Petie, Saul, and Lychee rushed to greet me as I walked into the Muttville rescue house for senior dogs where I volunteer. “Hi there guys.” The sound of my voice brought more dogs from the living room. I noticed three new dogs. One, a grey poodle mix, was walking wobbly, probably because of arthritis. The brown chihuahua was missing an eye and the black poodle mix had several patches of missing fur and a cataract in one eye. These wonderful dogs are typical of some of the senior dogs that Muttville rescues.
Dog rescue organizations like Muttville specialize in older dogs. Sherri Franklin, the founder, saw the need to help save these dogs, who are not as adoptable because of their age and often special needs.
“What inspired you to start Muttville?” I asked Sherri.
“I’ve spent many years rescuing dogs, especially older dogs, but the need was larger than I could handle as an individual. So in 2007 I started Muttville, a non-profit organization in San Francisco dedicated to improving the lives of older dogs through foster, adoption, education and end-of-life care. And now in April 2015, we celebrated our 3,000th dog rescue!”
“How do the dogs come to you?”
“We have arrangements with several local shelters as well as through a rescue dog online network. There are so many stories about how they come to us, but here’s one example.
Knight was confined in a filthy, chicken-wire cage for four years at a puppy mill, until his owners decided to auction him for lab research. Fortunately, staff from an animal rights organization purchased nine dogs, at the auction, including Knight. They brought them all to the San Francisco SPCA for socialization and adoption. All were adopted except Knight, who had been so mistreated and traumatized that he could hardly walk and was afraid of everything. At the time I was working at the SPCA, so I took Knight home to foster him. It took a lot of patience, but gradually I got him accustomed to human contact, treated his medical problems and socialized him with other dogs. He started to respond to affection. He learned to walk and then run on the beach. After eight months I found the perfect guardian to adopt him.“
“That story shows how resilient dogs are when treated kindly. Do most of the dogs come from such terrible situations?” I asked.
“A lot do, but not all. We get dogs from good homes also where someone dies or is unable to keep a dog.”
Senior dog rescue organizations like Muttville or Old Dog Haven Old Dog Haven in Seattle literally save lives because older dogs are not adopted as readily as younger ones. Shelters are essential as temporary homes for the estimated five to seven million dogs and cats that enter U.S. shelters nationwide every year. But according to the American SPCA website, approximately three to four million animals are euthanized every year, (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats). Fortunately, rescue organizations accept many of these unwanted dogs and find homes or provide hospice care for them. The Senior Dogs Project website, lists rescue organizations in various states that are dedicated to older dogs of all types and others that specialize in rescuing older dogs of a particular breed.
Many animal shelters and rescue groups facilitate pet adoption by featuring a “seniors for seniors” program. Anyone over a specific age can adopt a senior animal and receive significant discounts covering adoption fees, food and supplies, and ongoing veterinary care. You can find a “Seniors for Seniors” program in your community or for a specific breed by contacting your local shelter or humane society.
Even if you decide you cannot take on the permanent responsibility of adopting a senior dog from a shelter or rescue group, you might consider fostering one. Learn more about adopting and fostering dogs at the websites listed below. You won’t be sorry.
For More Information
Purebreed Rescue is a Source of Older Pets from the website Dog Owner’s Guide, http://www.canismajor.com/dog/srcresc.html
Top Ten Reasons to Adopt An Older Dog. http://www.srdogs.com/Pages/adopt.ten.html
About the Author
Bonnie Lindauer is a retired college librarian, who now enjoys life as a volunteer at Muttville and amateur musician and writer. She and her husband Martin adopted 2 years ago from Muttville a 7-year old mini-schnauzer named Archie. She’s interested in animal emotions and has published an article, “Do Animals Survive Death?” in Animal Wellness Magazine, (April/May 2012 issue).