By The Farmer's Dog | February 3, 2023

Chooch is a charming senior schnoodle. Now 18, he’s lived with Stephanie Yeakel and her wife for almost half of their lives. He’s a distinguished older gentleman, and The Farmer’s Dog has boosted his energy and quality of life—and, in a shock to his humans, overcome his pickiness. This is his story.

Growing up together

Mr. Chooch lives in Naples, Florida with Yeakel and her wife. They brought Chooch into their home when they were both just out of high school and not yet married. Says Yeakel: “He’s seen me grow up; I’ve seen him grow up.”

A true romantic, Chooch takes daily sunset walks. “He was always the one who was up bright and early,” says Yeakel, “but now in his retirement he is definitely one that we have to wake up gently to take him outside in the morning. We’ve been taking him on some walks through our neighborhood at night. He’s blind and deaf now—mostly blind—and so we have to take him out just at the right time. He loves his sunset walks. With the Florida sun, if it’s too bright he can get overheated and if it’s too dark he can’t really see. So we get to enjoy sunset walks every night with him.”

Uncle Chooch

Chooch’s full name is Francisco, but the shorter moniker is the one that’s stuck with him. According to Yeakel, she uses “Chooch” as a pet name meaning “little chubby boy.” Our internet research indicates that, in Italian, “Chooch” is a slang term that can be used to mean something like “dummy.” Along with “Chooch,” he also goes by “Mr. Chooch” and “Uncle Chooch.” The “Uncle” title came from Chooch’s role as the “pet anchor” of the clan, who’s now had “so many pet family members over the years.”  

He has a special bond with his canine sibling Cricket, “his little Chihuahua brother.” “Cricket has kind of turned into his seeing-eye dog,” says Yeakel. “Sometimes if Chooch doesn’t know where he’s going Cricket will come and, like, nudge him or guide him. It’s really hilarious to see how they have worked together.”

Better than steak

Chooch is smart, but that doesn’t mean he’ll always do tricks when asked. “Out of all the dogs we’ve had, he’s the most reluctant to do tricks,” says Yeakel. “He knows them, you know? But he’s got to have something in it for him, which has always been funny.”

This determination to live on his own terms has historically extended to food. For many years, Yeakel saw Chooch as a picky eater. Then, after losing a dog and thinking more about how they could improve their pets’ health, his humans switched his diet and were surprised at how much he embraced fresh food.

“He is, out of all the dogs we’ve ever had, the pickiest eater by far,” Yeakel says. “We’re definitely a big family, and we love to share if we have a little table food left over for our dogs—and he’ll turn down a steak. That’s the kind of dog he’s always been.” Yeakel and her wife didn’t expect The Farmer’s Dog to work miracles at meal time, but—even for a dog in his teens who would turn up his nose at any subpar entrées—it turned out to be a game changer.

“When we started him on The Farmer’s Dog we were skeptical to see how he would feel about it, but he loves it. The chicken recipe is his favorite.”

“I don’t know if he would still be with us without The Farmer’s Dog,” Yeakel says. “From a mental health standpoint, he lights up at dinnertime. Even though he can’t necessarily always see you, he can smell The Farmer’s Dog and he comes over to you. And, gosh, I took a video of him the other night, and he’s running again where he wasn’t before. I don’t know where it comes from—I don’t have the energy sometimes that he has, but he’ll run back and forth across the yard. I think at his age you have to be realistic about his health expectations, but he’s definitely physically [close to] the most capable he’s been.”

The dog comes first

Yeakel thinks she knows the secret to Chooch’s longevity, and caring for canines in general: “From the way we talk to them to the way that we empathize with them to the way that we prioritize them,” she says, “It sounds simple, but… treat them like any other member of your family. That’s the secret, and The Farmer’s Dog is just a complement to their whole lifestyle.” She sums up her dedication to Chooch and all of her dogs this way: “You give them the best! We love them, sometimes more than ourselves, and want them to be happy and cared for and have fun.”