Bringing senior dogs and people
David and I have grown up loving man's best friend. As our daughters grew up, we always had a dog (or two) in the house to make the family complete. As our daughters left home, we started rescuing dogs and found it to be very gratifying. The dogs that we rescued were wonderful dogs who just needed a chance at a better life.
Initally we were a foster home for Love-a-Golden where we fostered over sixty goldens. It became clear to us that it was very important that the dogs be fostered in a home environment where you can witness the dog's behavior and see if they have any issues before they go to their new homes. We also witnessed the fact that it is very difficult to find adopting homes for senior dogs. It is understandable that the family doesn't want to fall in love with the dog and then lose them and be heartbroken.
We found that these senior dogs were the best behaved dogs - as they are potty trained and not demanding for exercise. All they want is someone to love them and to be with them.
At that time we had our own therapy dogs that we took to hospitals and nursing homes. We were continually amazed at the positive reaction these dogs have on the patients. Their faces would light up when a dog walked into their room. We knew the positive force that these dogs had in our lives and put the two things together to come up with the idea of "Senior Dogs 4 Seniors." It came to us that it would be a WIN WIN situation if we could place these older dogs in the homes of older folks who still live in their homes and to support that relationship.
In March, 2008, we started Senior Dogs 4 Seniors. As of August, 2017, we have taken in over 2,300 dogs and our total veterinary expenses are over half a million dollars!
I love animals, especially dogs. Growing up I always had at least one dog and they were all rescue. I am grateful to my parents for teaching me that the perfect pet does not need to be bought. As an adult, I slowly started to adopt my own dogs, and when I reached my personal limit, I became a foster. Sometimes, it is hard to let go of a foster but it is the most rewarding service I have ever done. I especially enjoy taking the hard cases, the dogs that are struggling because seeing the transformation is so rewarding.
Poodles are my favorites, yet I never had a poodle growing up. Half of my current dogs are poodles and are foster failures. My family, friends, and even strangers think that I am crazy for having a house full of dogs, but I can’t imagine living any other way.
I can’t remember not having a dog in the family – as a youngster we had mostly Labs and Lab crosses. I was active in training dogs, primarily for 4H shows, and learned the value of a well-mannered dog very early. When I started college, I knew that I wanted to do something with animals, so I started in an Animal Science program. In those days (not to date myself), that was code for production agriculture and that’s where my interests drifted to as I thought about careers. I tried Vet School briefly, but found that my true love was animal nutrition, and that is where my career with Purina Animal Nutrition and Land O’Lakes has taken me.
After college and to the present, my family has always had dogs. We’ve owned German Shepherds, Greyhounds, Goldens, Border Collies, Beagles and mutts, attended dog training classes, brought home puppies for my kids and helped them to train dogs, as well. During one particularly difficult time for me personally, my Border Collie, Lad, was a constant companion and provided me interaction and support like very few of my human friends did or could. He was beside my bed when I woke in the night and always available for a sympathetic “ear” when tears took over. Now that I am through that stressful time, and look back, I realize just how much comfort I took in his presence. That made me realize that, when I retire, I would like to train and own therapy dogs. I also realized, however, that though I know the technical aspects of “dogs”, I could learn more about the “soft” part – what makes them tick, are there signs that you can read early about how dogs will respond to different situations, how do they handle stress and are there breeds that are more resilient than others? When I was offered the chance to foster at Senior Dogs 4 Seniors, I knew it was a great chance to give back to these wonderful creatures, and also to learn more about them.
My spouse, Paul, and I have enjoyed fostering the dogs and getting to know each of our temporary guests as they settle into a household routine. For some, it’s the first time they’ve experienced a home, for others, its old news. One of the greatest gifts is watching one of these dogs that is uprooted and scared become confident and playful. When I watch my two dogs accept yet another “newbie” into the pack, I realize that they, too, are teachers, and that they are welcoming. The dogs can teach us much, if we’re observant.