At only nine years old, there was no question in Raven’s mind about what kind of dog she wanted to add to her family. There were plenty of puppies with bright eyes and wagging tails, but the compassionate child wanted to make a real difference for an animal that desperately needed a second chance. She told her mother, Melissa,
“I want to adopt an old dog. One that no one else wants.”
Skeptical at first, Melissa explained to her child that with a senior dog, there was no way to tell how long they’d be together. The thought of a relationship cut short didn’t deter Raven, and her response has since inspired thousands. She said,
“I know, but I don’t want them to die in the shelter. They don’t deserve to die alone.”
At that, Melissa and Raven visited BARCS Animal Shelter in Baltimore where they asked staff to show them the oldest dog in their care. They were introduced to Kaylee, an 11-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier who had been at the shelter for three weeks. With multiple health issues including a torn CCL, early kidney disease, and a suspected urinary tract infection, Melissa called the dog a “fixer upper.”
During their first meeting, Kaylee leaned her weary body against Melissa and Raven, and something clicked. Despite the guarantee of future vet visits and medical bills, the family knew Kaylee was their missing piece. They signed the papers, and the oldest dog at the shelter with the worst chance of being adopted finally went home.
On Kaylee’s first day as part of the family, she went to the vet. They performed several tests, and two weeks later Melissa’s family received heartbreaking—but not surprising—news. Kaylee had metastatic thyroid carcinoma, and the cancer had spread to her lungs. It was terminal, and the vet gave the dog two months to live.
It was a sad day when the diagnosis was made, but it wasn’t the end of the road. Raven’s hope of giving a senior dog a loving place to live was still possible. She was more determined than ever to show Kaylee how great life with a family could be. She came up with a bucket list for her beloved senior dog, and together they’re enjoying life. Kaylee watched the eclipse through custom doggy sunglasses and partied at her special birthday celebration. Melissa wrote in an essay to the Petco Foundation,
“On top of the joy she’s brought to our home, Kaylee has reminded us of the good in the world. We created a bucket list for her to ensure the end of her life is the best part of it, and through that we’ve connected with so many incredible, giving, kind people. She’s developed a following around the world and has shown others the immense value in adopting senior pets.”
After being abandoned by her previous owners and living in a shelter, Kaylee’s joy for life is inspiring. She completely trusts her new family, and more than one life is changed because of her adoption. When Kaylee’s medical bills started to pile up, Melissa’s two children gladly gave up their trip to Disney World to pay for her care. They told their mother,
“That’s okay. We wouldn’t want to go without her anyway.”
The two months the vet originally gave Kaylee have since passed. She hasn’t beaten her terminal cancer, but she’s still alive and showing Raven and her family what it means to live life to the fullest. They never knew their dog when she was a puppy, but that hasn’t stopped them from loving her with all their hearts.
Melissa submitted Kaylee’s story as part of Petco Foundation’s Holiday Wishes Campaign. Melissa’s essay earned BARCS a $10,000 grant, and it was also put in the running for the People’s Choice Award. Thousands of people voted, and Kaylee won. An additional $25,000 was awarded to BARCS, and Kaylee’s legacy of compassion and hope is continuing to change lives. You can read Melissa’s full essay here.
Featured image provided by Petco Foundation