ATLANTA – Jolie Gallagher and her husband weren’t looking to expand their pack when they spotted the black dog on an animal welfare organization’s Instagram page in March.
The friendly mixed Australian Shepherd, later renamed Cricket, was found wandering and brought to the shelter.
Due to his age, 8, Cricket would likely not reach the top of many people’s list for adoption.
Rescue groups and shelters say older cats and dogs are generally the hardest to place, as most people want younger animals. Older pets may be a bit grayer or not let off steam as much, but they can still add a lot to their owner’s life.
“When I found out she was an elderly person, I had no way of leaving her at the shelter,” said Gallagher, a pharmacist. Cricket was later diagnosed with arthritis, but is doing well on his medication. “What I love most about her is that she is so calm and doesn’t require as much attention and training as a puppy. She was a bitch ready to go. Senior dogs are so easy to integrate into your life and you are giving them a safe place in their old years to be comfortable.
Karen Hirsch, director of public relations for LifeLine Animal Project, said people who open their homes to older pets “just have a special place in their hearts.”
Sometimes older pets come in as stray animals. Perhaps they escaped, the owners felt they were too big, or they were dumped by their owners because of the expense of keeping them. Some are dropped off at the shelter because the owner has died or the owner has to move to a retirement home or assisted living facility that does not accept pets.
“You have to take it as a mission to give this dog a home and a second chance,” said Becky Cross, director of Atlanta Lab Rescue. The rescue welcomes 450 to 500 dogs per year, of which 10 to 15% would be considered elderly.
ALR is reducing the $ 375 adoption fee from $ 125 for a dog at least 7 years old and waiving the fee for dogs 10 years and older. If there is a significant medical issue at the time of adoption, the association will consider the dog a permanent foster home and continue to pay their medical bills, Cross said.
Charlie Kleman, a retired corporate executive, is chairman of the board of ALR and a volunteer who often travels hundreds of miles a week to transport homeless dogs to vets, kennels and homes home or forever.
Sometimes its passengers are older dogs.
“By the age of 8 or 10, they’re used to being around someone,” he said. When they are abandoned or wandering or surrender, “they are so confused.
They are happy to come out of shelters. “Half the older ones will want to put their paws on my knees and they can’t stop wagging their tails,” Kleman said.
Atlanta Lawson artist Thomas Chambers had a roommate who had older dogs.
In 2018, when Chambers, who prefers to use a gender-neutral pronoun, decided to favor, they specifically looked for an older dog. Chambers “fell in love” with Akira, an older dog with terminal cancer.
Chambers shared drawings on their social media accounts to show the ‘gift’ Akira brought to their world and the lessons Chambers learned.
“I wanted to learn discipline and learn how to take care of a dog without necessarily taking care of a puppy,” Chambers said. When Chambers first visited the LifeLine shelter, they noticed Akira because while other dogs were barking, she was silent.
It was a 180 degree turnaround once Chambers brought her home.
“She had too much life for an 8-year-old pit bull with cancer,” they said. “She had a lot of personality. She was a loud, daring and stubborn woman.
Although she was ill, they noticed that when Akira took a walk, she had boundless energy. “She was a puppy until the day she died.”
Several times a month, Linda Hunt, founder of Act2Pups, sets up outside the Top Dogs Pet Boutique stores in Kennesaw or Canton.
Her non-profit organization specializes in older dogs and those with special needs and occasionally takes “puppies,” as she likes to call them, from shelters in the area, but she has also found at least two in bins.
His rescue conducts careful screening of prospective adopters, and before a dog leaves his care, he was treated by a veterinarian for any illness and routine screening.
An older dog isn’t for everyone, and she knows it. Some people open their hearts and their homes with the intention of giving the senior dog “all my love for the few years he has left.” You can’t save them all, but the one you save makes all the difference in the world.
Tim Gulley can’t look away when he sees an animal in need, especially an older dog or cat.
Several years ago, Gulley drove past a dilapidated house in Gwinnett County when he spotted a dead dog in the driveway. Other larger dogs were walking, but a small Chihuahua stopped him dead.
“She looked pathetic there,” said Gulley, who volunteered with a number of animal rescue groups. The owner had planned to have her shot because she was old and sick.
Gulley asked if he could have it instead.
According to the vet, she was between 12 and 14 years old.
His spine was badly damaged. Part of her jaw was missing, so her tongue was sticking out of her mouth. She was anemic, dehydrated, blind, and her tiny body was battling an infection.
She weighed less than 2 pounds which is low even for this small breed.
Today the dog, named Nola, although still weak, has survived the predictions. She shares a home with Gulley, a regional sales manager for a garage door opener company, his wife, Vickie, four other dogs and a cat. The pets are all rescues of elderly people, ranging in age from 8 to maybe 14 years old.
“The majority of people just want a pet,” Gulley said. “I didn’t want them as pets. I wanted to take care of them. The elderly are the most neglected, and a lot of people don’t want to take care of them.
On a recent outing to their vacation home on Lake Hartwell, Gulley filled a pillbox for Nola, who takes five drugs a day.
“My heart is just going for them,” Gulley said. “If we could get a dog that needed it for adoption, wow that would make a difference. They brought me so much joy.
Michael San Filippo, spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association, said that due to improved veterinary care and eating habits, pets are living longer than ever before.
“It’s important to remember that age is not a disease; good care allows our pets to live happy, healthy and active lives in their old age.