Covered in fatty tumors, walking at a rambling snail’s pace, 13-year-old Nitro was surrendered to the shelter due to a move. His sister, surrendered at the same time, had such a large tumor that she sadly did not survive the surgery to remove it. Left without his lifetime companion, Nitro was looking at a sad future: a long time spent in the shelter while he awaited that very special person willing to adopt a large senior dog.
Nitro, however, had one more card to play: he was one of the sweetest, gentlest, most caring dogs we’d ever met. And he was going to play that card in spades!
At NiSHA, we believe in fostering: getting a shelter pet into a real home allows that pet the feeling of family life, even if only for a short time. We also believe that you have to be creative to find the best option for an animal.
So when the opportunity for an off-island foster home arrived, Lori Smith, our dog adoption coordinator, jumped at the opportunity and came up with a plan to make it work.
Tara, the potential fosterer, was in a difficult transitional period in her own life, and thought a dog would be great company and therapy for her. However, she knew that she was not financially ready for the commitment a pet brings. Fostering would be the perfect fit for her. So she started searching PetFinder for adult and senior dogs near her, and that’s where she found Nitro!
Since she manages the educational farm at Camp Burgess & Hayward (a branch of the South Shore YMCA in Sandwich, MA), she figured she could foster Nitro in the quieter winter months, but in the summer, when camp is in full swing, he’d need to come back to the island.
But she didn’t figure on that card Nitro was carrying. His sweet nature and easy-going, therapeutic personality quickly worked their magic on the other staff and the campers. Tara writes:
“Nitro’s lumpy face, mismatched ears, and incredible disposition won over everyone who met him, whether he was holding down the fort in the office, keeping an eye on the livestock at the farm, accepting love and pets as campers filed into the dining hall, or lounging in the pond by my dock watching the boats go by. On one extraordinarily difficult day, when one of our young staff members unexpectedly passed away, Nitro stepped up as an unofficial therapy dog for our grieving campers and staff—many campers who weren’t comfortable talking to their peers or to the grief counselors instead opted to sit with Nitro, taking comfort in his quiet, loving presence. It’s no exaggeration to say that he brought joy to hundreds of lives during his time at Camp Burgess.”
Nitro lived at the camp surrounded by natural beauty—a pond to wade in, trees for shade—and loving children and adults who adored him. He was experiencing what maybe were the best months of his entire life in what must have seemed like heaven to him.
But now over 14 years old, his large body was slowing down and becoming ill, and soon the vet recommended euthanasia. When the day came, the staff and campers returned Nitro’s favor of supportive love and care. On the day he was humanely euthanized, the staff surrounded him with love:
“Nitro went easily and comfortably . . . he was lying at the edge of the pond, snacking on delicious treats and surrounded by people who love him.”
And he did not go alone. Tara relates: “As we were digging his grave, a frog came and tucked itself into his blanket and kept watch until we were ready to move Nitro—a kind little sentry to usher him along to his next version of heaven!”
What looked like a bleak life for Nitro turned into a life-enriching experience for him, for Tara, and for all the lives he touched. Thank you to Tara, a foster mom willing to open her heart to an older dog; to the camp staff willing to step in and share his care during the busy summer months; and, most importantly, to Nitro, whose own generous and loving spirit secured him a spot in heaven on earth.
If you think you’d like to foster a shelter pet, visit our website to find out more here.