Adopted Dog’s Happy Demeanor Supports Healing

Elizabeth and Arya navigated their health crises hand-in-paw.

Elizabeth + Arya

Elizabeth was devastated when her adopted dog, Arya, got a tough diagnosis. But when she ended up with a health concern of her own, Arya was there to demonstrate the power of positivity.

"Arya has taught me to take everything in stride, a lesson I’d use no more than six months later when I was diagnosed with a cerebellar disorder."

Adopted Dog Arya

In March 2015, I lost my dog of 15 years. Unable to stand coming home to an empty house, I started looking up adoptable dogs on the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Inc. (BARCS) website. I soon headed down to the shelter to meet a little black dog named Wendy. As fate would have it, Wendy had already been sent to rescue. Instead, I was directed to an adoption event a few blocks away. As soon as I stepped onto the bus, I was greeted by a bold little puppy with a grey clover on her side. I took Arya home the next morning. She’s been my best friend since.

Unfortunately, shortly after her third birthday, Arya started to show some worrying signs. She would fall trying to jump on the couch and bump into walls when she got excited. She was quickly diagnosed with cerebellar abiotrophy, a degenerative brain disease that affects her balance and coordination. There is no treatment. She will eventually lose her ability to walk and her lifespan will be significantly shortened.

Adopted Dog Arya

It was devastating news, but I quickly realized that while I was upset, Arya was still her bouncy, cheerful self. She didn’t know anything was wrong; she was just happy.

Adopted Dog Arya

Arya has taught me to take everything in stride, a lesson I’d use no more than six months later when I was diagnosed with a cerebellar disorder. While we didn’t have the same disease, we experienced many of the same symptoms. Luckily for me, there was surgical treatment available for my condition. However, my one surgery turned into two surgeries and a lengthy hospital stay after complications. Throughout my recovery, I often thought about Arya. She is a perfect example of how even though your physical health may be failing, your mental health doesn’t have to suffer. I was able to keep a positive attitude throughout this ordeal, and once I was home, Arya helped me gain my physical health back too. I had to get better; I was missing out on our daily walks.

Adopted Dog Arya

Almost a year later, our daily routine involves a lot of adjustments for her sake. I have to hold her bowl for her to eat, and her water is elevated. She gets carried up and down the stairs and now waits for someone to lift her onto the couch or bed. We also both have the occasional neurology appointment. And while it seems like there’s a lot she can’t do, her life is still fulfilling. She has a special harness, so we never miss a walk, and we adjusted our play so she can still do it safely. Her dog friends even travel to her because she gets dizzy in the car. Even knowing now all the adjustments I’ve had to make, I’d choose Arya a thousand times over. She has given me so much more than I could ever do for her in the form of demonstrating strength and companionship. And most of all, she’s taught me to just be happy.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Elizabeth won Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Inc. (BARCS) in Baltimore, Maryland a 2019 Holiday Wishes award.