For 15 years, Stitch was part of a family. His owner was his best friend, and they did everything together. They spent Christmases together and celebrated birthdays together, and were never apart for all the days in between.
But last Christmas was different. Stitch’s world came tumbling down around him when on Christmas Eve, his owner passed away.
It was an incredible blow for the elderly dog who had known his owner since puppyhood. His whole life he had known and relied on just one family, and now that comfortable and familiar environment was gone, just like that. Stitch had thought that this Christmas would be the happy occasion it had always been, but it could not be this time. Instead of titbits of a turkey dinner, Stitch was facing an unknown future.
Thankfully for Stitch, Blue Cross was there to help. Stitch’s owner’s family knew they couldn’t give the beloved dog the life he was used to. They told us the elderly chap had become much quieter and downtrodden in himself in the days after his owner passed. He must have been so confused.
Despite his age, Stitch enjoyed getting out and about on walks. Knowing he was used to home comforts and that entering a kennel environment could be quite stressful for him, our Newport rehoming and advice unit team placed the Staffordshire bull terrier in foster care. After a few days he began to let his true personality shine through his grief. He came to greet members of his foster family with a waggy tail and trotted over to anyone who might provide a bit of fuss.
But we soon noticed Stitch seemed to be in pain. He began whining and became quite unsettled and anxious, so we booked a visit to the vet for a thorough investigation. Tests revealed poor Stitch was suffering from bladder stones and he needed an operation to remove them. This older dog had gone through more than a fair amount of upheaval in just a few short weeks, but he pulled through like a fighter.
Stitch recovered from his surgery in comfort and was waited on hand and paw by his foster family. Short walks were always followed by snoozes either in his comfy bed or curled up next to his human friends on the sofa.
Stitch might have wondered whether, at his age, he would ever enjoy the security and love of being part of a loving family again, but he needn’t have worried. A happy home was just around the corner.
Ann and Julie had sadly lost their elderly cat, Tom, at the grand old age of 20 years nearly a year earlier. He had come into their lives aged 14, and they had known the time they had together in his later years was precious. To Ann and Julie, the thought of an older pet spending a long time waiting for a home was far more heartbreaking than taking on a pet in their golden years.
Ann remembers: “I saw him on the website and that was it. I just fell in love with his picture, he was so cute with his grey muzzle. We always talked about a staffie type, because unfortunately that’s what’s populating rescue centres, but also his age was a major factor in us falling for him.”
Julie adds: “Rehoming an older dog was a conscious decision. We lost our cat, Tom, last year at 20 and when we got him he was 14. Tom lived a full life and I admit I do have a fixation with older animals seeing out their retirement in comfort.
“I think it’s fair to say he won’t be our last older rescue. Some people will say ‘But he’s going to break your heart!’, but actually for us, older pets not having a home is more heartbreaking. We’d rescue them all if we could! The way it’s seen is they’re with you from cradle to grave, but sadly it doesn’t work out like that for all animals. You just want them to have their perfect retirement and I would say to anyone considering rescuing do not discount an older pet, they too can live a full life, it’s about the quality of their life and every pet deserves that.”
The couple, from Buckinghamshire, made the 260-mile round trip to Newport, South Wales, to meet Stitch, and he was everything they thought he would be. He pottered straight out of his foster carer’s home to greet them with his trademark excited wiggle, and Ann and Julie fell hook, line and sinker.
The older gentleman settled in immediately and it’s as if he’s always been part of the family. He loves people, and many comment they’ve never seen a dog with such a happy waggy tail. While Stitch isn’t one for barking, he is a vocal lad and uses an array of noises to chat to you. He also has a very particular taste in popular music, Ann and Julie have discovered.
“Stitch loves ABBA,” says Julie. “We discovered this because he chats away in the car, and one day he was chatting away, and Fernando by ABBA came on the radio, and he was silent throughout the whole song, and then when it finished he started chatting again at the next song, but every time that song is played he is silent and listens to it!
“It sounds funny but it’s true,” Ann confirms. “He likes ABBA and he particularly likes Fernando. He seems to find it very calming.”
This Christmas, the dog who has brought so much joy into his new owners’ lives will be able to put the sadness of last year behind him and celebrate as part of a family again. And what a Christmas Day he can look forward to! He’ll be enjoying family festivities, and after he’s opened the presents placed in his own personalised Santa sack, he’ll be tucking into a roast dinner – with the food order having been placed especially for him. He really has landed on his paws.
Julie says: “This Christmas will be a big family gathering but it will all be about Stitch this year; my mum’s determined. She’s ordered him beef from her local butcher she’s used for years, and he’ll have his very own Christmas dinner cooked for him. He loves his food so he’ll be having the full works!”
Ann adds: “He is literally an absolute joy. That’s how I describe him. We love him so much.”