She sniffed me and gave me a little bit of a tail wag.”
Staff at the shelter said Netty seldom wagged her tail, “and that just sealed the deal,” said Suplick, 20, a junior at the University of Pittsburgh.
With Kidd on FaceTime, they went over Netty’s medical history and discussed what kind of care she would need at her new home. While her brothers — both in high school — waited in the car with their two dogs, Suplick signed the paperwork.
“The staff was so nice. They were absolutely wonderful, and they all thanked us for taking her,” Suplick said.
Netty was well-behaved in the car during the hour-long journey to Kennett Square, and once they arrived, “she just settled in right away,” Suplick said. “She knew she was home.”
“She immediately melded right into the family,” echoed Kidd, who bought Netty a giant stuffed teddy bear on Amazon, which she cuddles and carries around the house.
With medication, they quickly got her incontinence under control, and the arthritis in her lower spine and elbows is steadily improving.
“She is medically doing much better,” said Kidd, adding that they do hydrotherapy in their backyard pool, which has done wonders for Netty’s mobility. “She is getting stronger and stronger, and it’s really fun to watch her personality come out.”
“She’s kind of a stubborn girl, and it’s pretty funny because she’s supposed to be this old lady that can’t walk,” Kidd added. “She is officially the queen bee of the house. She made her way all the way up the stairs by herself, no problem. She does that on a daily basis.”
In Netty’s case, “it’s crazy to watch the transformation,” Kidd said. “I have a feeling she’s going to be around for quite a bit.”
For Kidd and her family, caring for senior dogs is uniquely fulfilling. Although it comes with responsibility — both financially and emotionally — “it is so worth it,” Kidd said.
“It is so rewarding to bring in a senior rescue dog and watch them blossom,” she continued. “Even if it’s a short period of time, every day is a blessing.”
Her daughter agreed.
“She has so much to offer, and we are so lucky to have her,” Suplick said of Netty. “I hope that other people are inspired by her story and give adult dogs a chance.”