In Familiar Arms
Murray found himself back at the Sacramento SPCA after ten years
Silver muzzles, tongues dangling out, and sweet dispositions – there is something special about senior animals.
Caring for an elderly pet can bring out the best in humans. Suddenly, each moment becomes more precious: every breakfast and dinner, silly play bow, and gentle snore is cherished. The love of an old dog or cat helps us enjoy the simple things, and we are grateful for each gray whisker or cloudy eye as the gift of another year. Murray embodied all of these traits and more.
In the winter of 2009, animal control officers found a small Chihuahua in the streets of Rancho Cordova. After he arrived at the Sacramento SPCA, our shelter medicine team discovered a broken jaw, as well as severe dental disease and estimated his age around six or seven years old. In need of both medical care and time to heal, we decided that foster care was his best option. Our foster coordinator immediately had someone in mind: Linda, a staff member dedicated to “old tiny toothless dogs.” After receiving a dental cleaning with extractions, Linda opened her heart and home to the little dog (now named Murray). Murray met new friends, both human and canine, as he recovered from his injuries over the course of several weeks. Now ready to find his new home, Linda found the perfect match and Murray was adopted.
This is where the story usually ends – with the adopted pet happily ever after in their new home. But Murray would find his way back to this very same foster parent many years later.
In the fall of 2018, nearly ten years after his adoption, sixteen-year-old Murray walked back in through the doors of the Sacramento SPCA. His adopter loved and cared for him since his adoption, but now a senior herself and losing her memory, could no longer keep him after moving into an assisted living facility. Her daughter brought Murray into her own home, but also experienced health conditions that prevented her from continuing to provide for him. The family made the difficult decision to bring Murray back to the SPCA, hoping that we could again provide him with compassionate care.
Despite this sad and unfortunate situation for the family, Murray’s return to the Sacramento SPCA was indeed a blessing. Because of our commitment to senior animals and our newly developed Pawspice program, Murray received thorough exams from the shelter medicine team. This team included Dr. Laurie Siperstein-Cook – the very same veterinarian that examined him ten years ago. Dr. Cook discovered that in addition to some expected “senior dog” health issues, Murray also showed signs of renal disease and disc disease in his spine. At 16 years old and with a terminal diagnosis, we discussed different options for placement. This little dog’s story resonated with many staff members, especially Dr. Cook: “He seemed pretty perky, despite his health issues. What moved me the most was the long note from his previous owner detailing his personality, his love of going on walks and how much they loved him and were sad to have to give him up.”
Perhaps Linda, who still works at the Sacramento SPCA, would open up her heart once more to Murray in his time in need. When Dr. Cook asked if she would be willing to bring Murray back into her home as a Pawspice animal, knowing that his time with her may be short, Linda’s answer was simple – “Of course!”
“Murray spent his last few weeks living large. He enjoyed a pajama party with a new friend, warm nights snuggled up with humans and doggy pals, and whatever food he desired.”
After three weeks of living the ‘good life,’ Linda noticed that Murray was noticeably slowing down and having trouble standing. After speaking with Dr. Cook, we realized the time had come to help Murray transition on to the next chapter. He crossed the rainbow bridge, surrounded by love and having affected the lives of many. Despite the heartbreaking situation, Linda’s love of our Pawspice program remains. For anyone on the fence about taking home their own hospice case, Linda suggests: “Put your sadness for the impending loss aside and revel in the happiness that you are providing warmth, comfort and love to a precious creature in its last time on this earth. What could be better than that?”