Woman Adopts Senior Dog and Spends Next 28 Days Spoiling Him Before Putting Him to Sleep (Exclusive)

Kate Schakols and her family brought Rooster home in June 2020

<p>Millie_Archie/Tiktok</p> Kate Schakols and Rooster


Kate Schakols and Rooster

From the moment Kate Schakols first saw Rooster — a chocolate Lab mix whom her family adopted in June 2020 — she knew he had to come home with her.

“I fell so in love,” she tells PEOPLE exclusively. “He is just one of the most beautiful dogs I've ever seen, inside and out.”

At the time of Rooster's adoption, Schakols says the rescue, Gulf Coast STARS, estimated he was 10-12 years old and communicated his medical history to the best of their ability. The list included “benign lumps and bumps, heartworm and fleas that he had been successfully treated for, cataracts in his left eye causing blindness, and that his elbow pads and most of his teeth were worn down from digging in concrete for food.”

<p>Millie_Archie/Tiktok</p> Caitlyn Schakols and Rooster


Caitlyn Schakols and Rooster

Because of his circumstances, Schakols remembers how she and her family would have to make his kibble softer by adding boiling water — efforts she says were “totally worth it.”

“I could never possibly repay Rooster for how much joy and love he brought to my life,” she says.

Related: 'Dog in Distress' Helps Rescue Their 'Struggling' Golden Retriever Friend from Drowning

Just 28 days later, in a tale that has now gone viral on TikTok, Schakols and her family had to say goodbye to Rooster after he came down with “dog bloat” — a condition she says doctors explained came on for no apparent reason.

“The vet confirmed there was nothing we could've done, but for me that just increased the feeling of helplessness,” she says. “It became clear that the only right thing to do was to choose humane euthanasia.”

In a slideshow of photos shared to TikTok that has now been viewed over 40 million times, Schakols tells her and Rooster’s story which starts with the two meeting. The video shows Rooster with their family’s other dog, Bailey, whom Schakols tells PEOPLE became Rooster’s companion and even “took on some of his mannerisms” after he died.

The video is narrated through text over each photo from the point of view of Rooster that includes heartbreaking sentiments like “But I think I love my mom the most. I hope she knows. She’s love me more than anyone ever has.”

“She doesn't seem to care that I can’t see very well, that I have missing fur and teeth, and I’m old and lumpy,” the text continues on the following slide “She says I’m beautiful every day.”

As she begins to explain how Rooster’s final day unfolded she writes, “I think it’s time to go. I hope my mom will be okay. I can hear her crying and begging someone named God not to take me.”

<p>Millie_Archie/Tiktok</p> Rooster with his football toy


Rooster with his football toy

“It was time for us to say goodbye. I know my mom is sad, but I wish she knew these were the best 28 days of my life,” she adds over a photo of Rooster laying on a rolling gurney.

Schakols remembers that she was not able to be in the room with Rooster when he died because of COVID protocols and the pain of watching him get rolled away.

Related: Rescue Dog Gets Limo Ride to His New Home After Waiting Close to 2 Years for a Family

“They wheeled him away still alive and that image still haunts me,” she says.

While Rooster’s loss left a lasting impact on Schakols and her family, she says she’s chosen to share her experience on social media in part to bring awareness to the “stigma around pet loss grief.”

“All I ever want from my page is to encourage people to understand that pet loss is valid and a very real type of disenfranchised grief,” she says while adding that she’s also motivated by her love of animals and wanting to share that with the world.

<p>Millie_Archie/Tiktok</p> Caitlyn Schakols and Rooster


Caitlyn Schakols and Rooster

After moving out of her family’s home in 2021, Schakols adopted a senior cat named Archie, whom she calls “one of the loves of my life.” The following year, she decided to welcome another pup into her life and adopted Millie, whom she describes as an “unknown mixed breed.”

“She's spunky, active, playful, sweet, and incredibly loyal. She loves other dogs and people and is generally really affectionate and loving,” she says of the 8-year-old. “Her little sugary face gets me every time.”

While she has made room in her home — and heart — for more pets in her life, there will always be a special place for Rooster.

"The bond I had with Rooster was unreal," she says. "I'd never felt that specific type of connection before, and it was obvious to everyone that he had chosen me to be his person."

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