"As more people discover their wonderful qualities, more old dogs are getting the second chance they deserve."
The Grey Muzzle Foundation
February 21, 2017
Birdie is one lucky senior dog. Found as a stray, her paws painfully sore from miles of walking, the 7- year-old yellow Labrador retriever was taken in by Safe Harbor Lab Rescue outside of Denver, Colorado. There, she was quickly adopted by a family who preferred an older dog. A new survey by The Grey Muzzle Organization—which provides grants to help at-risk senior dogs at Safe Harbor and dozens of other rescue groups and animal shelters around the country—reveals that Birdie is one of thousands of older dogs who are benefitting from a nationwide trend toward more positive perceptions and increased adoption of senior dogs. The results are based on input from 30 Grey Muzzle grant recipients who found homes for nearly 18,000 dogs including almost 3,900 seniors in 2016.
Once considered unadoptable, seniors were often the first to be euthanized to make room for younger dogs in overcrowded animal shelters. Today, however, the Grey Muzzle survey shows more people are open to bringing home an older dog who already knows how to fit into family life.
“Based on their hands-on experience, two-thirds of our survey respondents reported that the situation for homeless senior dogs has improved over the past year or two,” said Dr. Lisa Lunghofer, Executive Director of The Grey Muzzle Organization. “No dog is more grateful or loving than a senior. As more people discover their wonderful qualities, more old dogs are getting the second chance they deserve.”
T: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Rufus. Your fans will be happy to hear from you.
Rufus: It is my pleasure.
T: We are here today to make a big announcement. Care to do the honor?
Rufus: Of course. It is with mixed emotions that I am officially retiring as a Pet Therapy Provider.
T: Let me be the first to express my gratitude for all the time and energy you put into your work. You were a very talented practitioner and your ability to bring joy and comfort to those in need will be missed.
Rufus: It was a unique honor for me to be able to have this opportunity to give back to the community that gave me a second chance. You know, I was so close to euthanasia in that shelter in California, that I thought I had chased my last tail. I owe a great deal of gratitude to the Northern Nevada Humane Society for taking the chance on a old timer like me and to the the Sanctuary for seeing in me the potential to be an ambassador for senior dog adoption and Therapy Dog.
T: You are a natural. We were only together for three months before you got your behavior certification from Pet Therapy Inc. By the time we had a regular visitation schedule going, you operated like a seasoned pro. Your looks win them over, but your gentle way of being is what makes you so remarkable. You were always calm, quiet, and attentive. Why are you hanging up the vest now?
Rufus: Life has a way of coming full circle. I am beginning to suffer many of the same aliments that landed my clients in the nursing homes where I would spend time caring for them. I can still hear, but I can't tell where the noise is coming from. I can still see, but I can't really distinguish objects or people very well. All of this means I startle easily and I get nervous in new environments or crowded spaces.
T: You gave back more than anyone could have imagined. The companionship you provide to me is more than enough to earn your kibble. What you did as a Therapy Dog was above and beyond the call of canine duty. I estimate that you did 100 hours of Pet Therapy time in a little under three years. How do you feel about that?
Rufus: Well keep in mind that is 100 hours in human time. In dog time that would be 700 hours.
T: When did you learn how to do multiplication?
Rufus: Remember all the times you took me to high schools to work with kids. You didn't think I was just sleeping through all the lessons did you?
T: I heard you snoring.
Rufus: Any way, yes, 100 hours is a lot of time. But there are many Therapy Dogs out there who do way more than that in a lifetime. And there is so much need out there for Pet Therapy Services, I could have done 1,000 hours and it still would not have been enough.
T: I could not agree more. If I was in charge of providing therapeutic interventions at long term care facilities, especially those caring for the elderly and those suffering from dementia, Pet Therapy would be my number 1 tool. I saw first hand how much a person is affected by the presence of a loving animal like yourself, and I have seen the studies which list the many measurable impacts it has on a persons health.
Not only that, I have seen the other therapies and activities that are available and for many if not most of the residents, they no longer possess the cognitive function to engage with the activity in any meaningful way. Some of those who were non-responsive or even despondent, quickly perked up whenever you entered the room. Even if we were across the room, people who would ignored the TV would watch us move about attentively. There is just something about animals, the many layers of memory and emotion, it breaks through in a way that other things cannot.
Rufus: Your vision for the sanctuary is becoming a reality and through your efforts more and more people will get the Pet Therapy time they so desperately need. I am honored to have been the First Pet Therapy Dog of Homer J's Senior Dog Sanctuary.
T: The honor has been mine.
Rufus: I think I finally get it! It all comes full circle. I see what the Sanctuary is all about. The Sanctuary is about how we all should take care of one another, because one day we will need someone to care for us too. And it is not enough to care for those who we feel "responsible" for because they are "family". I was not your family, and you decided to take care of me, and then you facilitated the same opportunity for me.
T: What can I say, I like stories that come full circle. Enjoy your retirement years my friend. Any final words?
Rufus: I wrote a poem actually:
To all my friends in the nursing home
I am sorry you are feeling lost, confused, and alone,
Fear not. You will make it home soon.
The family has been waiting for you.
Think of all your friends from the past,
certainly the dogs and I guess maybe the cats,
They gave me a message, to read to you, it said,
"You are safe and loved.
We are waiting to meet you here...
can't wait to give you a big hug."