Young at heart

To these big-hearted paw-rents, age is just a number. Adopting furkids past the age of 10 is no mean feat, but they're determined to make their furry companions’ last days count.
By Gillian Lim
Published on Thursday, 14 December 2017

  • Helene Mayne, 45, Change and communication manager
  • Roger, 18, Golden Retriever
  • Mr Brown, 18, Domestic Shorthair Cat
  • Spencer, 7, Golden Retriever
  • Socke, 6, Golden Retriever

It might surprise you, but though Roger the Golden Retriever acts like a teenager, he’s actually an old sweetie—he’s a whopping 18 years old! Typically, Golden Retrievers have an average life span of 10 to 12 years old, so Roger is considered incredibly healthy. “He’s developed arthritis in his back legs and is on anti-inflammatory medication. I have to carry him up the stairs every night, but that’s it,” says Helene.

The handsome pooch first came into Helene’s life eight years ago—she helped board him twice, and on the third occasion, his fur-mily said that they were moving and were looking to re-home him. “I couldn’t bear the thought of something happening to him, and rang them on their holiday to say I wanted to adopt him immediately,” says Helene. “He never left my house after
that!”

While Helene takes care of numerous animals at a time (she proudly proclaims that she’s a “lunatic animal person”—she has five rescue cats!), she has a soft spot for Mr Brown, the 18-year-old domestic short hair cat that she adopted 5.5 years ago. “He lived on Greenwood Avenue and was known as the Peperoni Pizzeria cat,” shares Helene. A regal and independent feline, Mr Brown used to be a blood donor for sick cats at Greendale’s The Animal Ark until several new tenants started to complain. “A friend asked if I could take him before the AVA came, and I took him in without any hesitation.” Helene shares more.

How were Roger and Mr Brown like when you took both of them in?
Roger was a very anxious dog that had some fear aggression. Mr Brown never caused any problems; from the moment he came to our house, he was happy. He does like to be outside, which I hate, but I had to remember he spent the first 13 years of his life on the streets.

Was age an issue for you?
No. I knew as senior pets, their options were limited, and both deserved to be loved and live out their days in a happy home. In particular, I knew Mr Brown would likely not have been around for long if I didn’t take him in.

What about their medical expenses?
I was aware that it could potentially be expensive—I just knew I’d have to manage the bills when they arrived. Just recently, I spent approximately $800 on Mr Brown—he was hospitalised with kidney issues—but prior to that, he had no major medical expenses, which I think is remarkable. Roger had a tumour removed some time back which was costly, but his regular medication and supplements are now probably only $70 or so a month.

“Age is just a number.” Do you agree or disagree?
Absolutely! Until 12 months ago, Roger was walking with Spencer and Socke, and keeping up with them! He acted no different from his siblings, who are more than 10 years younger than him. With Mr Brown, until he recently became sick, he did nothing differently from what my younger cats do.

How would you want to spend their last days?
If my pet is ever in pain or suffering, I’d never keep them around just for myself. I believe if you really love your animal, you’ll do what’s right and best for them. I recently had to make the decision to help my cat Stevie pass (he had kidney failure), and while it was horrendous to let him go, I knew that morning he was in pain and I couldn’t bear that. With Roger, we’ll visit the beach soon as he loves it and I want to have those beautiful memories. Just to see him smiling and swimming would be wonderful. Other than that, given he is 18, I think every day could be the day he might not wake up, so I ensure we do everything we can to make his day as happy as possible.

This is an excerpt from an article in our People & Their Pets column. For the full story, flip to pg 48 of our Dec 2017/Jan 2018 issue!