Cybele Manlapaz has a soft spot for senior dogs. When the animal lover and co-owner of Canine Chow PH heard about a full-grown female Golden Retriever needing a new place to call home, she stepped in to help… not knowing her family would be the one to take in this easily excitable creature.
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Waldo’s Friends (WF): Could you tell us the story of how Kelly came into your life?
Cybele Manlapaz (CM): Kelly’s story actually began in 2016. A cousin reached out asking if I knew anyone who would want to adopt an eight-year-old Golden Retriever. I offered to help her find a good match, so she set up a group chat that included the owner. After I sent out feelers to different people, I no longer heard from the owner. I assumed that he had found Kelly a home.
Two and a half years later, the same group chat became active again. This time, the need was more urgent because her parents were downsizing homes and relocating to a property that didn’t allow dogs. I can’t explain why, but this time around, I was more interested in Kelly. She was 10 years old then. I was so worried that no one would want to take in a senior dog.
I carefully selected personal friends who were responsible dog parents, and thought to myself, “They can’t give Kelly to just anyone because she’s old already.” When a friend asked if Kelly was still up for adoption, I remember feeling angry and jealous. That’s when I knew that I wanted her. I asked my husband, “What do you think? Can we get her?” With a serious face, he said to me, “Are you sure?” He knows my history with dogs; I had grieved for over 15 years over my last one.
I also consulted with my dog teacher and trainer, Brad Feliciano of BetterDog Canine Behavior Center, to assess if Kelly would be a good fit for our family and our eight-year-old male golden retriever (Tony). During our visit in Kelly’s home, we noticed that her current caregivers were a wee bit too old to run after their feisty pet. Despite her playfulness, Kelly wasn’t in tiptop shape. She had an infected mass on her back that was leaking pus. She also had rashes and crusty wounds on her underside. And looking back, she had a weird gait. Despite my “better” judgment, we brought her home the next day.
WF: What were her first few days with you like?
CM: Boy, what a first day it was! She was terrified of the car and kept trying to escape from the rear compartment. When she got home, she was stress peeing everywhere.
She and Tony seemed okay at the start, but that slowly went downhill after a day or two. My teacher/trainer rightly noticed during our assessment that she displayed signs of possessiveness. She would grab Tony’s toys from him. If she had a toy and Tony would walk by, she would bark and growl at him. If we tried to take anything from her, she would scurry away to a corner and growl at whoever came near her. After four days of this, my teacher/trainer came over and taught us how to train and manage her.
Then, we attended to her health issues. My daughter and I took her to our trusted veterinary clinic, Mount Sinai. Doc Racky, who has been our vet since 2014, ran almost every test in their clinic. Miraculously, she didn’t test positive for anything despite not being vaccinated or being on any tick and flea preventatives. But he was concerned about the mass on her back; it was about 2” to 3” in diameter, hot to the touch, and oozing pus in three places. He recommended surgery and biopsy.
The surgery was a success and she recovered well. Unfortunately, we received the biopsy results two weeks later: She was positive for squamous cell carcinoma, a malignant skin cancer. We’re hoping that the removal of the tumor will delay recurrence for years to come. For now, we will monitor her blood work and do semi-annual checkups.
Nine months later and things are great. She has been to an off-leash dog park, gone hiking, went swimming in a wave pool, and been to the beach. She is fully integrated into our family. It took them a while, but things are great between Tony and Kelly now. She’s the older one but defers to him when we’re out and about, not wanting to be too far from him. She likes to nap beside him, following him around the house. Thankfully, Tony doesn’t mind.
WF: Now that you’ve had Kelly with you for months, what would you say are her funny or interesting quirks?
CM: Kelly is a small Golden Retriever with a big personality. She snores like a bullfrog. She’s very food driven, more so than Tony whom we thought was the “hungriest” of all dogs ever. She thinks that plain lettuce is a treat! She’s also a retriever on land but not in the water, while Tony isn’t on land but definitely one in the water.
WF: Did you have any previous pet adoption experience before Kelly?
CM: Kelly was the first dog I adopted. My inexperience was daunting; it took me two weeks to decide if we would take her or not. I was worried that we weren’t physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally capable of caring for a senior dog. BUT, knowing I had a support system helped. We had our training school and our teacher. I had friends with experience caring for senior dogs. My husband understood and was willing. I had complete trust in our vet. It all came together in the end.
I wasn’t really interested in adopting before. Many have offered but I always declined because I felt that my family and I weren’t ready. Did we really want to change our lifestyle? Will we be able to work with and train two dogs? How will we go on holidays? Can we afford two dogs? Will we be ready to care for an ailing dog who one day will lose control of his bowel movements? Will we be ready to make the ultimate decision when the time comes?
However, I’ve always had a soft spot for senior dogs. When puppies or young juveniles are put up for adoption, everybody steps up to the plate. But when it’s a senior dog, volunteers are scarce.
WF: How has your life changed after adopting Kelly?
CM: It has taught me patience and understanding. Kelly came into our lives with a set personality; we had to make some training and management adjustments to create a lifestyle and environment that worked for all of us in the family. Tony is free roaming around the house, even at night. Kelly, being a bit more curious and excitable, is crated at bedtime.
WF: Why would you personally encourage adopting animals?
CM: I understand that it isn’t for everyone. But if given the chance to care for a dog that needs it, then by all means, do it. Just ensure that aside from love, you have the resources (finances, time, physical space, etc.) to bring a living being into your home. Any animal that you adopt is 100% dependent on you for EVERYTHING.
WF: What’s the best pet parenting tip you can give for first-time animal owners and to pet parents who have multiple pets?
CM: If you can get a professional to help you assess the litter, get one. You’ll need to find the perfect match to your family’s lifestyle, environment, resources, etc. It is heartbreaking to hear of people having their dog adopted because they didn’t realize the amount of work it takes to raise a puppy.
Also, know your pet’s breed. Research, research, research. If you don’t care about the animal’s breed, then consider adopting.
Lastly, when integrating new pets into a multiple pet household, introduce them in a neutral space. Again, this is where a professional trainer and/or behaviorist can help.
WF: What’s your advice for people thinking of adopting a rescue animal? Why should they consider senior dogs?
CM: Senior dogs are often overlooked but they provide a number of benefits: their personalities are more or less set so you can adjust your training and management regimen. They’re already potty trained (hopefully!).
Seniors are perfect for families with a more laid-back lifestyle like ours. We enjoy vegetating in front of the TV while the dogs happily nap on the floor beside us. They’re just as sweet, loving, and fun as puppies.
WF: Was your home-cooked dog food business Canine Chow PH something that was inspired by your pets?
CM: Canine Chow PH is a passion project that became a business. My business partner, Jed Mesina, and I are big advocates of providing fresh food for our pets. Common sense told us that the more fresh and whole food we could provide, the more health benefits there were. True enough, all four of our dogs are doing well with great annual physical exam results despite their ages. (Tuco is the youngest at five while the others are eight years old and older.)
We figured there were like-minded people out there who thought that fresh is better and we thought to ourselves, let’s make it easy for people to give real good food to their dogs (and the occasional cat, haha!).
Follow the adventures of Kelly and Tony on Instagram!
Read more rescue stories here! Do you know of an interesting pet adoption, foster, or rescue story? Share your suggestion with us by commenting below!