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Phoebe the Senior Pug Saved Her New Family From a Fire

Phoebe was 12 years old when her first family gave her up, but this pint-sized Pug proves that senior adoptees still have a lot to give.

Heather Marcoux  |  Dec 15th 2014


At 13 years old, Phoebe the rescue Pug is obviously a senior, but the best years of her life definitely aren’t behind her — she’s living them now.

She’s deaf, arthritic, and has bad teeth and respiratory problems, but none of that stops Phoebe from loving life with her new family, and it didn’t stop her from saving them from a dryer fire either.

“She single-handedly saved my boyfriend and all the rest of my dogs,” says Jen Cole, who began fostering Phoebe through Small Bully Paws Rescue Squad about a year ago.

A lot has changed in that year. First, Phoebe went from being Cole’s foster dog to a full adoptee, and then the boyfriend Phoebe saved became Cole’s husband.

But long before the smoke and the wedding, there was the day when Cole got the call to foster a senior Pug who had been surrendered by her owners.

“I went to pick her up, and when I got there I was completely shocked because she is tiny,” says Cole, who says Phoebe is about half the size of a normal Pug. “She was maybe nine pounds. She was in terrible condition.”

An experienced rescuer, Cole says it can be difficult to find foster homes that can take on the extra responsibility of a senior dog with complex medical needs, but she was up to the challenge. She knew she could give Phoebe the attention she needed — something the pint-sized Pug hadn’t had in years.

“Her previous owners had her from when she was a puppy, and then they had a child. Basically once they had the child, her vetting ceased,” says Cole.

At 12 years old, Phoebe hadn’t been to the vet in a long time, and the neglect was obvious. Her nails were curling into her arthritic feet, her fur and eyes were dry, and her skin was flaking — but of all Phoebe’s health problems, her ears were the worst.

“She had green goop dripping out of her ears from chronic ear infections,” says Cole. “Both eardrums were ruptured from those ear infections.”

Cole says Phoebe’s vet believes the untreated ear infections that cost the Pug her hearing were likely caused by a chronic allergy to low-quality food.

“I’ve got her on a duck-based food, so that helped with her ear infections,” says Cole.

Diet alone isn’t enough to keep Phoebe healthy, though. She needs hundreds of dollars worth of medication every month, including eye drops and medications to keep her airways open.

“I call those ones ‘Pug drugs,'” says Cole, who adds that Phoebe will need to be on the medications for the rest of her life to keep her from coughing.

When Phoebe was first placed into Cole’s care, the little Pug was a sanctuary foster, meaning her chances of adoption were almost nonexistent. As a sanctuary foster, the rescue would pay for Phoebe’s medical care while she lived out her life at Cole’s house.

“I just adopted her anyways,” says Cole. “The rescue can spend their money elsewhere.”

With Phoebe added to the pack, Cole now has five dogs of her own, plus a long-term foster. Those dogs might not be around today if Phoebe hadn’t alerted Cole’s then-boyfriend to a smoldering dryer fire.

Cole was out of town that night, and he was at home with the dogs. He had put a late night load of laundry into the dryer before falling asleep on the couch with Phoebe. The other five dogs were snoozing on their dog beds in the living room. Everyone was fast asleep until Phoebe smelled something strange.

“She gets up in the middle of the night and starts doing the deaf dog bark,” says Cole, who adds that he initially tried to coax Phoebe back to sleep.

“She just would not settle down. This is not normal — she’s an older lady and she appreciates her rest hours.”

After realizing Phoebe wasn’t going to back to sleep, he also noticed the smell of smoke drifting into the living room. He got up and went to the laundry room, where he turned off the dryer. When he opened the door, smoke billowed out of the machine. He had gotten to the laundry room in time to prevent a catastrophe, but the situation could have been much worse.

“The whole pipe that goes outside had tons of dryer lint in it,” explains Cole, who doesn’t like to think about what she could have come home to if it weren’t for Phoebe.

“Phoebe came to us to save us,” she says.

Cole hopes Phoebe’s story inspires other potential adopters to consider a senior dog.

“It’s such a bummer to live out your puppy years, only to have someone get rid of you when you can’t fetch anymore,” explains Cole, who says that Phoebe’s advanced age has in no way diminished her personality.

“She’s a sassy little thing, she’s the alpha dog in my house. I always say she’s living it up in retirement.”

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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat Specter and and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.