The Senior Dogs Project
"Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog."
Misty and Our Mission
We adopted Misty, a Golden Retriever, when she was ten years old. The folks who gave her up never dwelled on her age as a disadvantage, and we didn't either. In fact, we were so delighted to get her, it never occurred to us to think of her as 'old.' She loved playing ball, riding in the car, going on hikes, and, perhaps, best of all, swimming -- even in the frigid waters of mountain lakes that still had ice floes in them. What may have endeared her to us most, though, was her unquenchable desire to spend all her time with us. She would never station herself more than a few feet from one of us in the house, and, at night, she slept at the foot of our bed.
Misty lived to 14 years and 4 months. It was wrenching to lose her, and we still miss her. Would we adopt an older dog again, even though the time together may be shorter than with a puppy? Our answer is an unconditional "yes," and we do, in fact, continue to adopt only seniors.
Living with Misty demonstrated to us that older dogs have a great deal to offer. Their maturity makes them excellent companions, and their ability to form a new bond with a new family is amazing and wonderful. Getting to know Misty was a constant source of delight and discovery. We may have had only four years with her, but they were years of superb and enduring quality.
Misty taught us that senior dogs deserve to be celebrated and valued, to be protected from discrimination because of their age, and to be given the best health care available. It is the mission of the Senior Dogs Project to disseminate this message.
......More about Our Mission
Gandhi said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way that its animals are treated." You can tell even more, we believe, by the way its older animals are treated.
Some time ago, the Senior Dogs Project heard from a woman who wanted to place her 14-year-old Golden Retriever into a new home. We thought to ourselves, there must be extenuating circumstances. Not really, the woman explained; it was just that she was moving, and, in her new apartment, she would have to walk the dog rather than simply let her out into the garden as she always had. No, she herself was not old or infirm. No, it was not a question of money. She told us she couldn't take much time to talk because she was extremely busy packing. Besides, she said, she didn't think the dog would live much longer anyway.
Advancing age is a significant disadvantage in the "civilized" and "westernized" nations of the world, whether it appears in a dog or in a person. When the "youth cult" is added to the "throw-away" mentality of our society, the result is that little thought is given to preservation or conservation, and little patience is applied to making possessions or relationships last. If it's old or broken, obsolete or unattractive, it is put on the trash heap. When it comes to dogs, we see heart-breaking examples of this mentality, in many cases because people think of a dog as a disposable possession rather than a companion with whom they are in a relationship. And, of course, even if there is a relationship, if it becomes inconvenient, well, then, why not just end it?
A 14-year-old dog has a very slim chance of being adopted. We know because we tried to place the Golden whose guardian didn't want to bother walking her. Every agency we contacted told us the same story: they had a full roster of older dogs -- nine and ten years old, but even as young as five -- who had been up for adoption for a long time and who were reaching the end of their grace period.
In the world of dog rescue, it's the older and therefore "less desirable" dogs that break your heart the most. While the puppies have a fighting chance of being adopted because they are cute, cuddly and irresistible, shelters often schedule an older dog for immediate euthanizing simply on the basis of age. The reasoning is that since old dogs are the least likely to be adopted, space in the shelter is best used for the younger, more appealing dogs.
On any given day, in any given shelter, the older dogs there will be hoping to have someone take them to a new home before their time runs out. The good news is that there are some excellent reasons to adopt an older dog. By focusing on the many fine attributes of older dogs, the Senior Dogs Project hopes to encourage and facilitate their adoption. We hope to do this by providing information on rescuing and adopting older dogs, and by publishing photos and stories by and about people who are just crazy about their older dogs -- whether the dogs were adopted when older or have been companions since puppyhood.
Caring for a dog is a major responsibility. From puppyhood through old age, both time and effort are required to learn and conscientiously practice the basics of good dog care. In addition, there are continuing advances in veterinary medicine that are making possible the good health of our dogs well into their senior years. Thus, the third major focus of the Senior Dogs Project is to make available useful, up-to-date information about caring for older dogs.
To summarize, the Senior Dogs Project: (1) promotes the adoption of older dogs; (2) provides current information on the special care that older dogs need so that they and their human companions may fully enjoy their golden years; and (3) documents the strong, loving bonds that people have with their older dogs.
A throw-away society is no place for the loyal and wonderful canine species. But we believe that society can be changed by opportunities to demonstrate compassion. A dog can bring out the best in people; a dog unwanted because of age reaches to the very depths of human kindness and compassion. We believe that the more examples there are of compassion around us -- whether toward our outcast dogs or fellow-humans -- the better will be humanity's chances for peaceful survival.
Listing of Shelters, Rescue and Placement Agencies, Sanctuaries
The Senior Dogs Project site presents a broad listing of various agencies that help to rehome senior dogs (over the age of five). You can find a dog to adopt or seek help in placing a dog through these agencies. See the Agencies page. For specific breeds of dogs, see the Breed Agencies page. For agencies specializing in seniors, see the Senior Agencies page. There is also a listing of Sanctuaries.
Senior Dog Health Care Information
Health care information on srdogs is updated frequently and, although it is limited in scope, addresses the main conditions, diseases, medicines, and therapies that are relevant to senior dogs. In the case of the controversial drug Rimadyl, the site has served as a forum for the discussion of the drug's pros and cons.
Unfortunately, we do not have the staff to answer specific questions about an individual dog's health problems. It is also always best to have a veterinarian do a "hands-on" examination of any dog with symptoms or conditions that are of concern.
Biographies about Beloved Older Dogs
Hundreds of visitors to the srdogs.com site have contributed their experiences about life with a senior dog. We think you will find these stories and photos heartwarming, inspiring and comforting.
Sorry, No Shelter or Sanctuary
A shelter or sanctuary is not among the services that the Senior Dogs Project offers at this time. We realize there is a need for a place for old dogs who have nowhere else to turn, but it is not feasible for us to maintain such an operation at present. We are, of course, open to hearing from anyone who might wish to fund a Senior Dog Sanctuary and would welcome being contacted about it. Just send an e-mail to info @ srdogs.com (remove spaces in address before sending). In the meanwhile, it is our hope that by spreading the word about senior dogs -- their many fine attributes and their need for loving homes -- we may work toward diminishing the need for shelters and sanctuaries.
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