Adopted Dog Gives Widower a Second Chance at Happily Ever After

Helena and her pet dad Don are making the most of their golden years together.

Don + Helena

For over a decade, Helena has brought companionship and joy to pet dad Don. Now they’re enjoying their active, happy senior years together.

"We both move a little slower these days, but we enjoy sharing pizza crust and those summer nights watching the world go by while sitting in the driveway."

Where do I begin? It all started 10 and a half years ago when I lost my wife after 54 years of marriage. You see, I met my wife when I was 17 and she was 16. We were married a couple years later, just kids at the time. Sadly, in the winter of 2010, I lost her to cancer. It was a shocking time to be alone after all those years of having a life partner.

It was my daughter who suggested I consider adopting a dog. I had dogs over the course of my life, but at the age of 73 I was not sure it would be the right thing to do. One Saturday afternoon when I was visiting her, she said, “Let’s make a side trip just to look. It can’t hurt.” So off to Anderson Animal Shelter we went. It was there that I met Helena, a young puppy who had been found running loose in southern Illinois. I visited with her and the agency three times before making the decision to bring her into my life. They indicated she was food aggressive and maybe not the dog for me. However, after bringing my daughter and granddaughter back to visit with her, I watched Helena lie at my feet and crawl up in my granddaughter’s lap. It was then that I knew she belonged with me.

With training and love, Helena grew out of the concerns that Anderson had at the initial adoption. We have shared life now for over 10 years and she has been a bright light in my life. I am the person who would not go for a walk with my wife when she asked, but I take Helena for regular walks. I believe sharing life with her keeps me going and keeps me moving. We have both grown old together. I am now 84 and she is soon to be 11. We both move a little slower these days, but we enjoy sharing pizza crust and those summer nights watching the world go by while sitting in the driveway. Many people say to me, “When the dog starts to talk back, let us know.” Without her in my life, I would have been lost and lonely. Helena is my companion and source of joy. I am thankful that I found her and made the decision to bring her into my life.

Each year, the Petco Foundation Holiday Wishes campaign invites adopters to share stories of how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Don won Anderson Animal Shelter in South Elgin, Illinois a 2020 Holiday Wishes award.