Adopted Dog Inspires Road Trip of a Lifetime

When Jeri’s cancer treatments took a toll, a foster named Ollie helped her get back on her feet--and on the road!

Jeri + Ollie

When Jeri’s cancer treatments took a toll, a foster named Ollie helped her get back on her feet–and on the road! Ollie’s love inspired a road trip of a lifetime, and her joy boosted spirits along the way.

"Getting myself out of the house to walk Ollie proved to be much easier than getting out of the house to walk myself."

Olli and Family

I thought I was much too old for another dog. I was only 56, but cancer can shave decades from a lifespan, or erase it altogether, so I felt in my case that I was very much too old. We’d lost our 17-year-old Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix to age and our 11-year-old Basset to aggressive lymphoma the year before, and our hearts were still broken. Entering the third year of my own ongoing cancer treatments every third week was an added reminder that we simply had too much on our plates, and we were too busy, too ill, too sad, and too raw to consider adopting another.

I was done with dogs, but my adult daughters had become involved in the local shelter volunteer program. In November of 2016, a little black stray was brought in. A sweet dog, but a sad and scared little thing, curled up like a little black olive even in her shelter picture. My daughters called, and my husband (God bless him) and I took her home as a foster in hopes we could socialize her to the point that she would be ready for the next Petco adoption event. She stiffened when held, and her movements consisted mostly of nervously picking at her paws and then curling up to make herself as small and unnoticeable as possible.

Olli from Ani-Care Animal Shelter

Little did we know that as our foster dog blossomed, so would we. As she grew comfortable the entire aura of our lives began to change, and within a few weeks we made the decision to adopt Ollie permanently. Getting myself out of the house to walk Ollie proved to be much easier than getting out of the house to walk myself. This sounds small, but it has been huge: a large enough mindset change that it led to a 2018 summer road trip. My husband and I did something we’d talked of for years, and you could say we did for Ollie. Rather than fly, we loaded the car and took Ollie on a 25 day, 7,100 mile round trip East Coast destination drive, planning stops at dog-friendly areas along the route.

Olli from Ani-Care Animal Shelter

The Oregon Trail, Grand Canyon, Graceland, Gettysburg, Atlantic City: My feet, my husband, and our Ollie have done the dog-friendly sections of them all. Physically she has been my push to regain some muscle strength after being in years of treatment, but emotionally she has lifted my heart. Life is full of change and endings. That’s ok. It’s full of beginnings as well. Ollie’s age is guessed to be around four, and mine? I’m younger than I was a year and a half ago when I felt I was much too old to have a dog. After four years of treatment I’ve been in remission for the past six months. The future never holds guarantees, but whether measured in human years or in dog years, I’m hoping to be around for a thousand more Ollie adventures.

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 Jeri won Ani-Care Animal Shelter in Oregon a 2018 Holiday Wishes award.

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