Where Do Old Dogs Go?
I want to thank Dogster member Rhon for sending me a diary entry from Daisy Mae's page. And of course Daisy Mae for posting it.
This is a heartbreaking and eye-opening look at what happens to senior dogs when their owners decide they can no longer care for them, or choose not to.
Flo is a doe-eyed 10 year-old Basset hound mix that was sent to the animal shelter when her owner couldn't return home after being hospitalized. The little dog, who is almost deaf, was terrified to be in a cage at a shelter with so many other animals and all of the commotion.
Josie is a serious looking senior Wheaton terrier mix whose owners tied a pretty bow around her neck and dropped her off at a shelter in Northern California.
And when a tiny silver-haired Shih Tzu named Jennifer got too old, her family brought her to the shelter to be euthanized.
This is how life turns out for thousands of loyal older dogs. The main reason senior dogs are relinquished to shelters seems to be illness. Either the owner becomes too sick or passes away or the dogs develop an illness and owners can't afford to pay for the medical care or choose not to get help.
Prospects are pretty grim if you're an unwanted senior canine. Shelter workers see the tragedy every day as older dogs with wonderful dispositions are tossed aside. And once they get to an overcrowded public shelter with limited resources they are "practically written off" as un-adoptable.
In addition to being hard to re-home, senior dogs have special health risks when they're exposed to a shelter environment. They're more susceptible to kennel cough, their arthritic bones get worse as they sit on concrete floors and the overall stress of living in a shelter can worsen any pre-existing illness. For most old dogs the shelter is where they spend their last days before being euthanized.
However, in the last couple of years some animal advocates who are touched by these sad circumstances are coming to the aid of senior canines.
Sherri Franklin is one of these advocates. With a distinguished career in animal rescue she began a non-profit organization in 2007 for older dogs, called Muttville. The group is located in San Francisco. Their website says this about their goals:
"Muttville's mission is to change the way the world thinks about and treats older dogs and to create better lives for them through rescue, foster and hospice. We reach out to senior and special needs rescue dogs; find suitable homes for those dogs that are adoptable; and offer end of life care for those that are not."
The organization is successfully making the last few years of unwanted senior dogs peaceful and happy.
In other parts of the country, The Sanctuary for Senior Dogs and Old Dog Haven are also saving the lives of seniors that have been cast aside. Both organizations have become experts in getting older dogs ready for new homes. They provide an extensive medical workup for each animal so they are in the tip top condition and they use the internet for finding new homes.
Because most of their budgets are used for medical care another organization called Grey Muzzle was started to help. They give grant money to rescue groups that specialize in working with senior dogs.
And some animal shelters like Sacramento SPCA have started programs to meet the special needs of old dogs. They provide cots to get the dogs off the floor and they do a dental and blood work-up so they can determine any medical problems. The group also waves the adoption fee so senior dogs have a better chance of getting a new home.
There are many specific reasons why people avoid adopting an older pet, but the basic theme is, Therere so many dogs available, why choose one with something that looks like a big problem, or looks ugly, or takes a lot of effort?
The Senior Dogs Project also finds homes for older dogs. They list these 10 reasons why people should consider adopting a senior canine:
1. Most are house trained.
2. They are past chewing inappropriate items.
3. They are focused so they quick learners.
4. Old dog know the meaning of "No."
5. Settle in with a pack easier.
6. Give lots of love.
7. WYSIWYG - What you see is what you get in personality and behavior.
8. Instant companionship.
9. Owners get more time for themselves because seniors are less demanding.
10. A good night's sleep - old dogs need their rest.
It's a sad commentary when people place less value on anything or anyone that is old. Sure, brand new puppies are wildly adorable, but it is a heartwarming experience when an older dog looks you in the eye and crawls into your lap and falls asleep.
I cannot imagine giving up my senior dog who has been with me, and there for me, throughout the years. Thank goodness for the wonderful organizations mentioned above who are stepping in and helping senior dogs. The Senior Dog Project really nailed it with their 10 reasons to adopt an older dog, everything listed is so true.
We got Logan when he was five and have never looked back. Logan is a Bernese Mountain dog from a puppy mill who was rescued by the Bernese Auction Rescue Coalition. When we were originally looking we did want a younger dog, especially because Berners generally have a lifespan of 7 years, but then one of the rescue workers told us about Logan. When we saw his picture it was love at first site.
We just celebrated our one year anniversary on Saturday and are so happy we adopted him, he is a joy. We don't know how long we'll have him, but we cherish every minute we do. Let's face it, there are no guarantees in life for anything, sometimes you just need to take a chance.