Dog dumped for being 'too old' makes triumphant return to Dog Bowl this weekend

If a 17-year-old dog named Karlie gets flagged for excessive celebration during this weekend’s Dog Bowl 3, she’ll have a terrific excuse.When the fluffy bichon frise was 15 years old, her owners dumped her in a Florida shelter for being “too old." She was overlooked by potential adopters for the same reason. After a month, Karlie started shutting down from stress.That’s when Laurie Johnson, director of the nonprofit Florida Little Dog Rescue Group, volunteered to personally foster Karlie in her family’s home.
“We didn’t know how long she would have, but we were committed to making sure that she had a great rest of her life, however long it was,” Johnson told TODAY.
Laurie Johnson's daughter, Lindsay, carries Karlie out of the shelter to head to her new foster home. Karlie enjoyed 16 months with the Johnson family before being adopted into her forever home.Courtesy of Steve and Rhonda Hoeckley

Initially, Johnson thought Karlie would be a “fospice” case — when a foster family essentially provides hospice care for a pet with little time left. But Karlie flourished with the family, which includes Johnson, her husband, three kids, three dogs and a few hedgehogs.

No, it’s not just to make themselves look adorable. Dogs curl up in a ball when they sleep due to an age-old instinct to keep themselves warm and protect their abdomen and vital organs from predators.

“Karlie had been grieving her old life, but once she settled into foster care with us and had a bed, and food that she liked, and treats, and belly rubs, and cuddles and snuggles and a yard to play in, and other dogs to be friends with, she just perked right back up,” she said. “She started to come back to life in terms of her personality really coming through and shining.”

Karlie embraced life with her foster family, and her upbeat personality began to shine through.Courtesy of Steve and Rhonda Hoeckley
Though Karlie was available for adoption, people still considered her too old to adopt. She stayed with the Johnsons for 16 months. Then she had the chance to compete in Animal Planet’s Dog Bowl, which highlights adoptable senior dogs from shelters and rescue organizations; TODAY ran an article about Karlie’s journey to the big game.
“About 20 minutes into the Dog Bowl airing, we started getting lots of interest in Karlie,” she said. “People were looking her up online and found the TODAY article.” During Dog Bowl 2, Florida Little Dog Rescue Group received about 50 offers from across the country to adopt Karlie.

“People didn’t realize people would give up senior dogs to shelters,” she said. “Karlie was able to open their eyes so they could consider adopting a senior dog from a shelter.”

When Florida residents Rhonda and Steve Hoeckley reached out to Johnson about adopting Karlie, she knew the dog had “hit the jackpot.” The couple, both 61, and their twin daughters have adopted numerous dogs from Florida Little Dog Rescue Group and dote on their pets .

Be Diligent about Vet Visits. “Don’t wait for the signs,” Dr. Becker stresses. Focus on “prevention first.” Pets age fast, and when it comes to illness they are programmed to mask weakness, “they’re naturally secretive.” One to two visits a year is ideal, but if you suspect a problem, don’t hesitate, and don’t self-diagnose. “In the last two years I’ve seen four or five cases where people went to the internet for help, and by the time they get to the vet it’s too late,” says Dr. Becker.