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.
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 get 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.”
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."
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 is 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!”
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."