by Wendy Hunter
Wendy Hunter is a volunteer with the Animal Rescue of Fresno. ARF shares with KRL their animal rescue adventures every month.
He had not realized how much he needed this sweet, friendly sound. How much he needed someone to settle in next to him. He didn’t know that he needed to not be so solitary until at last he wasn’t. So many needs in one old dog.
-Kathi Appelt, The Underneath
You may not know this about me, but I live with my parents. I know, it’s scary. My folks have cute little habits, like turning the TV up loud enough to puncture your ear drums, and dropping crackers on the floor during Happy Hour. My mom never tastes recipes while cooking, and my dad refuses to close snack bags. Stale pita chips anyone? But hey, they’re housetrained, and will even shake your hand. If I can just teach them to roll over, my life would be complete. Senior dogs have a lot in common with my parents; their eyesight’s dim, their hearing’s shot, and they all enjoy a good scratch behind the ears. My folks included.At Animal Rescue of Fresno, the senior dogs can be a hard sell. Trying to find them a home is like trying to find a pearl in an oyster; it’s a lot of effort for a one in a million payoff. Why don’t people want an older dog? I went straight to the source, and posed some questions to a few people who have welcomed senior dogs into their homes. Kelly Campbell’s Terrier Harold is a bona fide ARF celebrity, Susan Pellanda gave Annie a new tomorrow, while Janet and Steve Ventura share sofa space with Dorothy the French Bulldog. They have lots to say about their grey-muzzled mutts, so read on to learn about the critters causing such enthusiasm. But watch out, it just might be contagious.
Why did you adopt an older dog? Were you specifically looking for a senior?
Kelly: I have always wanted to adopt a senior pet. One nobody wanted, or that was dumped at the shelter because they got too old. Harold, however, caught my eye in a video on ARF’s Facebook page. He was stealing all the other shelter dogs’ blankets! It was so funny; I just had to have that dog. I took my other two Terriers out to meet him, all went well and I took Harold home!
Susan: We weren’t particularly looking for a senior dog, just the right dog. Annie is actually our second senior; our first was six years old. He’s now going on 12 and is living a great life. At his age, he isn’t the ideal playmate for our two-year-old rescue, so we needed a dog young enough to engage in play. There are many advantages of adopting a dog over a puppy. Puppies are a full time job. A senior dog has outgrown the puppy stages, like potty accidents and chewing on everything. Senior dogs are not old, they are experienced. They still need love, attention, and exercise, but not the constant demands of a puppy.
Janet: We adopted Dorothy because she was the right dog at the right time. We went to ARF because we’d heard about the French Bulldogs, and Steve had always wanted one. We weren’t looking for any specific age group, just the breed.
Did you search other rescues and/or why did you decide on ARF?
Kelly: No, I didn’t search the other rescues. My mom rescued a dog from ARF, so I trusted them.
Susan: We did search other rescues, but ARF is near and dear to our hearts, through friend referrals and fundraisers we regularly attend. We’re so thankful they exist; otherwise, Annie Mae wouldn’t have been given a second chance at life. Without ARF, we never would have had the pleasure of loving this sweet little girl. They saved Annie’s life, and made Chorizo’s (my two-year-old rescue) life happier as an added bonus.
Janet: We did not search any other rescues, as I had been at ARF about two weeks earlier. I took my brother and sister-in-law to meet a Boxer I had seen on a live feed from ARF’s Facebook page. They had lost a Boxer earlier in the year, and were looking for another. They ended up adopting the dog, and that’s when I saw the Frenchies. We adopted two dogs from ARF about seven years ago; Coco and Butch will both be eight this year and yes, we still have them. We’ve adopted from other rescues, but we really love ARF, and are very comfortable with the people. We love them so much, that we volunteer at many of the fundraisers. We like the facility, and the work they do to help dogs find “furever” homes.
What have been some of the issues regarding health, training, etc?
Kelly: Harold had a lot of issues when I got him, and he still does. ARF thought he had congestive heart failure, because of his chronic cough. So, I went on a mission with my vet to make sure he’d comfortable for the remainder of his life. We ended up guessing that it’s more of a chronic bronchial issue than a heart problem. Surprisingly enough, he is best just left alone; no medications. He’s happy, looks great, plays, and is very spoiled.
Susan: Annie Mae is the poster child for all senior dogs, and she adapted very quickly to our home. Almost instantly, she got close to our two-year-old rescue, and they’re best friends. She’s such a loving, sweet dog. She doesn’t have any undesirable behaviors. Due to sad circumstances, Annie ended up homeless after spending her entire life in a loving environment. It’s heartbreaking to think how many dogs this happens to. People die or become unable to care for their pet, leaving them nowhere to go. Dogs like Annie Mae are the lucky ones; those that find themselves in a no-kill rescue like ARF. That’s why we love and support them.
Janet: Dorothy has been a doll. She came home with antibiotics, because she had lost the puppy she was carrying and was spayed. Giving her meds was so easy; she simply took the pill in a soft treat. She also allowed me to put in medication for her ear infections. We’ve opened our home to many breeds of all ages. As a senior, Dorothy was easily introduced to our family. She had no desire to be in charge, and naturally found her place in the pack. She learned quickly to go outside and take care of her business. She had an accident in the house the first night, but not one since. I would say training is a cinch, because she just wants to please.
Why do you think people are hesitant about adopting an older dog? Were you?
Kelly: No, I wasn’t hesitant at all, but I’m also capable of providing what Harold needs. I wouldn’t adopt a senior dog with medical issues if I couldn’t afford the vet bills; that wouldn’t be right or good for the dog. And I love all dogs no matter what they look like.Susan: I’m always hesitant about adopting any dog. It’s a long-term, lifetime commitment, and not a decision to be taken lightly. Our first adopted pet was a senior, and six years later he still has that puppy spunk, but in smaller doses. My two-year-old rescue needed a younger play companion while I’m away at work, and I knew I didn’t have time to train a puppy. A puppy can’t be left at home for eight hours, and be expected to make the right choices and do the right things. A five-year-old dog like Annie Mae absolutely can, and she does. Age is just a number, the right dog is much more important.
Janet: I think people hesitate to adopt seniors for a couple of reasons. First, puppies are so cute; it makes people think they will be the perfect pet. Puppies take a lot of work and training, and there’s still no guarantee. What we find with Dorothy is that she just wants to be with you. If you’re watching TV, she knows there’s room for her on the recliner. She’s usually close by, or happily hanging out in the laundry room with the other dogs.
I think another reason seniors are overlooked is their life span. There’s nothing harder than losing a loved one, and pets are family. You want them to be with you forever, and it’s very hard saying goodbye to a pet who’s become a part of you. We’ve had to part with many four-legged family members, and it’s never easy. We think very hard before adopting any pets, but seniors gets a little extra consideration. That being said, yes, we would adopt another senior.
How long have you had your senior dog and would you get another one?
Kelly: I believe I’ve had Harold for four years, making him approximately 16 now. Yes, I would adopt a senior again, but not with three dogs already…three is my limit.
Susan: We’ve had Annie Mae for three months. In the future, I plan on only adopting senior dogs. They’re the least likely to be adopted, but the easiest to care for. In my experience, they’re thankful to have a home. While it’s much different than her last one, I think Annie loves her new life and family.
Janet: We’ve only had Dorothy three months, but it seems she’s been here a lot longer. We love her so much and can’t imagine life without her.
Kelly: Harold is special because he seems grateful for all the attention, comfy beds, and blankets he gets here. It’s funny to watch him steal the other dogs’ toys, and then carry them to his bed to guard. He’s super silly at dinnertime; he spins around with his tongue hanging out…it just makes me laugh. He’s loving too, especially when he wants to be petted. I have a very stressful job, and coming home to Harold and the others calms me down. Feeding, walking, and caring for them are great stress relievers. And it made me feel good to give Harold a fine home for the rest of his days. And because I take him to all the ARF events, I’ve met a lot of nice people.
What makes your dog so special, and how has he/she impacted your life?
Susan: Annie Mae is so special, because she’s taken on the mother hen role. All our friends have dogs, and they bring them over for get-togethers. Annie’s like the dog welcoming committee. She plays with all the dogs and puppies, sharing love and kisses She’s just the sweetest little love bug. Anything you ask Annie to do, she does it. If you take her out to go potty, she goes every single time. When you call her, she comes running. She’s a perfect little furry angel, and I can’t imagine my life without her. When we adopted her, my boyfriend and I split the cost; I put in $60 and he put in $40. I jokingly told Annie, “You’re 60% my dog!” Now I tell my boyfriend, “She’s 90% YOUR dog”, because when I get home from work, Miss Annie Mae is snuggled beside him on the couch.
Janet: Dorothy is special because, like all dogs, she has that unconditional love. She just looks at you with those big eyes, and you see how much love is there. There’s a special place in my heart that Dorothy filled, even when I didn’t know it needed filling. We fostered Dorothy, and wanted to keep her within the first 24 hours, because she’s so sweet. She became family when she walked into our home. I wish more people would give older dogs a chance; they all deserve a furever home. When we’re ready to adopt again, we’ll definitely consider adopting a senior.
Join us at ARF on February 11, to help us celebrate Senior Savers like the wonderful women above. Come meet our merry band of senior dogs, all looking for a loving home.
You can learn more about ARF on our website at www.arf-fresno.com.
Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section and check back every month for another animal rescue adventure from ARF. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to a local animal rescue.