Living My Best Life. A Life With Old Dogs

This past Labor day weekend someone I've been friends with since the 6th grade (that's 1980, Ya'll ;) ) was visiting in my neck of the woods (The Poconos) for the holiday weekend. She arrived at her campground community with her husband, teenage daughter, her two friends, and the family dogs. That's quite an entourage with, no doubt, a flurry of activity taking place all at once, so it's easy to see how something could be overlooked


Nonetheless, as they were making the 2 1/2 hour trip north from Philly, she said they noticed a smell in the car. A smell that they weren't quite sure what it was at first, but definitely a pungent, unpleasant smell.


By Friday evening, they had figured out what the smell was. One of her dogs, who had just recently had mammary tumors surgically removed, and still had stitches, had developed an infection.


Of course, my friend was upset. After all, she was hours away from home where she had the antibiotics to treat her dog and was instead in the middle of woods, with crappy cell phone service and no wifi connection. Yikes. Fortunately, for her and her dog, it didn't take long for my friend to remember that Woody's Place wasn't too far away, and maybe, just maybe we might have the antibiotics she needed to help her poor dog right away, which, luckily we did.


Now, just a little caveat here, we don't run around giving out meds to dogs we don't know on a regular basis, but my friend is a teacher, with a good head on her shoulders and knew the name of the antibiotic her dog needed and how much to give her dog, so we gave her a few to hold her over until she could make it to the vet. The next morning I met my friend at a local farmstand to provide her with the antibiotics, and we chatted for about 30 minutes, which was nice, but something she said got me thinking. My friend rescues dogs in the Philly area and has for some time now. Lately, she has primarily focused on hospice cases and feels good knowing that she has allowed homeless dogs at the end of their life to pass with peace and dignity in the comfort of her home instead of on a cold, concrete shelter floor. And for that, I applaud her, because it's not easy taking in dogs that are not yours and have them stay with you for a short while knowing they are going to perish before long.


Clearly, that is not what got me thinking, because we deal with death quite a bit here at Woody's Place since our residents come in being at least eight years old. It was something she's said. Something I've heard before from others over the last decade-plus. Even someone I know who had put tons of time, effort, and money into starting and running their own rescue only to let it go after a few years. She said, and I quote, "I'm not going to be taking in dogs much longer" Not because she couldn't take it because it was too emotional or too hard but because,

"I have a life to live, and I want to live it."


Wait. What? "I have a life to live, and I want to live it?" Again. Not my first time hearing that statement. So the way I interpreted what she said is, if she still helps dogs in need, she is not living her life. Similarly, the person I know who had a rescue also stopped taking in dogs, because she too felt she was not living her life due to the commitment of helping dogs in need.


As I stood there in the farmstand parking lot on that sunny morning, my friend continued to talk, but I really wasn't listening at that point, because I couldn't get past what she said. "I have a life to live, and I want to live it."


I can't remember what I finally said, but it was something to the effect of, "of course you should be living your life. After all, we only get one go around, so we better make the most of it." But as I drove back to the sanctuary I found myself doing two things, dodging tourists who have no damn clue how to drive on country roads especially around Lake Wallenpaupack (insert eye roll here), and going down a rabbit hole in my mind, because I couldn't get my friend statement out of my head.


"I have a life to live, and I want to live it."


My thoughts went something like this "So, does that mean that because I choose to live a life helping abandoned and displaced senior German Shepherds, I'm not living my life? And why am I making this about me? I guess because I help dogs ALL THE TIME, and if I am correct in assuming that if she continues to help dogs, then she isn't living her life, then how could I be living my life if I continue to help dogs in need?"


Geez....talk about making a mountain out of a molehill.


I'll tell you why I was all up in my head like that. Because it wasn't just her who felt that way. IE: "If I take in rescue dogs, I'm not living my life." I've had other friends and even a wayward family member or two encourage me to stop taking in abandoned senior German Shepherds at some point and get out to "live my life" too. So to me, that is the general consensus. "If you are committed to rescuing dogs, you are not really living your life."

It took me the next few twisty turny country road miles and a few more eye rolls at a lost tourist who made a u-turn right in the middle of the road mind you, to get my head straight.

And here's what I came up with my friends (and wayward family members), I am living my life, on my own terms, doing exactly what I want to do with who I want to do it with, and I don't need to be convinced of that. That's not to say I don't go on vacation once a year, because I do. After all, we all need a break, and if we don't take one, we burn out. That's not to say, I don't take a Saturday about four times a year to meet up with friends to go hiking, because I do. I also go to farmer's markets, the movies, kayaking, visit family in the lower part of the state, and even go loiter in the local Tractor Supply to shop, support other rescues and chat with other locals. So there, I AM "getting out and live my life."


But make no mistake about it, I can't wait to get back to the sanctuary and be with my furry family again. Because when I'm gone, I miss them terribly. I worry about them and wonder what they're doing. This is also me "living my life".... a big part of my life.


As for my friend that got me thinking about "Getting out and living life", I get that she feels like helping hospice and rescue dogs has become too much of a commitment that is perhaps interfering with her quality of life. And that's okay, bec