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How a senior Chihuahua from Miami found love in New York City

senior dog snuggles on a couch
Pepito, a senior Chihuahua with a heart murmur, ended up in Miami shelter before getting a ride to Best Friends in New York and finding a wonderful home
By: on November 30, 2020

For most of us, 2020 hasn’t exactly been the year for socializing, but don’t tell that to Pepito, a senior Chihuahua with a face lined with threads of silver. For him, it’s been an epic year full of new adventures with his adopter, Caroline Leary. This past summer, he enjoyed napping by a pool in the Hamptons, and now that it’s getting cooler he likes to relax in Caroline’s arms on a rooftop deck in Brooklyn.

Pepito’s life hasn’t always been filled with skyline views and lazy days in the sun. In fact, his road to the good life in the big city was a long one ― about 1,200 miles long to be exact. Because before Pepito came to Best Friends in New York, he spent some time at a shelter in Miami.

Pepito on a towel in a kennel

It’s fair to say this was a trip of a lifetime for Pepito. Not only do senior dogs like him have a challenging time finding homes because of their age, in his case he faced an extra obstacle to adoption ― a heart murmur. Even though his condition is easily controlled with medication, it was still enough to give adopters pause ― but not Caroline.

In fact, Pepito was just who she had been looking for. “I’m in an apartment and I thought a senior dog would be better in terms of my neighbors, since they’d most likely be mellow and quiet,” Caroline says. And after she and her boyfriend, Matt, watched Pepito yawn (repeatedly and adorably) during a video meet-and-greet, they looked at each other and said, “Yeah, he’s the one.”

[Adopter speaks deaf dog’s language]

Pepito the senior dog outside in the grass

Scenes from a foster home

Caroline says it helped to be able to talk to Pepito’s foster mom about everything from his personality (he’s a social butterfly) to his favorite treats (that would be all of them), to how well he tolerates taking daily medication for his heart condition (nothing to it).

His foster mom also sent Caroline action photos, although by action we mean napping and relaxing. He does enjoy a good stroll, but he’s never in a hurry.

Foster homes can do a world of good for dogs like Pepito, according to Emily DeFelice, foster coordinator for Best Friends in New York, “It’s common for dogs with medical conditions or those who require lifelong medications (like Pepito) to be overlooked by adopters. When they are in a foster home, we are able to show these pets in another light.”

Images of Pepito lounging on the couch, sitting on his foster’s lap and hanging out in the backyard helped potential adopters (including Caroline) see that he has plenty more life left in him to enjoy with a family.

[Senior dog coasts into his golden years with a smile]

Pepito the dog lying in a lap

Tiny toast of the town

It took a little time for Pepito to settle in at Caroline’s place, but now he walks confidently around the neighborhood with her. His stride is slow, but his tail wags fast whenever he makes a new human or canine friend (which is daily). He curls up like a little cat when he goes to sleep and Caroline says he sighs like a sassy teenager when he’s anxious, although for the most part, he’s a pretty mellow guy.

Pepito the dog lying next to a swimming pool“Everyone loves Pepito,” she says, including her roommates and friends who invite him to go along whenever they’re going out to dine al fresco. Caroline’s mom, dad, stepdad, siblings and her boss all love him, as well as her boyfriend’s parents, who became big Pepito fans the day he donned a little life jacket for a first dip in their pool. But it’s Caroline who loves Pepito the most. And to think, when she was looking high and low for a little senior dog to adopt, he was waiting in Miami. All it took was a road trip and a little time in a foster home for them to connect.

“It feels good to take care of him,” says Caroline. “And it may sound cheesy, but it’s like he fills a place in me that I didn’t even know needed filling.”

Not cheesy at all, Caroline.

Senior pets make great companions

Gray faces are a sign of experience. If you’re looking for someone to take slow strolls around the neighborhood with ― instead of a running buddy ― why not adopt a senior dog from your local shelter?