You can’t blame Chiquita for having trust issues. After all, she was 15 years old when her family dropped her off at a California animal shelter.
Although she was blind, Chiquita must have felt her world get a whole lot bigger. And unimaginably more terrifying.
“She can’t even see her surroundings and has to go by smell,” Toby Wisneski, founder of Leave No Paws Behind, tells iHeartDogs. “And 99 per cent it is the smell of death.”
The trouble is many people who surrender dogs to a shelter — especially those with health issues — see it as an act of mercy.
“You can almost count on every senior in the shelter, no matter what, they are in there for a reason, normally a medical reason,” Wisneski says. “I do think some people believe when they take their senior animal (to a shelter) they are taken there to get euthanized and take them out of pain. But what people don’t realize is that doesn’t happen. They don’t do that. They stick them in a cage in a kennel where they sit and suffer. Most people just walk right by them.”
But Wisneski isn’t most people.
When she heard about Chiquita’s plight on social media, she was reminded of another tiny dog she had rescued from a shelter just days earlier.
The dog, named Bonnie, didn’t live long outside of the shelter. Her health issues were just too much. But Wisneski says right up until the end, “that little dog, God bless her, kept wagging her tail.”
In honor of Bonnie, who was at least given a few days of warmth and love in the end, Wisneski decided to rescue Chiquita.
While Chiquita is most certainly in the final chapter of her life — she, too, has a litany of serious health issues — Wisneski is determined to give her the happy ending that eluded the dog all her life.
Chiquita has already found a family, called a hospice foster, who will wrap her twilight days in all the love and warmth that had so long eluded her.
And it soon became clear that you can indeed teach an old dog a new trick: like how to trust again.
Wisneski only had to to reach out a hand — well, with a treat at the end of it.
“When a dog is blind you just don’t go with your hand immediately because you are going to startle them,” she says. “You put your hand down, let them smell, and that was the first time she lifted her head.”
“Her head was hung the entire time but she lifted her head for the little treat and, God love her, she opened up her little mouth.”