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Senior Dogs - Diamonds in the Ruff

Scott SmithMay 2, 2017

Today I'd like to share this is a very special feature on the plight of abandoned senior dogs in need of re-homing. As I was researching this issue, I was fortunate enough to connect with organizations who take senior dog rescue with the seriousness it merits. These groups understand that while all of animal rescue is a sensitive matter, with senior dogs, it's even more sensitive.

Life can already be challenging for senior animals without being discarded like a broken piece of furniture. When this happens, many of them have a hard time getting adopted because they're old. The last thing they need is for people use their misconceptions to stack the decks even further against them.

Simply because it isn’t illegal to discard an animal doesn’t make it right. As your parents, grandparents, or other family members age, would you drop them off to live in a place they've never seen before? After a lifetime of familiarity with you, your home, and your family, would you discard them like an old sock without a pair? Of course not. Generally, people don’t do that to their loved ones.

Just because senior dogs can’t call out their owner’s name as they’re abandoned, doesn’t mean they’re not crying out in pain. More often than not, abandoned animals crawl into a corner and suffer deep depressions. The point is, while it’s unthinkable to treat a person in such a way, it’s equally wrong with your companion animal.

In order to obtain a closer look at this particular predicament for senior dogs, I reached out to organizations and people that work with these animals on a daily basis, and best know their needs. After reading on and learning more about senior dogs, it should become evident that they can make incredible companions, just as good as younger ones. Even more importantly, we can hopefully find the featured adoptable dogs some new, loving homes. The cover picture is senior dog, Chance. He comes to us from Grand-Paws Senior Sanctuary. The photo credit goes to renowned photographer, Rita Earl

Most dogs reach seniorhood between seven and ten years. This varies from breed to breed, as larger dogs reach old age quicker than smaller ones do. Typically, dogs that weigh less than 20 pounds are considered senior when they’re between seven to nine years old. For bigger dogs, this happens around six or seven years of age.

As our dogs get up there in age, we need to pay particular attention to their overall wellness, just as we do with humans. Scheduling routine medical checkups at least twice a year is crucial. Even as they age, if we stay in front of possible health risks, we can still improve their overall health, as well as extend their lifespan.

Several of the dogs featured below are up for adoption. If any of our readers is interested in providing a new, Ioving home for any of them, I’d be happy to help and facilitate in any way.

Without further ado, let's read on and find out what these organizations on the front lines of senior dog rescue have to say.

 Mufasa is to the right. He was rescued by Hope for Paws. 

Let’s begin with Hope for Paws, a non-profit animal rescue operation based out of Los Angeles, California.

Back in 2015, Hope for Paws received a call about a senior dog living in a water treatment facility. Lisa Arturo and Eldad Hagar of Hope for Paws responded to the call. When they arrived, they found senior dog Mufasa surrounded by toxic chemicals. He was leery and weak, and Eldad and Lisa knew that Mufasa needed to trust them before he would let them get close.

Lisa started approaching him slowly while offering him some food. Still, Mufasa kept his distance. Eventually, Eldad had to come up from behind Mufasa to surprise him. After just a moment of resistance, the worst was over.

They say a picture speaks a thousand words. There's no better depiction of this adage than the collage above with Mufasa before and after his rescue.

You can see Mufasa's story on video here.

We reached out to Hope for Paws for comments, and this is what they said:

"Honestly, I don't know how anyone could dump any animal, but a senior is just worse. That dog knows nothing but being with his family his entire life. Growing old is NOT a disease and to be discarded is just cruel, selfish and lazy! If you commit to an animal, commit. I have witnessed senior dogs going into major depressions when their family abandons them. They stop eating, lose weight and just curl up in a corner. It's just not fair and really shows how heartless people can be.”

Senior dog Edith

Next up is Edith, who was rescued by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, (PETA). 

If you ever wanted to know what dedication, faith and destiny looked like together, look no further than PETA's Jes Cochran and her senior dog, Edith.

Jes Cochran, a caseworker for PETA, first started visiting Edith in 2007, when she was just a young, wriggling bundle of soft, fluffy, black fur.

Edith's owners left her outside, tied to a barrel on a patch of bare dirt, but insisted on keeping her. Over the course of years, Jes continued visiting her, regularly bringing her straw for her doghouse, toys, and treats, and attempting to shower her with affection.

One day in 2013, when Jes went to visit her, she was gone. Her owners had moved, and Jes feared the worst. Edith remained MIA for three years, but in 2016, her new location was found. At that point, her owner had to move again and finally handed Edith over to PETA.

Jes knew she couldn't risk losing Edith again, and had to take her home. Today, the two are making up for lost time, and Edith is happy, experiencing all the things that make a dog’s life wonderful, including going for long walks and car rides, play dates at the dog park, snuggling on the couch, and getting tummy rubs every day.

If you’re interested, you can read about her full story here, and see the heart-warming video of Edith and Jes.

PETA’s Vice President of Cruelty Investigations, Daphna Nachminovitch, has this to say about senior dogs:

"While buying a puppy fuels the homeless-animal overpopulation crisis, adopting an animal saves a life, and that's extra special for homeless senior dogs who are roughly the equivalent of a displaced 65-year-old human whose loved ones have suddenly and mysteriously vanished. Many people can attest that senior dogs are especially grateful to those who give them a second chance at a safe and comfortable life by adopting them. And while senior dogs can require extra veterinary care and special attention, as they may walk slower or feel drafts more, they already know the ropes—from where to relieve themselves, to how to walk on a leash, and there are also few surprises in store with regard to their size, energy level, and personality."

This is Rosie. She is up for adoption with Almost Home Animal Rescue & Adoption, of Bohemia, New York.

This is Rosie. This beautiful boxer mix was adopted out of Almost Home over seven years ago, but now into her senior years, she finds herself back at the shelter.

Rosie needs a loving family and home. She’s calm, well-mannered, housebroken and crate-trained. Though she’s a low-maintenance kind of gal, she’s playful and filled with fun, and prefers being the lone pet.

If you're interested in adopting Rosie, please visit Almost Home Animal Rescue & Adoption

Senior dog Chance

This is 12-year-old pit bull mix Chance, up for adoption at the Grand-Paws Senior Sanctuary Rescue in Acton, California.

Chance was rescued while only moments away from being put down at the Lancaster Shelter, a very high-kill LA County Shelter, after his owners decided they didn't have time for him. Chance is just about the sweetest dog you could ever hope for. His main concerns are belly rubs, his tennis ball, and of course, a proliferation of treats!

He is available for adoption or a permanent foster home, preferably as the only dog, since he’d rather all the affection and belly rubs be for him. Chance would make a wonderful addition to any home. Please find it in your hearts to offer him and the other dogs at Grand Paws that chance.

Grand-Paws Rescue statement on senior dogs is so true:

"Dogs of all ages are wonderful, but senior dogs know what's going on. If you've rescued or adopted them as a senior they know what you've done for them and they'll show you their appreciation everyday. Not to mention, they're generally easier to care for because for the most part they're trained and you're not having to hide your shoes from them."

Siblings Zule and Jolie are up for adoption at Bideawee in NYC


Next up is Bideawee out of NYC. 

Next up is Bideawee, America’s first no-kill animal shelter, founded in 1903 by Mrs. Flora D'Auby Jenkins Kibbe.

Zule and Jolie, two beautiful black Labradors were surrendered together to Bideawee’s Westhampton location when their owner had to move overseas. They’re affectionate, playful and always happy to receive belly rubs and cuddles. For more information on how to adopt one or both, please check out Bideawee’s webpage.

When asked about why senior dogs make such great pets, Melissa Treuman of Bideawee had this to say:

"It’s so important to highlight senior dogs because they can often be overlooked in shelters, and they make such wonderful pets. Many senior animals are already trained and understand a variety of commands, and they are much more calm and settled, resulting in an ideal companion for any age." 

Gretel (left) and Hansel(right) are up for adoption at Frosted Faces Foundation


Frosted Faces Foundation of San Diego, California, recognized the need for an organization that specializes in senior pets, and have developed programs to guarantee aging animals the best quality of life possible. Here’s the story of just two of their rescues.

Gretel and her friend Hansel used to be owned by a homeless woman living in a van. When she had a sudden stroke and became incapacitated, Hansel, Gretel, and eight other dogs living in the van were confiscated and brought to Riverside Shelter. From there, Hansel and Gretel were transferred to Frosted Faces Foundation, and are now up for adoption, ideally together. For more information on Gretel, please check out her profile page here, and Hansel’s page here.

As mentioned above, Frosted Faces has a variety of initiatives that are very impressive and deserve special mention. Their Foster Family Program finds temporary homes for rescued pets, while Frosted Faces continues to pay for the animals’ medical expenses and supplies. The Frosted Funding Program offers financial assistance to owners whose senior pets unexpectedly become ill or develop chronic conditions. Finally, the Frosted Friend’s boarding and daycare program provides a place to board the public's senior dogs in their absence.

Drago from the American Kennel Club, in NYC

Drago is a ten-year-old Spinone Italiano that was adopted from the American Kennel Club (AKC). He already has a very loving family and home, and he's a dog the AKC is specially proud of.

Drago has excelled in the conformation and obedience rings, and in the field, as well as in the public arena, where he promotes responsible dog ownership and works as an AKC-trained therapy dog. His favorite activity is spending a day hunting in the field. Drago is a caring, loving companion with has a sweet, people-friendly disposition.

Gina DiNardo, Vice President of the American Kennel Club, commented on aging pets:

“Senior dogs are excellent companions. They are generally less active than adult dogs and are usually already house-broken. They make great companions and enhance the lives of their families. Senior dogs are great for owners who are not interested in going through a dog’s puppy phase, and if they have been raised with children, will be tolerant of them as they continue to mature.”

Stanley at Global Animal

Global Animal is a kind of animal Green Cross, dedicated to obtaining and distributing donations to to vetted animal rescue operations worldwide. Their mission is to get resources on the ground as quickly as possible during natural disasters and other emergencies that put domestic and wildlife in critical danger.

This is Global Animal’s loving description of Stanley, the friendly furball pictured above:

"Stanley is 13 years old. We rescued him when he was about a year-old and were only going to foster him until he found a home. That lasted all of three hours before he stole our hearts.

Stanley gets physical therapy every week for his congenital arthritis. He got a bum rap with two malformed ‘elbows’. He's totally an alpha dog, and loved to hike and scramble when he was young.

Now his outings are limited to daily trips in his dog stroller, which he loves and feeds his adventurous spirit.

Although Stanley is immobile, completely deaf, and getting on in years, he still loves life. He lives for belly rubs and cuddles and curls up between us every night. In addition to the physical therapy, he's on metacam, tramadol, and gabapentin to manage his pain.

We are determined that as long as Stanley is enjoying himself, we will do everything to keep him comfortable and engaged.

The picture above is Stanley at Physical Therapy just the other day. His therapy includes acupuncture and massage and really works! It’s covered by pet insurance, the best purchase we ever made."

Sammy 

As many of you know, I'm a human dad to six dogs. My Pomeranian, Sammy, is now twelve years old and definitely well into senior dog territory, but my life with him just keeps getting bigger and better. Though I might know he's a senior, all he needs to know is that he's part of my wolf pack, and no different than any of my other five dogs.

If my senior dog could speak, I swear he'd be able to finish my sentences for me. After having shared each other’s ups and downs for years, that's how well Sammy and I know each other. As he's gotten up there in years, our bond has only grown stronger. It's very similar as with people. As time marches on, our friendships grow bigger and deeper.

The secret of Sammy’s great health is really no secret at all, other than prioritizing his happiness and activity levels, and remembering that as he’s a senior citizen, we mustn’t overdo the exercise. Just like with people, nice and easy walks are the best way to keep our geriatric pets fit.

A big part of the problem with this problem is that animals are still considered replaceable property, with which people can do whatever they like. This puts companion animals at an immediate disadvantage. When you look at your pet as you would a product, it would follow that as it ages, you might begin to think it’s reached the end of its useful life.

The problem with this idea is that you’re essentially comparing apples to oranges. Animals are sentient beings, whereas products are not. Equating them as similar forms of replaceable and disposable property does a terrible disservice to the companionship, love, and emotional support a pet can bring to your life.

As animal lovers, it's imperative we continue to fight for the rights of our non-human companions. Whether the laws governing our pets change one day or not, we can be the change today. I’d like to close this piece with words of encouragement for all the selfless, committed activists, employees, and volunteers at organizations like the ones we’ve mentioned here. These are the heroes that make their lives a daily testament to the power that dedication can make in the existence of our companion animals.

Finally, let’s try to find the dogs featured in this story some new, loving homes, with caring families. As always, I’m here to help in any way I can. 

Thank you to all the wonderful organizations that contributed to this story: Global Animal, American Kennel Club, Frosted Faces Foundation, Bideawee, Grand Paws Senior Sanctuary Rescue, Almost Home Animal Rescue & Adoption, PETA, and Hope for Paws.

Scott Smith

Community and Pet Editor for Consumers Advocate, "Everybody Loves Sammy" online community