Seniors' Storybook Tails
Of the more than 800 dogs we rescued in 2015, 58 were classified as "seniors" – aged 5 years and older, depending on the breed. One common misconception about older dogs is that they are "problem dogs." Yet most of them have lost their homes, not because of their behavior or temperament, but because of changes in the lives or circumstances of their original owners. And because it’s common for most senior dogs to have medical issues requiring added care and cost, they are often overlooked by potential adopters in favor of younger dogs.
But seniors or "gray muzzles" as they are fondly called are just as deserving of permanent homes. They sense when they have received a second chance at the rest of their lives, and anyone wise enough to adopt one will be the lucky recipient of a love as unconditional as it is enduring.
With this in mind, we proudly announce the launch of a series entitled "Seniors’ Storybook Tails" written by Nomi Berger. Each "tail" will recount the experiences of an adopter of one of our senior dogs, and will be posted both on our web site under "Happy Tails" and on our Face Book page.
We hope you find these "tails" enlightening and heartwarming. We hope they induce you to consider adopting a senior of your own. We also hope they encourage you to contribute to the seniors in our care to help offset their medical expenses.
Dale and Janet and Riley
At 37 pounds, redheaded Lab mix, Riley, thinks she’s a lap dog and will curl up, small, small, small on the couch with her adoring adopters or on the even smaller dog bed that once belonged to Dale and Janet’s purebred miniature schnauzer.
The 8-year-old cuddle bug, adopted from us, is the family’s third dog --and first senior -- to join their existing menagerie of chickens, ducks and one cat.
“We wanted an adult dog that didn't necessarily have the rambunctious energy or require as much supervision and training as a puppy,” explains Dale. “We also wanted to give a dog in need a good home. Although our cat seemed worried about Riley at first, they now get along just fine.”
What newcomer Riley truly disliked, however, was being crated while the couple was at work. In fact, she pulled a Houdini and actually escaped a few times! The solution to the problem? She was left uncrated in the family room, and can now be found sleeping soundly on the couch when Dale and Janet return.
“She’s such a sweetie,” boasts Dale, “with the most beautiful smile. She likes people and is very easygoing and affectionate. It’s wonderful to be greeted after work by someone who’s so genuinely happy to see you. She’s also a good workout buddy because she loves going for walks and playing fetch in the yard.”
In fact, fit and fine-figured Riley is taken on two long walks a day (she’s extremely well mannered on leash) and engages in several rousing sessions of fetch. Her reward for being the most affectionate and athletic senior around? Plenty of tummy rubs.
As to whether they would adopt another senior dog, the answer is a rousing Riley-inspired “yes.”
Nikko and Crystal
Nikko, the striking Rottweiler/husky mix, at eight years young, is the second dog Crystal has adopted from HSoMC. The other was scrumptious Scooby. As for the reasoning behind her adopting a senior dog, Crystal is quick to explain,
"My dad, who suffers from severe dementia, has been living with me for the past two years. Because of this experience, I’ve learned the value of old age in all living things."
What she especially loves about Nikko is his sweetness and playfulness, coupled with his kindly approach to every person and pet he’s ever had the paw-leasure of meeting. Nikko may be a senior in years, but certainly not in spirit, and as a blend of two active and energetic breeds, he’s more than true to them both.
"He’s a runner," Crystal admits. "In addition to his extra large size is his habit of simply taking off. Although his size is another part of what we love about him, we’ve begun installing a wooden fence to keep him safely and securely contained."
No doubt to play ceaselessly with the tennis balls he likes so much!
And would Crystal consider adopting another senior? “Absolutely!”
Laurel McClure and Gunnar
“I was looking for a dog who really needed a home.”
The words are Laurel McClure’s, and the dog she’s referring to is a handsome 115-pound black Lab named Gunnar. He may have had three strikes against him (his age, his health, and his color), but the 6 1/2 year old was far from out. In fact, he won the lottery when he was chosen to be Laurel’s newest forever companion.
Gunnar is her fourth dog and second black lab (her first sadly died of nasal cancer at the age of 13), and his older brother is a 13-year-old Schipperke named Paulie, who’s thrilled to have a new playmate.
When Laurel first brought Gunnar home, he was one deeply depressed doggie. He responded to no one, scarcely moved, and suffered from a low thyroid and Megaesophagus (an enlargement of the esophagus), which caused him to throw up his food. And then, three days later, a great big puppy emerged! Not only had the true Gunnar been revealed, but he was quick to blossom.
From inactive and unresponsive, he now bristles with energy and enthusiasm, walking and running, swimming and making new friends – both canine and human – wherever he puts his large paws. Flourishing on a special diet, he is a dog transformed, both health-wise and behavior-wise, emerging, surprisingly as a dominant, but very gentle leader of the pack.
“So many people are busy with their lives and feel they don’t have time for a dog with‘issues’,” adds Laurel. “I’m a single mom who works full time and takes care of my terminally ill father. It's not really that hard to MAKE time, and it can be the most rewarding experience.
“Now I think I was the lucky one. I can't imagine NOT having Gunnar here. He's truly grateful to have a family, and this family is truly grateful to have him.”
Axel, Marlane and Joel Davis
Marlane may not have been ready for another dog, but her husband, Joel, convinced her to accompany him to HSoMC to view one particular dog. And she agreed.
"As luck would have it," Marlane recounts, "another family was checking out the very same dog. I started looking around and that’s when I noticed Axel. Apparently he’d been surrendered less than an hour before, and he looked so sad and so scared that I just lost it."
Within moments, she and Joel were taking him out into the yard where they saw for themselves how well mannered the striking black and tan, seven-year-old Boxer/Lab mix was. Needless to say, Joel’s heart melted as quickly and absolutely as Marlane’s had.
Although they had to wait a few days before bringing him home, the moment Axel’s large paws crossed their threshold, he was a perfect fit! Not only did he slide seamlessly into their family, which includes their 19-year-old grandson and three cats, but he also adjusted easily to his surroundings, and was soon outside meeting some of the neighbors.
"We weren’t particularly planning on adopting a senior," says Marlane, "but I’m so happy to have Axel as part of our family. He loves going for walks and taking rides in the car, and especially loves having someone always there in the same room. I’m really looking forward to warmer weather so that we can spend more time with him out in the yard.
"To put it simply, we’ve become quite the contented family because of Axel."
Lacey and Rosie
Although she has cared for several dogs over the years, Lacey chose beautiful Boston Terrier, Rosie, from us to be the second dog she herself has ever owned.
Why a senior? Lacey’s response is simple: “I wanted a senior dog because she would have already been trained, she would be calmer, and somewhat easier to handle.”
Although not “technically” a senior at an estimated 5 years of age, in many breeds, 5 does mark the golden age of “seniority.” In robust and racy Rosie’s case, only her coat – not her personality -- makes her look older than she is.
Initially anxious in her new surroundings, Rosie, with loving patience, soon learned to relax, eventually revealing the funny and fun loving dog she is today.
“Rosie’s truly the sweetest, most playful dog,” Lacey says, “who loves my son and me as much as we love her. She absolutely LOVES to play, whether it’s with her chew toys or at the park. She adores playing tug-o-war and catch, snarling in a laughably ‘ferocious’ way as she runs full tilt, always bringing the toy I’ve thrown right back to me.”
Whatever brings out this Boston’s perky, quirky personality!
“We love going for walks together,” continues Lacey, “and when I come home from work at lunchtime each day, we head out on one of our walks. She also loves going for rides in the car, and I bring her with me wherever and whenever I can. Although being outside can sometimes make her nervous, and although she still pulls slightly on leash, we’re working together to resolve both issues.”
And the best part of having Rosie in her life? “When we cuddle up, comfy close, at night.”
Would Lacey adopt a senior again? Her answer is a swift: “Of course!”
Sammy and Alisa Carrel
There’s just something about senior dogs that makes Alisa’s heart sing. And so, meeting and falling in love with 10-year-old Sammy, a curly, cuddly and creamy coated MaltiPoo came as no surprise, either to her or to Beth Wellman, who, Alisa says, "was most responsive to all of my questions.
"Sammy is the second senior dog I’ve adopted. My first senior, Shadow, was exceptional, and we enjoyed five wonderful years together. When I decided to adopt again, I knew it had to be another senior. Because I work full time, I couldn’t provide a puppy with the time and attention it needs and deserves. I also wanted a dog that was already trained and housebroken. Luckily, I found both in Sammy."
Sammy had been surrendered to HSoMC by his owners of 10 years due to changes in their living situation. To Alisa, this meant he had been well loved and that he was a good dog. And she was right. But what surprised (and delighted) her most was how quickly Sammy adapted to his new routine and how quickly he trusted her.
"On our first morning together," she recounts, "he rolled onto his back and politely requested a belly rub. It’s been fun seeing his playful personality emerge and watching him run and bounce around our backyard. It’s easy to forget he’s 10 years old!
"These last weeks have been a time of discovery for us. I’m learning his likes and dislikes and funny quirks. For example, he won’t eat wet and dry food if I mix them together. But, if I put out one dish of wet food and one dish of dry food, he’ll eat them both. After some initial separation anxiety, he’s now comfortable with me leaving for work since I think he understands I’ll be back. AND he’s proving to be quite the guard dog, protecting me and ‘his’ home by barking when someone comes to the door or when he meets someone for the first time.
"Sammy LOVES going on walks, which we do three times a day, and with so many dogs in my neighborhood, he’s enjoying all the new smells. When he’s not beside me on the couch, his favorite spot is the window seat, where he can watch (and occasionally bark at) all the dogs and people walking by.
"I encourage others to consider adopting a senior dog," she concludes. "They may be a bit confused with the transition at first, but they’re especially grateful to have been placed in a good and loving home. Sammy showers me with affection every morning and every time I return from work, after every walk and after every meal. I’m so grateful to have Sammy in my life and I thank HSoMC for making this possible."
Angela and Mr. Fisher
Although Angela wasn’t specifically looking for an older dog, she fell in love with a certain terrier mix, first from a photo on Face Book and then in "paw-son" at the local shelter.
"I wanted an already ‘baked’ dog," she admits. "No puppy training needed. And fine Mr. Fisher fit the bill perfectly.
Her last dog, a Havanese named Pepper, had died of congestive heart failure in December 2015, and adopting 7-year-old Mr. Fisher from HSoMC made Angela a new mom all over again. Because he was found as a stray on M20, the dog with the dignified name came with no history and no past. Of course, there were hints here and there as to his previous behaviors, such as being allowed on the furniture (a no-no in her home) and being fed table food (another no-no).
"Someone had clearly trained him," says Angela, "because he responds quite well to commands, and has acclimated himself to our home quickly and comfortably. He’s also very friendly, and likes everyone equally, including children, adults and strangers. But whenever I take him for a walk, I watch him follow every car that passes, and I can’t help wondering if he’s looking for his former family."
Somewhat sly about going outdoors to potty, Mr. Fisher does so silently, when the family’s asleep … and then … oops … And so, for the time being, night time means crate time, which this doggy doesn’t especially enjoy. And he’s not much for table manners, either, impishly using "the carpeting as a napkin after he’s eaten." However, when it comes to paper towels, napkins and purses, unlike their late Havanese, Pepper, Mr. Fisher politely leaves all of them alone.
"Best of all," admits Angela, "he makes me laugh. Although Pepper can never be replaced, Mr. Fisher has very quickly found his own little corner in my heart. And I hope soon to train him, as I did with Pepper, to become a therapy dog.
"Ironically, despite having rescued two Greyhounds in the past, I’ve been receiving kudos NOW, for this particular adoption. Is it ‘in’ to rescue these days? Because I neither rescued nor adopted to be ‘a good guy’. I adopted because I fell in love with the picture of a rescued dog on Face Book. And I would adopt a senior dog again in a heartbeat."
Baby and Tiffany Hendy
As Tiffany knows well, most potential adopters are immediately attracted to the puppies. But not her. And as the first time adopter from HSoMC explains, "The minute I saw Baby, I just knew. You get that feeling!" Anything but a baby, the striking black and white Border Collie mix is an 8-year-old senior, and Tiffany’s sole canine companion.
"The fact that Baby’s potty trained is a plus," she admits, having happily bypassed the potty training stage. "She’s doing so well in the month since I adopted her, realizing, I think, that this is truly her home. And she’s quirky! She absolutely LOVES soft/wet food. Whenever I give her a treat, such as a pig ear, she’ll only eat half of it, then carry the rest around with her everywhere, finishing it only when she feels the time is right.
"When I scratch her back end, she does this cute waddle, moving back and forth, back and forth so that it looks as if she’s dancing. And although she loves to play fetch, she won’t give me back the ball. I have to take it out of her mouth.
"She’s also very friendly and affectionate; she loves to cuddle and to have her belly rubbed, and usually sleeps by my feet. She gets along well with children, and we’re now working on making her feel more comfortable with other dogs."
Would Tiffany adopt from us again?
"I certainly would."
Don and Lady Konigan
For Don, adopting senior German Shepherd, Lady Konigan, was "just like bypassing the teenage years."
Having lost his other German Shepherd over Christmas, he had been earnestly seeking another companion, and when his daughter saw Lady Konigan posted on our web site, she suggested he check her out.
"Beth took me to see Lady in her kennel," recounts Don, "and when we looked into each other’s eyes, we both knew we needed one another.
"Lady’s nine years old, which labels her a senior dog, and since I'm a senior guy, we had no trouble connecting. I started walking her on a leash, and within the hour, I no longer needed the leash. She simply stays by my side, and wants to go wherever I go. In the mornings and evenings, we prowl the woods together, and when we travel in the car, she’s so used to it, she thinks she belongs there."
She may have had several owners before finding "the one", but in finding Don, Lady is indeed one lucky lady. She loves to play, and ever the tease, seems to relish the idea of "I'll chase the ball, but I'm not giving it back." Until Don ignores her. Then she’ll push it to him. Sometimes, however, it’s not a ball, but a rock. A big rock!
"I've had two other rescue dogs in the past twenty five years," Don says, "without a single regret. Lady may officially be a ‘senior’, but she doesn't act ‘old’. She has terrific energy, is very active, and loves to swim. As a working dog, she loves being involved in everything I do – even if that includes dropping a rock in my tools! Now she's taken over ‘guard duties’ for our home, and it’s humorous to listen to her barking at some strange noise.
"Our ‘love story’ wouldn’t be complete without my giving special thanks to HSoMC for ‘keeping’ her for me, to Homemade Chemist for sponsoring her, to Midland Animal Clinic for examining her, and to my daughters, who own and suggest rescue dogs themselves.
"Would I adopt a ‘senior’ dog again? Certainly!"