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Danny, a Senior Dog from Muttville, Talks to Us About His "Bark-It List"

Danny can now check off "Be a Dogster Hero" from his canine bucket list.

 |  Feb 6th 2014  |   7 Contributions

Over here at Dogster, we love Muttville Senior Dog Rescue and the work it does, and were thrilled to find out that Danny, one of its foster dogs, dreamed of being featured as a Dogster Hero! The ailing, senior Australian Cattle Dog mix is currently in "fospice" (foster plus hospice) care with Russell Ulrey and Marie Macaspac and has created a Bark-It List of things he'd like to accomplish in the time he has left. Things like: Be a model for a day (check!), march in the San Francisco Pride parade (check!), and flirt with pretty ladies (ongoing!).

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We couldn't wait to talk to Danny and Russell and fulfill Danny's dream of becoming a Dogster Hero. 

First, we had a few questions for Russell about his work and about Danny:

Dogster: Hi! Can you tell me a little about yourself and how Danny came into your life? How long have you been working with Muttville?

Russell Ulrey: Well, me and my girlfriend, Marie, volunteer to provide a foster home and hospice care for senior mutts of all breeds and sizes from Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. We have stopped counting the number of foster and hospice dogs that have been through our doors ... just keep 'em coming! I am also the owner of Small Club San Francisco: Big Adventures For Small Dogs which has been operating since 2008.

What would you like Dogster readers to know about Small Club SF?

We are a business dedicated to health and well-being for dogs. We offer daily hikes for small dogs because we believe even the little ones need to explore their world and be real dogs. Caring for senior dogs is one of our specialties, and we offer terrific adventures tailored to the needs of older dogs. We also provide small dog daycare and boarding, and we also sell our own homemade dog food called Small Club Stew. We are connected to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue because everyone who works at Small Club is a dedicated Muttville volunteer. Marie and I always have at least one foster or fospice dog living with us at HQ!

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"That's me, Danny, meditating in a redwood grove I found on a road trip (check!)." Photo by Russell Ulrey.

Do you know how Danny first ended up at Muttville and what his life was like before?

Danny and his brother ended up at Oakland Animal Services after his owner passed away. We don't know anything about his life before, but we can tell he was well-loved. Danny's brother was adopted, but Danny was left behind. We aren't sure why -- at that time Danny was assumed to be a healthy and handsome cattle dog mix, but he was 11 years old and his brother was younger. Shelter volunteers reached out to Muttville because they couldn't bear to euthanize him just for being old. [Muttville] founder Sherri Franklin had one look at him and said, "Yes! We'll take him!" Marie and I then took him home to Small Club HQ to foster him and offer hospice care when we found out he was terminally ill.

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Danny hangs out with Marie and canine pals Calvin, Figgy and Ocean near Mavericks beach in Half Moon Bay, CA. He loves to sing and is always the star at choir practice. Photo by Russell Ulrey.

Unfortunately, Danny has cancer [multiple myeloma], but I saw the November 2013 update on his blog, and the results are very encouraging! How is he doing now?

He is going on one year since his diagnosis, and is remarkably healthy and strong for an 11-year-old with cancer. We decided not to do chemo with Danny, and instead keep him comfortable and support his body with fresh food, herbs, supplements and Traditional Chinese Medicine. We say the most important component of his treatment plan is happiness. So far, Danny always bounces back and is ready to get out and do something fun in no time. His prognosis? Stay awesome!

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On the days that Danny is feeling under the weather, he knows he can count on some special TLC from Russell and Marie. Photo by Russell Ulrey.

What would you like people to know about adopting senior or special needs dogs through rescues like Muttville?

Senior dogs rule! Older dogs are an excellent match for people like me who would rather go for a long stroll on the beach than a five-mile run. I also find a lot of strength and wisdom in older dogs who have lived through many experiences. Special needs dogs will usually tell you that they aren't special, nor do they want special treatment. Deaf, blind or with limited mobility, it is usually the humans who judge these conditions while the dogs themselves couldn't care less!

And we had a few questions for Danny himself!

Hi, Danny! Now that you can check "Be a Dogster Hero" on your Bark-It List, what's the next item you'd most like to cross off?

I still can't believe I'm a Dogster Hero, and I'm going to savor that for a while! What's next? I'd like to see Lake Tahoe; wouldn't it be awesome to wade in that blue water?

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Danny checked off ''be a model for the day" from his Bark-It list thanks to a fun photo session with Ellen Shershow-Pena from J'adore le Chien Pet Photography. Here's Danny's favorite shot of the day!(featuring fospice dad, Russell)

How do you stay so positive and what advice can you give other terminally ill dogs (and their humans) to keep their spirits up?

I stay positive because I genuinely enjoy my life. My advice is to do one little thing that you truly love every day -- that's the best medicine. To the humans, I'd say, "Don't mourn the living." We dogs just want to enjoy our time with you, not be sad that it's not forever. 

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Danny's favorite photo of him and fospice mom, Marie. Photo by Russell Ulrey.

What is your most favorite way to spend time and your favorite food or treat?

My favorite way to spend time is eating! Food is awesome! I also love being in nature, breathing fresh air, and rolling in tall grass. My fav treat is chewy, dried fish skin sticks. I swear I'd break down a gate to get those ... oh wait, I DID break down a gate to them. Yum!

You are very photogenic and seem to love having your photo taken. What's your secret? 

Be yourself. I show my true feelings on my face, and that's why my photos are always genuine. It doesn't hurt to be handsome either!

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When Danny was newly rescued by Muttville in February 2013, he had a photo session with Ellen Shershow-Pena from J'adore le Chien Pet Photography who volunteers her time to photograph animals looking to be adopted.

Russell mentioned that you'd like to help other dogs by getting into some altruistic work via your Bark-It List. Can you tell us about that?

Sure! I've had so fun doing things for myself over the past year that now I want to help other dogs in my situation live life to the fullest. Here's my call to action: All the fospice dogs at Muttville want to do something they love in the time they have left. I'd like you humans who are inspired by me to donate, say, $10 to Danny's Bark-It List Fund for Muttville Hospice Dogs. Your donation means that a deserving old dog in Muttville's fospice care program gets to check something awesome off their own Bark-It List and write about it on the Bark-It List Fund site

Anything else you'd like to add, Danny? We love you over at Dogster and wish you all the best in completing your Bark-It List and living your life to the fullest. You are truly a Dogster Hero!

I'd like to add that I am grateful to Muttville for rescuing me and finding me a fospice home. Dogs like me deserve to have a happy ending. And if any of your readers have ideas for items I should add to my list, please feel free to post them in the comments section of my blog!

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Danny also got to check off "attend a fancy fundraiser" from his Bark-It List. He and Russell attended Petchitecture 2013, a benefit for Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) in San Francisco. Photo by Mark Rogers Photography.

Thanks to Russell Ulrey and Danny for chatting with us. For updates about Danny and how you can help other senior and hospice dogs fulfill their Bark-It lists, be sure to check out his blog.

Check out these adorable stories on Dogster:

About Crystal Gibson: A child-sized Canadian expat in France who is fluent in French and sarcasm. Owned by a neurotic Doxie mix, a Garfield look-alike, and two needy Sphynx cats. An aspiring writer and pet photographer with a love of coffee and distaste for French administration, she can be found as @PinchMom on Twitter.


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