Wanted: home for two old dogs in New Port Richey

They ate dinner as a family, every night at 6.

They all slept in the same room, Abbey and Buddy Boy curled at the foot of Patricia Wilson's bed.

And when Mrs. Wilson left the small house on Willow Street, her faithful companions watched from the window until she was out of sight.

You can still see the scratch marks on the ledge.

Mrs. Wilson, a widow since 1995, enjoyed seeing her children and grandchildren, but she wasn't apt to travel to their homes in Georgia and Washington. That would mean leaving Abbey and Buddy Boy.

Last month, Mrs. Wilson, a heavy smoker most of her 71 years, had trouble catching her breath. Before checking into the hospital for tests, she arranged for her pets to stay at a place she trusted. Dr. Joe Imburgia and the staff at Animal Hospital of New Port Richey had cared for Abbey and Buddy Boy faithfully for a dozen years. Mrs. Wilson didn't have much, but she never missed an appointment for her dogs. All their shots were up to date.

She didn't figure to board the dogs for long. But then came the bad news: advanced lung cancer. Doctors gave Mrs. Wilson only a few weeks to live.

Like so many older people, she had worried about what might become of her pets if she were to die. She consulted with her family. She arranged for Dr. Imburgia to keep her dogs awhile longer.

Mrs. Wilson died March 13. Family members came to handle her affairs, but they were unable to find a home for Abbey and Buddy Boy.

"We tried," said daughter Karen Stinehour, who lives in Marietta, Ga. and has two dogs of her own. "It's hard to find homes for large dogs, and with the bad economy, a lot of people are giving their dogs away."

The family surrendered the dogs to the Animal Hospital along with a legal form that allowed for euthanasia.

This is where you realize something special about Animal Hospital of New Port Richey, which Joe Imburgia opened in 1980 next to a thick orange grove on Little Road.

If the veterinarian and his staff cared only about business, this would be an easy decision. Abbey is a 12-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback with a bum knee and a touch of arthritis. Buddy Boy is a mutt, obviously part German shepherd. Space in the kennel is limited, and Mrs. Wilson's pets are no longer paying customers.

But Clarann Imburgia-Kunz, the doctor's sister and office manager, said none of that matters.

"Why euthanize two dogs in good health?" she asked. "They're just seniors."

Besides, added Dr. Imburgia, Mrs. Wilson had been coming to the clinic for some 25 years and was a dedicated pet owner. Before Abbey and Buddy Boy, there was Boo, a golden retriever rescued as a pound puppy.

While Imburgia-Kunz wants badly to find a home for the dogs, "we won't give them to just anyone. They need a place to run. They need people who will love them."

One day last week, April Mattix, the clinic's wellness manager, let Abbey and Buddy Boy out back so we could get the pictures you see with this column. The younger dog raced around like a pup, stopping occasionally to mark some territory or nip at his sister's ears. She ignored him.

How would they do apart after all these years?

"We really hope to keep them together,'' Imburgia-Kunz said. "But the main thing is to get them a good home for what little time they have left."

Mrs. Wilson would like that.

Fast facts

Want to help?

Call Animal Hospital of New Port Richey at (727) 842-7350.

Wanted: home for two old dogs in New Port Richey 03/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 21, 2009 1:34pm]

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