In with the old, out with the new is what several groups from around the country are advocating as they scour shelters to save a particular type of dog. The type of dog they are looking for varies because they aren’t searching for any specific breed, size or gender to rescue. The dogs they seek are known as senior dogs, elderly dogs, or just plain old-timer dogs. As long as the dogs are in or beyond their prime years, the mission is to find them a forever home to live out the rest of their lives.
It’s heartbreaking to walk through a shelter and see a quiet, sweet, old dog who spent the past 10-12 years of its life with a family in a warm home only to be dropped off and left to die alone in a cold, noisy facility with no belly rubs, butt scratches or daily treats. Most of them appear defeated and broken, confused and scared. Whatever the circumstances of how they ended up alone in the shelter or abandoned out in the streets, terrified and alone is no way for these senior dogs to live out their golden years.
There are people out there fighting hard to fix the homeless senior dog problem. Standing behind their motto: “No old dog dies alone and afraid,” The Grey Muzzle Organization’s main function is to support programs assisting in rescuing senior dogs. They not only provide funding to bigger programs helping senior dogs, they also distribute grants or “seed money” to assist organizations just getting started.
Led by a board of eight volunteers and approximately 70 active volunteers all over the country, The Grey Muzzle Organization attempts to eliminate the homeless senior dog problem even further by educating the local populace and providing other options for those who feel they can no longer care for their elderly dog. There are cases when a dog is abandoned because sometimes with old age come expensive vet bills, especially if preventions such as periodic wellness and dental health checkups aren’t routinely done. Perhaps if the public was more aware of affordable options such as nursing homes and Hospice programs for dogs, it would be more inclined to send beloved companions there instead of a local shelter.
“The best way to help the dog is to help the people who have been caring for the dog,” states Lisa Lunghofer, Executive Director of The Grey Muzzle Organization.
When a picture of Moses, a 12-year-old dog dropped off at the Seminole County Animal Shelter in Florida, was forwarded on Facebook to Chris Hughes he immediately knew he had to go and get him. Chris had never adopted a senior dog before, but the urgency to rescue Moses was high due to his age and the shelter’s overpopulation of animals. Amy Mills from Sniffing Snouts Animal Rescue worked with Chris by pulling Moses from the shelter and keeping him safe for a week until Chris was able to arrange transportation from Cleveland, Ohio. Moses bonded instantly with his new family.
Chris and his wife, Mariesa star of YouTube’s Life in the Dog House, are a real-life Brady Bunch family of dogs. Both were rescuing dogs and had adopted several of their own before meeting each other and merging their packs. “Moses had such an impact on so many people,” Mariesa explained, and thanks to social media, he gained great popularity and raised awareness of senior dogs in shelters. Within the same year, Moses was diagnosed with spinal cord cancer and passed away. Rather than living out his final days in a cold, cement cell, Moses took his last breath surrounded by a loving family.
Devastated with grief, Chris sprinted full speed ahead with an idea to bring more awareness to the homeless senior dog problem in shelters. His idea came to life quickly and is now known as the Mr. Mo Project, named in honor of his inspiration.
The Mr. Mo Project raises money through fundraisers and donations while networking to secure foster homes for senior dogs. These foster families are extremely special for they agree to take in homeless dogs with three months to a year left to live. Essentially, they are forever foster families who are committed to giving this dog the best life possible for his or her remaining time. Once a foster home is secured, the dog is pulled from the shelter and immediately taken to the local vet for a senior wellness checkup. All medical bills are paid through the project and after the dog is treated and transported to their new home, the Mr. Mo Project posts a wish list of items for people to donate.
There are currently over 50 dogs active in the Mr. Mo Project whose lives were saved thanks to Chris, Mariesa and their extraordinary following of supporters. Not only are they saving homeless senior dogs from dying alone in shelters, they are taking on the financial responsibilities for the rest of the dogs’ lives.
“One of the biggest challenges is funding,” Chris stated. They have over 100 applications pending with people wanting to foster, but when dealing with older dogs, more money is needed for medical expenses to ensure the dog is comfortable and as healthy as possible. The future plan is to expand the project and rescue more dogs, but first more funds need to be raised and there is always a need for people to open up their homes to fostering.
“The hardest part about Moses’ death was telling the news to all of his Facebook followers,” Mariesa explained with a heavy heart. Because of the life Moses had, the Mr. Mo Project is such a success. Dogs previously left to live their final years in shelters are now living in warm, loving homes as it should be.
Usually when the topic of rescuing dogs comes up in conversation, the mood shifts into a heavier, more serious one. This approach may work for some, but writers Eric and Sara Sims thought a different approach would provide better results. They took their senior dog advocacy to a whole new level and published a satirical book properly titled, “Puppies Are Dicks, Adopt an Older Dog.”
“People learn and listen much better if something is entertaining or makes them laugh,” Eric commented. “We’re hoping that people will read Puppies Are Dicks, laugh, learn a thing or two, and share its message with their friends and family simply because it’s fun.”
Using funny exaggerations with a hint of raw honesty, the book lists the benefits of adopting an older dog rather than adopting a puppy. For example, the book states that, “puppies depend on you for everything,” and, “will yap at you for not giving them enough attention and for giving them too much attention.” Whereas, “older dogs love to look you in the eye, heal your soul, and make sure everything is ok.”
When asked what his favorite or best argument was for adopting a senior dog, Eric replied, “They will watch a Golden Girls marathon with you and not complain once.”
Whether you are writing grants and providing resources for rescue programs, sharing pictures of homeless dogs through social media, making donations, pulling dogs from shelters, opening up your heart and home, or educating people with humorous words, your actions are changing the fate of these senior dogs. Every type of contribution, big, small, funny or serious, means a second chance for these old dogs.
Thank you to those who spoke with ISF from the following organizations
Puppies are Dicks
Written by Whitney Norton
Edited by Bob Stone