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Poppy finishes her ‘bucket list’

Poppy at her foster home in Medford. The boxer, who gained a following as she was treated to a bucket list of adventures, passed away Thursday. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Poppy at her foster home in Medford. The boxer, who gained a following as she was treated to a bucket list of adventures, passed away Thursday.
Mistreated dog rescued by Medford couple enjoyed her final weeks

A white boxer who tugged on heartstrings around the Rogue Valley in recent weeks, known for her kind eyes and penchant for giving excessive kisses to whomever she met, made her way peacefully over the storied Rainbow Bridge Thursday.

Poppy the “Bucket List Boxer” managed to check off a slew of wish-list experiences dreamed up by the humans who helped rescue, and then foster, her after more than eight years of being repeatedly bred and neglected.

Jon Kell and Connie Oakley, a Medford couple, quickly fell in love with Poppy when she showed up on the Facebook page of the Oldies But Goodies rescue group. Medford resident Donna Jones runs the rescue with a focus on senior and medically fragile pups.

Jones rescued Poppy, with five 2-week-old puppies in tow, from a “high kill” shelter in Fresno, California, via volunteer transporters prior to placing her with Kell and Oakley.

A cancer diagnosis prior to her arrival changed Poppy’s placement plans from senior placement to hospice foster care.

Realizing that Poppy had missed out on a life of all the best dog experiences, Jones and Oakley crafted a bucket list for the old girl and squeezed as much life into her final weeks as they could.

When Poppy arrived in Medford, Jones noted, “she could have days, or she could have weeks or months.”

With puppies weaned and Poppy as medically stable as she could be, Oakley and Kell showered her with affection, provided ice cream cones, cat and dog friends and even grandbaby snuggles.

Fans of Poppy sent oversized dog beds, custom made outfits, toys, shopping trips and well wishes galore. One Poppy fan even sent a blessing blanket custom made for the ailing dog.

Oakley said Poppy had nearly two weeks of bliss before showing signs she was fading. Poppy was put to sleep at Oakley’s home Thursday by a vet who offered to make a house call.

“She started going downhill Monday evening. She didn’t eat much, and she got up Tuesday and it was just a chore to try and get her to eat anything. I think she knew it was time. Her body was tired,” Oakley said.

“She’d still been nursing babies until just a few weeks ago. Her legs were swelling when she got up Wednesday — probably her lymphatic system. The cancer had spread too far. Even though we were expecting it, it was really heartbreaking.”

Oakley said Poppy felt the sun on her face, went for walks, “even got a puppacino” at Starbucks and fell in love with car rides to McDonald’s and sitting on furniture.

“We took her down to Victory Dogs (gourmet hot dog stand) last Saturday and she had a really good time. We never got her to the coast, the vet didn’t think she could have handled the trip,” Oakley said.

“But she felt some sunshine on her face, and she was surrounded by love for her final weeks on this Earth.”

Jones and Oakley hoped that Poppy’s story would inspire others to foster or hospice foster dogs in need.

“She was still recovering from birthing puppies the day she died. She was 8 years old. That’s like a 60-year-old woman having a baby,” Oakley said.

“She was just craving love, good food, a soft bed and head rubs. She probably thought she’d already died and gone to doggy heaven those last few weeks.”

Jones said the way Poppy had been treated prior to her rescue was “a great example of what not to do with animals.”

“We’re hoping Poppy’s story will inspire people to foster these older dogs, and hospice foster is a huge need. People say it’s too hard to let them go, but it’s even harder to not have someone willing to be there for those final days,” Jones said.

“Humans need to do better and be better. Look at how loving and forgiving she was, regardless of the life she was given.”

For more information

Read about Poppy’s journey at facebook.com/Poppys-Bucket-List-Adventures-102801402412201/

Donate toward the care of senior and medically fragile dogs, via Oldies But Goodies: Paypal (oldiesbutgoodiesrescue@gmail.com) or Venmo (djones6250)

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com