Hospice status be darned, a boxer named Poppy is being given her last and best chance to live the life of doggy dreams for her final days on Earth.
Poppy was pulled from a “high-kill” shelter in Fresno in recent weeks and delivered, via volunteer transport, to Medford’s Oldies But Goodies Senior Rescue.
Likely a victim of a “puppy mill,” the dog, who rescuers and veterinarians guess to be at least 8 years old, shows signs of a lifetime of over-breeding, neglect and possibly abuse.
Not used to life inside a cozy house or with humans to dote on her, she’s getting all that and more, with hamburgers, ice cream cones and sunsets in her very near future.
While she’s unsure of doggy luxuries like sleeping on a bed, and she cowers at loud noises, she’s quickly become a big fan of giving kisses to her caregivers and accepting random offerings of treats.
Oldies But Goodies President Donna Jones said Poppy was running out of time — just days from euthanasia — when she managed to get her pulled from the shelter and arranged for transport to Southern Oregon.
Complicating her situation, Poppy gave birth to five puppies while in the shelter and, within days, received a cancer diagnosis while Jones was facilitating the transfer.
“The shelter was supposedly trying to find their own foster because they wanted the puppies. It’s a horrifying shelter. One of the highest kill shelters in the nation, and they couldn’t find a foster, so their outreach person contacted me,” said Jones.
“She was pulled out of the regular shelter on a custody hold, which I think a lot of times means that the owner went to jail. Poppy’s babies had just opened their eyes and they ended up being in the shelter for almost two weeks because they wouldn’t release Poppy until April 4.”
Jones added, “They were getting her health certificate done before transport when the vet tech noticed the lump on her jaw. It was a hard mass. They did X-rays of her jaw and chest, and she’s got a lot of tumors in her chest. We’re getting her checked out by my vet this week, to get a better picture of what’s going on, but best we can tell is she could have weeks or months.”
To the rescue, Jon Kell and Connie Oakley of Medford — admitted “boxer lovers” — saw a post on social media about Poppy and stepped up to foster her during hospice.
Oakley said the dog immediately stole their hearts — and plans posted by Jones to ensure Poppy gets to experience a “bucket list” of doggy happiness made them eager to make her final days as wonderful as possible.
The bucket list idea was to ensure she didn’t “come to the end” and not have experienced things that dogs deserve to have, Jones said.
“I’ve seen people do a bucket list when they know their dog’s time is coming, and I just thought it was really great. You just want to give them as much happiness as you possibly can before they go. Obviously, with her circumstances, where she’s more than likely been bred to death and not given good care, we don’t think she’s been given much of anything for most of her life,” Jones said.
“She’s settled in pretty quickly and loves to be loved on and spoiled. She enjoys being in the house. She’s really thin, but she’s eating pretty well and we’re making sure she’s on the best diet.”
With her health slowly failing, Poppy’s puppies were weaned at three weeks so that focus could be put on stabilizing Poppy’s health as much as possible.
On Monday afternoon, at the home of Oakley and Kell, Poppy shared an ice cream cone with a dog named PeeWee.
Jones, Oakley and Kell offered endless head scratches while brainstorming Poppy’s bucket list and marveling at her sweet temperament.
Jones teased of a “kissing booth” for the boxer who could spend hours offering up kisses for those showing her so much love.
Oakley hopes to show Poppy the joys of sleeping in a bed with a human — thus far Poppy is skeptical and prefers her cage — as well as visiting the ocean, enjoying a steak or hamburger all her own, feeling the sun on her face and going on a shopping spree for toys.
“Making friends with a cat,” another list entry, happened on Poppy’s first day with Oakley and Kell. Monday’s ice cream cone, also with a newfound friend and fellow rescue dog, was bucket-list worthy, Jones noted.
Oakley plans daily walks and endless snuggles, possibly a sunset or two.
A ride in a car and a trip to McDonald’s this week, too, was well received, Oakley said with a smile.
Jones, who founded her rescue operation in 2019, said she was overwhelmed with gratitude for finding the right home for Poppy to live out her days. She hopes Poppy’s story will highlight the importance and need for senior and hospice fosters.
“If you foster a dog, you save that dog’s life and you make room, at a shelter or rescue, for another life to be saved,” Jones said.
Oakley acknowledged it would be heart-wrenching to say goodbye, sooner than later, but took solace in the dog not living her final moments in a cold and empty place.
“I don’t know how we could have said no. Just look at her face — she is thriving and she’s smiling. She is absolutely the sweetest dog, and she deserves more than she has been given in her life,” Oakley said.
“I know that she will literally break my heart, and I will cry for days, but it is absolutely worth it to see her feeling loved and cared about. When her time comes, it will be peaceful and quiet and she will be surrounded by love … and hopefully even the sun will be shining.”
For information on becoming a foster — or hospice foster — call Jones at 541-621-6250. Foster parents are provided with supplies, medical care and any other needs for dogs, usually seniors but sometimes younger dogs and puppies, while under their care.
To donate to Poppy's special diet, toy shopping spree, gas to go to the beach, a special large orthopedic bed or any other needs, donate via Paypal (Oldiesbutgoodiesrescue@gmail.com) or Venmo (djones6250).
Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.