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Spotlight on senior rescue pets in "Mr. Darcy"
Rescue pet Mr. Darcy poses with his owner, Kathy Nelson in a family photo they had Missy Okey Photography take.

By David Timmerman

She hadn’t had a pet since she was 12, but once she saw his picture pop up in her social media feed, she knew she had to adopt him.

Kathy Nelson remembers when she first saw Mr. Darcy back in December 2016. The dog, which had been found in the Muscoda area alone and malnourished, had been brought into the Grant County Humane Society by a deputy. His feet were hurting from being frostbitten, and his ribs shown through his skin, and his fur was stiff.

She fell in love immediately.

Now four years later, Nelson is sharing the story of Mr Darcy and herself, and the work they have done since to help those senior rescued animals in Mr. Darcy: The Fastidious Beagle, an ebook touting the need for senior pet adoption.

“The bottom line is hoping that Mr. Darcy’s story will inspire people to take a look at senior rescue animals,” Nelson said. “They are the ones that get left at the shelter…..Adopting a senior rescue animal is so fulfilling.”

Nelson, who had ran the Maple-Harris Guest House in Lancaster until 2019, had not thought about getting a pet for most of her adult life, and certainly not while she ran the bed and breakfast. “No one would want to stay here with a dog around,” Kathy remembered thinking.

Then Mr. Darcy’s picture came across her social media feed. “He just looked so lost,” Kathy remembered thinking.

So she went in and visited with the dog at the humane society. She was instantly hooked, and filled out the adoption paperwork that day.

The photo that led to Mr. Darcy being adopted by Nelson.

Mr. Darcy had a medical review still needing to be done, so Nelson left him there, and came back the next day. When she came back to bring Mr Darcy home, she got a surprise - she was being told that they were going to take the adoption off the table. You see, Mr. Darcy’s tests came back positive with heart worm, a vicious parasite that, given Mr. Darcy’s age, would be a tough fight, with either the illness or the strong medication raising the possibility he would not get through this fight.

Kathy pondered what she just heard. “Either way, it sounded like this dog was going to die.” Kathy was not going to have Mr. Darcy die without having a good home, and she could see Mr. Darcy was up to the challenge.

“He and I went into a room and talked together,” Kathy said, noting that Mr. Darcy conveyed in her he was up for a good fight.

So they went home together. Mr. Darcy fought through the heartworm, survived the medication to combat it, and has been going strong ever since, gaining much weight since he was found at only 16 pounds. Just after Christmas he and Kathy celebrated the anniversary of his adoption, tearing through his peanut butter-frosted carrot-cranberry dog bone cake in moments, like he was half the 13-16 years old he is estimated to be.

Kathy quickly picked up on Mr. Darcy’s habits, including one that led to the latter part of the book title. You see, Mr. Darcy will wash his face after every meal with his paws, and will also sometimes rub his face on one of his blankets to be clean.

“So clean and tidy,” Nelson quipped.

Remember that worry she had that people would not to stay where there was a dog? Well, the opposite was true - many of the patrons of the bed and breakfast had had a beagle in their life, and they welcomed visiting the dog. Children welcomed playing with the dog as well.

Kathy joked that Mr. Darcy was the star of the place, as visitors would check in with Nelson after their stays, asking first how Mr. Darcy was doing….without asking how she was.

Not that the new attention went to Mr. Darcy’s head. After his adoption, Nelson became a regular foster host for animals who came into the humane society, focusing on the older ones. Kathy said Mr. Darcy greeted each one of the guests, giving them his bed, not being territorial about his food, and just being a gracious host.

“It’s like he knows they need it more,” Nelson said of the gentle dog.

Dog, cat, it didn’t matter, Mr. Darcy gave his space, and his love. “He has been a great foster buddy to all of them,” Kathy reflected.

Kathy started jotting down different moments with Mr. Darcy, starting in 2018. It was meant to be memories for her about him, but then she just realized that Mr. Darcy’s story may spotlight the need for people to consider these older rescues. “Mr Darcy opened my eyes,” Kathy said. “I didn’t realize I could make a difference.”

They had fostered eight different animals over the years, failing twice as she adopted two mates for Mr. Darcy - both senior.

There is a mystery when adopting a senior pet, Nelson stated. “You always wonder what they had to go through,” Kathy said. 

Mr. Darcy, at the beginning, kept his distance. “He loved from afar,” she remembered. 

Sure, you have some ailments to deal with, “all the wonderful old dog thing,” as Kathy refers to it. Like arthritis or other maladies, but with those there is an animal that is truly appreciative of the love and home they get.

Nelson illustrated the book with pictures, and put it up as an Amazon Kindle book. She quipped it’s not a best seller, but she is adjusting it so it can be printed as a paperback, and hopes it will inspire others to open their homes to the older animals needing them.