When Kristina Helfer first met Tito four months ago, he was on death's doorstep. He could barely breathe and he's a paraplegic. He also had an infected mass on his back end and a loud wheeze.
His previous owner fell sick and family members were unable to care for him, so he was surrendered to a shelter in New York City.
“It was terrible,” Helfer, the adoption and foster coordinator for Wise Animal Rescue said. “He kept having to cough and move his head around to breathe.”
A veterinarian mapped out a medical plan for Tito, and Helfer decided to take him home to make him comfortable. He also started medication for a collapsed trachea.
At Helfer's home is where Tito met his guardian angel; Frank.
Frank and Tito on the couch together |Kristina Helfer
“Frank immediately took to him,” Helfer said. “He was going over to check on Tito constantly — just sniffing him, licking him … At first, I was worried how Tito would react just since he’s very elderly and wasn’t in good health. But he took to Frank just as much.”
Piper (front) with Frank and Tito |Kristina Helfer
Helfer adopted 2-year-old Frank last August after he was rescued from a junkyard. He was half starved and covered in mange mites. Helfer adopted him because he was nearly identical to Helfer’s other pit bull, Piper, who was rescued in comparable condition.
Frank has anxiety from his past but caring for Tito seems to make it better.
“We call him ‘Nurse Frank,’” Helfer said. “He is such a dad, and extremely in tune with other dogs. I’ve had foster puppies before that he’s stayed right by and licked to help keep clean. He just has this instinct to gravitate toward dogs who need help.”
Helfer could tell that the bond between Frank and Tito was different and stronger than Frank's bond with any of the other dogs.
When Tito’s breathing started to improve, the vet deemed him healthy enough to neuter him and have the mass removed.
“It was a miracle, really,” Helfer said. “He did fine in surgery and hasn’t had any other breathing problems since.”
Tito’s health care was fully funded by Lola’s Legacy, a program through Wise Animal Rescue that sponsors senior dogs’ care in order to place them into forever homes.
After seeing how bonded Frank and Tito had become, Helfer knew that Tito's forever home was her home.
Piper (left) with Tito and Frank |Kristina Helfer
Tito can't see or walk, but he doesn't let that stop him. He loves to lay out and float in the pool.
Tito and Frank hanging out by the pool |Kristina Helfer
Tito even enjoys going on walks thanks to Frank, who carries him in the side pouch of his doggy backpack.
Frank carrying Tito on a walk |Kristina Helfer
“When we walk by, people are like, ‘That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!’” Helfer said. “Then they ask us questions about them, which leads into how they were rescued… They’re definitely breaking stereotypes about pit bull mixes, and senior dogs. Walking them is really special.”
Tito smiling while in Frank's backpack |Kristina Helfer
“They share a similar interest in food and naps, so it works out,” Helfer said with a laugh. “He kind of just cuddles him up and Tito will lay on Frank’s head or paws.”
Tito and Frank in the sun after going swimming |Kristina Helfer
Tito is clearly loving his new life.
“We always joke that Tito has nine lives at this point,” Helfer said. “He was in such bad condition with all these health issues, but he just kept fighting. We feel so honored to give him these moments of happiness and anything else that he will ever need.”
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