When Kristina Helfer first met Tito four months ago, she was nearly in tears.
The 16-year-old Chihuahua was blind. He could hardly breathe and couldn’t move his back legs. He had an infected mass on his back end and was constantly wheezing. His owner unfortunately fell sick and family members were unable to care for him, so he was brought to a shelter in New York City.
“It was terrible,” Helfer, the adoption and foster coordinator for Wise Animal Rescue, told The Dodo. “He kept having to cough and move his head around to breathe.”
As bad off as Tito seemed, Helfer knew she had to get him help. A veterinarian laid out a medical plan for Tito, and Helfer took him home to get him comfortable and start medication for a collapsed trachea.
And that’s when Tito met Frank.
“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 about how Tito would react just since he’s very elderly and wasn’t in good health. But he took to Frank just as much.”
Helfer adopted 2-year-old Frank last August after he was discovered in a junkyard completely emaciated and covered in mange. He was a spitting image of Helfer’s other pit bull, Piper, who was rescued in a similar condition.
Frank has anxiety and sometimes still struggles with it — but the one thing that he can always count on is the comfort he gets from taking care of others.
“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.”
Tito was no exception — and Frank rarely left his side. But Helfer could tell the two were forming a bond deeper than Frank shared with any of the other dogs.
Thankfully, after a few days of rest and medication, Tito’s breathing started to improve. It wasn’t long before he made a full recovery from his breathing issue, and was healthy enough to go in for surgery to get neutered and remove the mass.
“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 covered through Lola’s Legacy, a program through Wise Animal Rescue that sponsors senior dogs’ care in order to place them into forever homes.
And after seeing how bonded Frank and Tito had become, that home officially became Helfer’s.
While Tito can’t see or walk, he doesn’t let it stop him from taking in all the joys of life.
He absolutely loves being outside and lying by the pool.
With Frank’s help, he even goes on walks — nestled comfortably in a little side pack on his friend’s body.
“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.”
When they’re not going on walks or lounging by the pool, the kindred pair simply like relaxing and eating snacks.
“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.”
As long as Tito and Frank are together, they’re having a blast. Although it’s unclear exactly what Tito’s life was like before, one thing is certain.
With a new mom and two wonderful friends by his side, his 16th year is set to be his sweetest yet.
“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.”