Jema – The Senior Wonder Dog

September 12, 2012  

This loving pit bull went from abandoned and starving to well-loved therapy pet

By Erin Doody, as first posted on Aug. 29, 2011

In addition to being a shelter volunteer and foster parent for the Animal Care and Control Team shelter in Philadelphia (ACCT) for the last four years, I am also the volunteer coordinator for Pen Pals, a program that pairs shelter volunteers with the shelter’s long-term resident dogs.

Needless to say, I’ve had many favorite homeless dogs during the past few years. Still, I’ll never forget the day I met a certain senior pit bull who would soon come to be known as Jema.

Jema was surrendered anonymously to the shelter by someone who found her tied to their back door with a piece of twine. She had many litters in the past and was estimated to be around 10 years old.

When I first met Jema, she was outside in a dog run draped across the lap of another volunteer, trying to get as close as possible to stay warm. She weighed a whole 38 pounds and was so thin you could see her hipbones and every rib in her chest. Despite having barely any fur on her back end, being pretty sick with kennel cough and being in heat, she was one of the most adorable dogs I had ever seen. A face only a mother could love? Perhaps, but I knew she needed to be our next foster dog. With my fiancé Jason in agreement, we brought Jema home a few days later.

Fast forward to three months later, Jema had gained close to 20 pounds and had virtually no more hair-loss. She looked like a different dog and was healthy enough to be spayed. In addition to being a sweet dog that everyone loved as soon as they met, she had this remarkable way of helping our 2-year-old fearful, anxious dog Rowdy stay calm. It was at this point we realized that Jema was already a member of our family. We officially adopted her shortly after.

Today, Jema is around 11 years old. In addition to being Rowdy’s therapist, she is a certified therapy dog through Pals for Life and visits local nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and libraries. She was featured in the 2011 Pinups for Pitbulls calendar as Miss June and is currently working toward her Canine Good Citizen certification.

I think my favorite thing Jema has the ability to do is change the mind of close to everyone she meets who isn’t familiar with what a dog of her age or breed type is capable of. She now has her very own Facebook page to dispel the myths of pit bull type dogs and spread the importance of adopting a senior dog or cat. In fact, this coming weekend, Jema is attending an adoption event at a local retirement home to spread the word about how great it is to adopt a senior pet!

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9 Responses to “Jema – The Senior Wonder Dog”
  1. WPAdmirer says:

    I adopted a senior dog myself, a mixed pit/god knows what dog named Rosie. After the joy I’ve had with Rosie, I will never want a puppy! Senior dogs rule!

  2. StubbyDog says:

    Thanks for sharing and telling everyone the joys of adopting a senior dog!

  3. LoisLame says:

    This is SO GREAT!! I fear i am in danger of becoming a “foster failure” myelf if I don’t find a home for the YOUNG Pitt Curr mix foster I’ve had for the past few months… they really do steal your heart! I just keep telling myself that all the training and socialization we’re doing is for her FUTURE PARENTS because she realy needs somone with kids or a LOT more energy than I have. I have planned on getting another senior dog who is a bit more my speed. (We shall see.) Thanks for saring your great story and photos; Jema is definitely a GEM!

  4. StubbyDog says:

    @LoisLame We applaud you for fostering and know how hard it is to say goodbye even though that’s supposed to be the end result.

  5. leag642 says:

    My own pitmix is named Gemma (pronounced the same) and we are getting ready to do therapy dog training and get our certification. I hope she can live up to the standards that Jema has set!

  6. honeyremedy says:

    She is beautiful! I really enjoy reading stories about senior pets. I would really like to adopt a senior dog as my next dog and these stories are very encouraging! Yay Jema and yay Erin for saving this humble girls life!

  7. adoremydogs says:

    What a grand elder-lady!  Thanks Erin for opening your heart and home, providing Jema a wonderful rest of her life!

  8. Matt.S says:

    Great job Jema! You’re helping pibbles and senior pets everywhere!

  9. Matt.S says:

    Great job Jema! You’re helping pibbles and senior pets everywhere!