“It’s heartbreaking to think about all the senior animals who had been cherished pets before they suddenly found themselves confused and alone in shelter kennels.”
BY DR. ROBIN GANZERT
I love all kinds of dogs, but there’s something about an older dog that really tugs at my heartstrings. Maybe it’s the gray muzzle. Maybe it’s the air of calmness and contentment. Or maybe it’s the fact that so many of them need love and homes in their later years.
For grandparents, they can make the perfect pet: not as energetic as a puppy, but still filled with plenty of life and love to give you and your little ones. Plus, they’re more patient if your grandkids get a bit rambunctious.
Too many end up in shelters
At shelters across America, where almost 4 million dogs and cats are put down annually, older animals often represent the highest-risk population. It’s heartbreaking to think about all the senior animals who had been cherished pets before they suddenly found themselves confused and alone in shelter kennels. This happens to far too many older dogs through no fault of their own — frequently after their human owners encounter financial troubles, illness, or other life upheavals.
They make life better for seniors
But life doesn’t have to end this way for so many loyal, loving dogs. In fact, a happy new book called My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts shows that when senior dogs get welcomed into loving homes, they thrive and make life immeasurably better for their new human families.
“Senior dogs who get sprung from shelters just might be the most grateful dogs on the planet,” said Laura T. Coffey, the author of My Old Dog and a writer and editor for the website of NBC’s TODAY show. “And don’t let their age fool you! It’s amazing to see how much these dogs still have to offer and teach us.” My Old Dog shares stories of dogs like:
- Jimmy Chee, a retired racing greyhound who got rescued at age 11 and gave comfort and companionship to a grandfather grappling with sudden health problems in his 60s. Since his grandkids are not nearby, this wonderful dog gives him purpose and companionship.
- Maddie, a 7-year-old shih tzu who got adopted at no cost through a “Seniors for Seniors” program and helped a 75-year-old widow start living again.
- Rocky, a 15-year-old golden retriever who lives full time at a nursing home and dotes on a group of women with dementia.
- Chaney, a retired military dog and past American Humane Association Hero Dog Award winner who needed logistical help to be reunited with his former handler Matt Hatala. Once Chaney found his way home, both the dog and the veteran healed together.
These stories of hope and compassion are timeless, and My Old Dog’s photography by Lori Fusaro took my breath away. I fell in love with every dog and human I met through the pages of this book, and I hope to meet even more as American Humane Association will soon launch a national initiative to bring awareness to this vital issue.
Pick up a copy of My Old Dog and see why old dogs are like fine wine — they only get better with age.
Dr. Robin Ganzert is the President and CEO of American Humane Association, the first national humane organization, and the only charity dedicated to the protection of both children and animals. She is the host of the weekly radio show “Be Humane with Dr. Robin Ganzert,” on Pet Life Radio, the number one pet network on the planet. In fall 2014 she published her first book, Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors. You can follow her on Twitter at @robinganzert.