When John Schoonover lost his 19-year-old Peanut Chihuahua in August, he was crushed.
Peanuts were his constant companion. And perhaps most importantly, he’s his regular assistant at the elderly care facility Windsor House that he owns and works out in Windsor.
Peanut walked past Schoonover, greeting the five residents, playing in the living room and getting everyone a little lift.
When she was suddenly not there, he said, the residents, many of whom deal with dementia-related issues, knew instinctively.
“They knew,” Schoonover said.
They knew the peanuts were gone and they knew Schoonover was frustrated about it.
“One of the ladies lost her cat in the same week,” he said. “We talked about the loss and she knew what I was going through.”
He still had Penny Lane, 4-year-old Morky. But Penny spends most of her time at his home in Sebastopol with Dory, Schoonover’s recently retired wife.
Peanuts was a friend of John Schoonover.
So it was Dory Schoonover who set to work looking for a new boyfriend for her husband.
“My wife found her on the Internet,” he said of a puppy previously named Dolomite.
Dory found a litter of six abandoned Chihuahuas in Bakersfield. They were being cared for at Little Trooper Ranch, a nonprofit animal rescue organization in Santa Rosa.
But John was skeptical. Truth be told, he was still feeling pretty sad about Peanut.
I felt it was too early.
He said, “She was my rock.” “I never thought I could replace that.”
However, he agreed to meet one of the puppies.
And soon he fell in love with the Dolomites.
Schoonovers brought the puppy home.
But he couldn’t stop thinking about the mother who gave birth to the litter.
He said, “My wife said, ‘One dog.'” “But the minute we walked in, I fell in love with the mommy and said, ‘Oh, how am I going to do this?'” “
So he said he brokered a horse trade of sorts with his wife.
He described it as honey list.
Two days later he returns to Little Trooper Ranch for Mama.
He said, “I loved the mother very much.” “They felt like each other, mirrored each other and it just felt like the right thing to do.”
So over the past three weeks, Schoonover has brought his new duo to work and mother and daughter have brought new life back to Windsor House.
Schoonover renamed it Dolomite. He calls her Frida Maria. Mama is still a pandita.
“They’re just the sweetest little girls,” he said.
Frida leopard print collar with jeweled accents.
Bandita, perhaps the world sickest of the two, has a simpler collar.
“She was rescued from the streets of Bakersfield,” he said, letting Bandita kiss his face. “She doesn’t like to talk about it much, but she’s gone from rags to riches.”
Like Peanuts before it, Bandita follows Schoonover’s feet wherever he goes. Frida, still learning the ways of the world, is confined for the most part at home.
But they stayed close.
He said, “The little girl is with her mother every day.”
A mother and daughter are fighting in the living room, where residents are watching TV. They take a nap in the corner of the kitchen under the window.
They generally make fun.
“I had one puppy, about this size,” said resident Dorothy Gunther, holding her hands in a tight circle, describing Frida.
Guenter lost her cat, Sadie, around the same time Peanut died.
Like Schoonover, Guenter has been elevated by the new additions.
“He just sat here and let me pet him and I talked to him,” she said. “He felt so relieved after Sadie’s death.”
Schoonover believes their presence is beneficial to the population.
“They are bringing life back to people here,” he said. “Suddenly the aches and pains, I don’t think they’re 96 anymore. They light up. Animals change everyone’s outlook.”
Including his own.
Schoonover was worried that getting a new dog so soon after Peanut’s death wouldn’t be a good idea.
Then he set his eyes on Frida. Then Pandita jumped up and put her paws on him.
It was completed at that point.
“Not only did I replace that (love), but I fixed it twice,” he said. “The change in mood was incredible, just from everyday life.”
You can reach staff columnist Keri Benefield at 707-526-8671 or [email protected] on Twitter @benefield.