Couple's elderly dog lives just long enough to welcome new baby home

TAYLOR MAPLE
Couple's elderly dog lives just long enough to welcome new baby home (ABC News)

Before Beth and Michael Clark came along, Rocky was just a feeble, elderly dog who may have otherwise never found a home to live out the rest of his days. Luckily, the couple laid eyes on him one day when dropping off donations at the Anne Arundel County Animal Shelter in Maryland.

"He was really frail," Beth Clark told ABC News. "Really skinny. He just looked incredibly sad. I looked at my husband and was like, 'We're getting him now.'"

The adoption process was seamless, and on that same day in 2015 when Clark first saw Rocky, she took him home. She said she didn't even ask about Rocky's previous owners or past life -- it didn't matter to her.

"I just didn't want this 17-year-old dog to die in a cage," she said.

The couple knew Rocky might not last long after taking him home. He was old, but they were happy to offer him a family for his final days. But he ended up living longer than anyone expected -- and long enough to meet Hazel, the Clarks' new daughter, who was born last month.

When baby Hazel was brought home, Rocky greeted her with curiosity and excitement. Almost as if he had been sticking around long enough to welcome her home, Rocky passed away that same night, Clark said.

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"I think I was a little bit over excited just to have her come home and have them meet, because Rocky was my first baby," Clark said. "We didn't really notice at all the change in him until a little bit after. That was a little bit hard. We had a really hard night."

Clark and her husband stayed with Rocky during his final hours, while Clark's mother watched Hazel. The couple was "broken," Clark said, but grateful that Rocky and Hazel got to meet.

Chris Weinstein, a volunteer at the shelter and a board member for Friends of Anne Arundel County Animal Control, helped the Clarks through Rocky's adoption. She said the shelter has a great track record at finding older animals homes, even though it's often a harder journey, and she hopes other people follow the Clarks' example.

"You know when you see [an older] dog, this is what you're going to get," she said. "It's not like a puppy ... when you don't know how big it's going to be, or what its personality is going to be like."

She said the Clarks are the reason Rocky had a happy end to his life.

"When Rocky left [the shelter], he was so frail looking we didn't think he'd last for much time at all," Weinstein said. "He looked better a year later than he did when they took him. Love and affection and some good food really helped Rocky. He had a wonderful last part of his life thanks to this couple."

Clark said she hopes other people consider giving older dogs loving homes instead of just focusing on puppies.

"We really want people to realize that you don't have to get a puppy for a dog to be your soulmate or a family member," Clark said. "A dog will love you no matter what -- no matter what the age."