Kristen Peralta, the founder of Vintage Pet Rescue, admits that she has a hard time saying no.
So when she received an email from Linda — a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, woman battling stage 4 lung cancer — asking if the rescue would be able to take in her four senior Chihuahuas while she went through treatment, Peralta was quick to say “Yes.”
“We receive so many emails asking for help and there are some that you just can’t turn away,” Peralta told PEOPLE. “This situation really wasn’t something we had anticipated when we started Vintage Pet Rescue last year, but it’s been a really great experience. We’ve been able to help these dogs stay together but we’ve also helped Linda.”
Based in Rhode Island, Vintage Pet Rescue is “a retirement home for senior dogs and hospice dogs.” Peralta pulls senior dogs from local shelters and takes in ill and older canines from owners who no longer have the means to care for their pets. Once the animals arrive at Vintage Pet Rescue, they are provided with two meals a day, lots of outside time, daily cuddles and vet care.
The furry residents are not up for adoption; instead, Peralta provides all of the dogs with devoted care for the rest of their lives.
Linda’s four dogs — Scaredy, 16, Brewsy, 14, Suzy, 14, and Runty, 14 — affectionately known as “The Doodles,” are a special case: Vintage Pet Rescue hopes the senior dogs walk out of their care and back into Linda’s life.
“I was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in March of this year. I was told that I would die if I stayed in Ft. Lauderdale because I had no support network, so I decided to move up to Rhode Island to stay with my sister,” Linda said of her situation. “Unfortunately, I was unable to keep my four senior Chihuahuas at my sister’s house. We both began to search for rescues that wouldn’t euthanize or separate my dogs. We each found one. Amazingly, we found the same one, Vintage Pet Rescue, which was only a few miles from my sister’s house. But, I was still worried.”
Over the past several months, Linda’s worries about how her dogs would cope in their new home have dissipated. Not only was she initially greeted at the rescue by a big bunch of gleeful senior dogs who never spend any time in cages, but Linda has also found that Peralta is dedicated to keeping her connected to her beloved pets through regular visits.
“I started out visiting the dogs every other day which was wonderful. Kristen accommodated me with my schedule and the dogs there are all happy, loved and taken care of better than I can do myself,” Linda, who also checks in with Peralta over the phone several times a week, said.
While the quartet of senior dogs is getting along great with the rest of Vintage Pet Rescue’s residents, they are always the most excited to see Mom.
“They will jump all over her and give her kisses and then just lay next to her. All the other pups will try to get some attention too, so Linda usually has six or seven dogs on her lap during her visits,” Peralta said of the owner’s visits.
“Linda has been going through chemo so I know her visits with the pups are special and important to her,” she added. “We’re so happy that we’ve been able to help her through this time and make a big difference in her life.”
Scaredy, Linda’s oldest dog, recently received the okay to live with Linda and her sister, so Linda now has a little furry therapy 24/7 as she continues chemotherapy. But just because Scaredy moved out of Vintage Pet Rescue, doesn’t mean Peralta has stopped caring for him.
“Scaredy, who had been staying with me at my sister’s house, got very sick and I had to go into the hospital at the same time. I was scared I was going to lose him. Kristen took him to multiple vet visits, paid for an expensive surgery and nursed him back to health. He’s doing better than ever now!” Linda said.
This peace of mind is what Peralta works to offer all of her canine residents and the people who love them.
“I would safely say she helps save my life a little every day with my dogs and all the rest, too,” Linda added. “There are no words to describe her kindness and her amazing ability to take care of them all and love them all. I could say I have great respect and love this amazing woman.”