Methinks old age is a privilege

By Benny Huckleberry as told to Liz Hoffmann | Jun 18, 2020

My senior “sister” Ilsa is a German Shepherd Dog. She’s had an interesting life story, which is very different than mine. While I was born outside to a stray mama dog and am 100% mutt, Ilsa is a pure-bred dog who was born to a breeder.

We don’t know exactly what happened to Ilsa after she was purchased as a puppy. What we do know is that whomever bought her paid a lot of money and was not a kind person. They were mean to her and then dumped her as an adult. So, she ended up caged in a New York City municipal shelter, and that is where my human first saw her. The dogs in those shelters are only given one week to get adopted. A friend of my human’s told her about Ilsa, who was at risk since her time was just about up. No one wanted her since she was scared and lunged and snapped and acted very menacing in her cage. I can relate since I was scared in the shelter too. But I took the opposite stance, and just curled up into a ball and closed my eyes and pretended I wasn’t there. My behavior didn’t threaten anyone like Ilsa’s did. She acted out aggressively. I really don’t blame her, since all she knew was her name Ilsa and that humans were bad. That all changed however, when my human became aware of her plight and against her better judgement, adopted her.

Fast forward to a few months later, and while Ilsa still had issues, she had improved so much! My human was no longer afraid of her and Ilsa was fine with her other dog Spanky (it was before me) and the kitties. It was at that time that the veterinarian found a tattoo in Ilsa’s ear that was the mark of her breeder in Germany. And sure enough, my human found a picture of Ilsa on the pedigree database as a little puppy. She found out all the details about where Ilsa originally came from and that she even had official papers. She had been conceived in and born in Germany and then imported to the U.S. as a puppy. I know all of this because my human told me. She also said that just because Ilsa is a fancy type of dog that was specifically bred and someone paid a lot of money for, didn’t guarantee she’d have a good life.

I’m sharing her story for a couple of reasons. One is that “fancy” dogs can be let down by their humans too and don’t always end up in a good place. Even when people pay a lot of money for them. So please, always consider adopting your dog, even if you want a specific breed. It may take a little longer, but you’ll be able to find whomever you want.

The other reason is that Ilsa is now over 12. She is an old girl for a large, 80-pound German Shepherd. Her eyes are cloudy and her back legs falter. My human doesn’t say much about it, but I know she’s upset. She’s had Ilsa for 10 years and has seen her through so much and helped her blossom. And now, after such a rough beginning, to see Ilsa so happy fills my human’s heart with love, although she knows she can’t live forever.

Old age is a tricky thing. It’s sure hard to see your family members get old, and it’s hard to get old yourself. Ilsa would have never made it out of that shelter had my human not stepped in a decade ago. And even though she is growing old, she knows the love of a happy home. Methinks that getting old is a privilege. It is especially so when we are surrounded by those who love us, despite what challenges we may encounter along the way.

With love, Benny H.

Benny H. is a 6-year-old mixed-breed dog who enjoys writing, meeting new people, and providing companionship to his loving adopter, Liz Hoffmann. They live in Connecticut. Liz has extensive experience in sales, marketing, and opening her heart to shelter animals.

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Comments (3)
Posted by: Elizabeth Hoffmann | Jun 26, 2020 12:46

Thank you Lydia and Sheril for your kind comments!

I will be sure to tell Benny. He will be happy to know that you enjoyed what he had to say. He loves to make humans happy!

Posted by: Lydia A Bendas | Jun 21, 2020 15:52

Our much loved German Shepherd, also named Ilsa, was with us for thirteen years.  This piece really resonated with me.

Posted by: Sheril G Doughty | Jun 21, 2020 07:21

So sweet and true- love this column- thank you Benny!


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