Misty, the Dog Who Inspired the Senior Dogs Project
The Senior Dogs Project began in May 1997, shortly after our family adopted a ten-year-old senior Golden Retriever named “Misty” (in the photo at the left). We fell totally, hopelessly in love with her gentle nature and calm demeanor and felt very lucky to have her.
A Neighbor Asks for Help “Getting Rid of” Her 14-year-old Golden
While we were happily walking Misty on our street in San Francisco one day, a neighbor who knew that we had just adopted her, approached us to ask if we would help a friend of hers who wanted to “get rid of” her 14-year-old Golden Retriever. We couldn’t take her ourselves, we said, but we knew a number of people in the dog-loving world and would try to find her a home.
No Home, Only Euthanasia
Despite our best efforts, however — asking among friends, contacting the local animal shelter and then the local SPCA and other rescue agencies — we failed. We were stunned when every one of those organizations told us that they would most likely have to “put her down”; there was no “market” for senior dogs because just about everyone looking for a dog to adopt wanted a puppy or young dog. These organizations could not afford to house old dogs that no one was going to adopt.
Twenty Years Later
Fast-forward to 2017, and much has changed. There are now quite a number of dog rescue groups dedicated specifically to finding new homes for senior dogs (see Rescue organizations specializing in senior dogs), and most shelters will now give a chance at adoption to adult dogs (over age 4), and to “seniors” (over age 6 or 7). We’ve worked hard for that change — through this website and through our support of agencies and shelters that promote such adoptions. 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 has been our mission over the past two decades to disseminate that message.
More about Our Mission…..
A “throw-away” society: When we asked the woman who wanted to “get rid of” her 14-year-old Golden Retriever why she felt it was necessary, she explained that it was a matter of convenience. She was moving from her house into an apartment, and she would have to walk the dog rather than simply let her out into the garden as she always had at her house. 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 and she wanted to “get rid of her” as soon as possible.
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’s 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?
Triage at the shelter: 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 may 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.
Questioning the current state of affairs: Although many shelters are changing their attitude toward older dogs, there’s a basic assumption that it’s okay to kill the dogs who don’t find homes before space at the shelter runs out. According to statistics published by the Humane Society of the United States in 2017, “Of the 3 million cats and dogs euthanized in shelters each year, approximately 2.4 million (80%) are healthy and treatable and could have been adopted into new homes.”
Why is this euthanasia rate okay? Why is it that our taxpayer dollars are spent killing adoptable animals while breeders continue to breed puppies and an entire, money-making industry exists to bring more companion animals onto a planet already overcrowded with companion animals?
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.
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.
How We Hope to Fulfill Our Mission…..
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. You can find a dog to adopt or seek help in placing a dog through these agencies. See the listings by location page. For specific breeds of dogs, see the Breed Agencies page. For agencies specializing in seniors, see the Senior Agencies and Sanctuaries page.
Senior Dog Health Care Information
Caring for a dog is a major responsibility. From puppyhood through the senior years, 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 seniorhood. On this site, you’ll find information on general health care and specifically on some conditions and diseases that pertain to senior dogs. Although limited in scope, the information addresses topics about which you’ll want to become informed in order to best care for your senior dog.