The benefits of adopting a senior dog – Interview with Jennifer from The Grey Muzzle Organization

The Grey Muzzle Organization – All Volunteer Organization
The Grey Muzzle Organization improves the lives of at-risk senior dogs by providing funding and resources to animal shelters, rescue organizations, sanctuaries, and other non-profit groups nationwide.

Web: http://www.greymuzzle.org

Twitter: @GreyMuzzleOrg

Facebook: The Grey Muzzle Organization

How did your personal adventure in dog rescue begin and when did this cause first become important to you?

I’ve always been a champion of the underdog. From an early age, I was bringing home strays off the streets of New York. Whether it was a lost dog in the rain or a litter of kittens abandoned in a sewer, those animals needed someone to act on their behalf.

As I became involved in animal welfare, I began to notice that the senior pets had the odds stacked against them. Everyone gravitates to the puppy. Witnessing senior dogs being overlooked at shelters and rescues is just heart-breaking. They sit quietly waiting for ‘their person’ to return and are just passed by. Someone needs to advocate on their behalf and that is exactly what Grey Muzzle enables me to do.

What brought your attention to helping homeless older/senior dogs in particular? How does your organization work?

A good friend of mine adopted a senior shelter dog named Brenda so “she could live out her life in peace”. I thought that gesture was so very kind for the poor old dog. Well, let me tell you, that Brenda had chutzpah! At thirteen years of age, she certainly knew how to have a frolicking good time. Boy, did she know how to live! And she lived for several years! Opened my eyes right up! At the time, I was not in a position to adopt or foster a senior dog, so when an opportunity to ‘virtually volunteer’ with Grey Muzzle presented itself, I did so!

The Grey Muzzle Organization is a national organization comprised entirely of volunteers. At Grey Muzzle, we strive to improve the lives of homeless senior dogs in two ways. First, by enabling organizations to provide senior dogs the care, comfort and loving homes they need. As we are not a rescue group or shelter, we provide this support through grants to build national programs that meet the special needs of senior dogs. Secondly, Grey Muzzle aims to improve the public perception of homeless senior dogs and encourage their adoption. If we can show how wonderful senior dogs are, maybe more people will open their hearts and homes to them.

The Grey Muzzle Organization makes grants to shelters, rescue groups, sanctuaries, and other non-profit organizations, expressly for programs designed to improve the lives of at-risk senior dogs. As a dog rescue how can I join your program or apply for a grant?

Grey Muzzle supports programs of non-profit animal welfare organizations that exhibit a commitment to homeless senior dogs. Each organization and senior program that we support is chosen carefully. We make grants twice a year after several months of application review. Organizations interested in applying for grants should check our guidelines on the “Grants” page of our website, GreyMuzzle.org.

Without a shelter or dogs for adoption on your website, could you still help me in finding a senior dog to adopt through your organization?

Many loving seniors are just waiting to be discovered at your local shelter or rescue group! Please check the state-by-state listings of senior-friendly organizations that Grey Muzzle supports on GreyMuzzle.org or visit Petfinder.com to find one in your community. Be a senior dog hero and adopt!

You have a program called In-Home hospice care for senior dogs who are not adoptable. Can you please tell us a little more about this?

As Grey Muzzle is not a shelter or rescue group, we support programs of other non-profit organizations. Some of these organizations provide in-home hospice care for senior dogs with medical issues that may prevent them from being adopted. For example, a recent Grey Muzzle grant enabled a basset hound who was diagnosed with untreatable cancer to live out her life in a loving foster home. Grey Muzzle also funds the veterinary care for adoptable or at-risk senior dogs, community programs to keep dogs with their guardians, senior-for-senior programs, and provides orthopedic beds for older dogs in shelters. Organizations that we support that offer all of these programs can be found on our website, GreyMuzzle.org.

You also offer an interesting free article full of practical advice and information about “Caring for Your Senior Dog” on your website. In your words, how would you encourage the owners of older dogs to keep and care for their pets or for someone to adopt an old dog?

Whether you already have an aging dog or are considering adopting, three key elements of care are nutrition, health, and comfort. Nutrition is important at any age, but especially for seniors, so research what you are feeding your dog. Not all pet foods are created equal, learn what your ingredients are and make informed choices.

Also, keep your senior’s health in check by taking your dog for regular check-ups and blood screenings at your veterinarian. Overweight pets are at a higher risk for health problems but also know your older dog’s limits when it comes to exercise.

Finally, keep your dog comfortable with orthopedic beds and supplements. Just like us, as pets age, bones, muscles, and joints need soothing.

Sharing information with other dog owners is so very important. Therefore, in addition to the article you referenced, we will be offering senior dog tips now in our monthly newsletters to meet the need.

What do you think is different or what can people expect from an older dog comparing to a young dog or puppy? What are some differences or benefits of adopting an older dog?

In this fast paced society, many families are unprepared for the investment of time required to raise and train a high-energy puppy. Puppies need your constant attention. They also need to go out a lot and should get a ton of exercise!

By contrast, there are so many benefits to adopting a senior dog! Many older dogs are already house-trained (no 3:00am walks!), know basic commands, don’t have as many behavior problems as puppies (yes, your shoes *may* be safe!), and are so grateful for a second chance in a loving home. Older dogs are consistent and established in their personalities so there are no surprises like with a puppy. They just understand, they ‘get it’, and are remarkably calm and easy to train if need be. By adopting, you will not only be saving an older dog’s life but you will be gaining a fantastic, wise companion.

In general, what do you think are the most common reasons people decide to give their old/senior dog away?

Like all pet surrenders, the senior dog is often surrendered due to no fault of their own. With senior dogs, many are surrendered because their owner’s life circumstances have changed. Reasons often include an owner who has passed away, is ill or nursing home-bound, moving, or lost their job. Others are sadly surrendered when a family becomes bored with an older dog or chooses simply not to invest in medical care.

Unfortunately, senior dog relinquishment is an all too common occurrence and has become even more prevalent in the current economic climate. Senior dogs are left at shelters, turned loose or left behind, or banished to the garage or backyard with little human companionship. After a lifetime of unconditional love, they certainly deserve better.

What do you think is the reason old/senior dogs are harder to adopt out?

There are a few reasons. Many people assume there is something wrong with the personality of an adult dog in a shelter. However, we find more and more that the older dog is surrendered due to a change in owner circumstances. We certainly hope to eliminate the stigma that an old dog is “defective”.

Some people also fear the financial responsibility that a senior dog may warrant. Anytime you adopt a pet, at any age, you need to be financially prepared. Vet expenses may, or may not, be more costly for an older dog. Through Grey Muzzle grants, the organizations we support try to remedy any known treatable medical issue that impedes adoption. Having medical issues resolved takes some of the financial pressure off of the organization and a potential adopter. It also can prevent at-risk dogs from being euthanized.

Finally, adopting an older dog can be emotionally hard for many people. The possibility of giving your heart to an aging dog can be difficult. It takes a special person to live life in the moment and not get too ahead of ourselves. Dogs already do that, but we are still learning! Senior dogs can really teach us so much.

Who is the perfect adopter for an older dog?

As always, the perfect adopter for a pet at any age is someone with a kind heart. Adopters looking for an experienced companion, unconditional love, and a grateful dog should consider a senior. An older dog is perfect for a person who does not have the time and energy that is required by a rambunctious puppy.

What do you need the most for your mission – and how can people get involved?

The Grey Muzzle Organization funds many organizations and programs nationwide. The funds distributed are raised entirely through public donations. Simply put, Grey Muzzle is only limited by the funds we raise. Donations are always needed to help more seniors. People can make a donation in memory of a pet, purchase a bed for a senior shelter dog, or visit our online store via our website GreyMuzzle.org.

We also need committed volunteers nationwide to assist with fundraising and education. One of the nice things about Grey Muzzle is that you can ‘virtually volunteer’ from your home or become a ‘senior dog ambassador’ in your community. Volunteer information can also be found on our website.

What kinds of things do you do to raise awareness about your organization?

Grey Muzzle uses a combination of outreach methods. To keep up with technology, we utilize social media (Facebook, Twitter) and hold a “Virtual Walk” each November. We also combine online and grassroots efforts to fundraise for our “Flower Power for Senior Dogs” retail campaign each Spring. Also, because we love all things traditional, Grey Muzzle ambassadors set up tables, rain or shine, at community events. We are so grateful to our volunteers who advocate the plight of homeless senior dogs in their corner of the world! Finally, to spread all the news, Grey Muzzle offers both an online and printed newsletter for those who sign up.

Can you describe an experience that has particularly moved or inspired you?

Shortly after buying our house, my husband and I decided to adopt a dog. We searched Petfinder.com and found a dog whose bio said she was “the perfect dog for first time dog owners.” As this applied to my husband, this sentence struck a chord so we went down to the shelter to meet a dog named Kori.

As the story goes, Kori’s family was moving and she was not included in their plans. Kori was an older, overweight, extra-large, black dog. Sadly, she waited at the shelter for a long time until we adopted her. Apparently her age, size, weight, and color weren’t appealing attributes for prospective adopters. Truth be told… their oversight was truly our gain! Kori was the sweetest, most gentle, funniest, teddy bear of a dog. She loved the cat, the falling leaves, the couch, and everyone she met. The joy of those four amazing years with Kori left such an impression on me. Too many dogs just like Kori are overlooked in our shelters today. It has to change.

Do you have any upcoming events you want to share with our community?

In conjunction with Adopt a Senior Dog month in November, Grey Muzzle will be launching our “Virtual Walk”. Anyone can participate and, if you are not the athletic type, you don’t even have to walk a mile! Check our website GreyMuzzle.org for info about this online event and community events nationwide.

If you could give pet owners one piece of advice what would it be?

Be good to your pets! They love you unconditionally and deserve a forever home by your side. Save up for those unexpected vet visits (or research pet insurance) and do your best for them every day. Our pets depend on us, especially as they get older. If you have ever loved an old dog, remember that there are many dogs just like your dog have that have not been so lucky and now need a home.

Do you have pets of your own?

Yes! Of course, I have a grey-muzzled dog! I also have two not-even-mildly-aloof adult cats. Each year as they age, they become even more and more endearing.

Which websites or pet related links would you recommend to PackPeople?

To warm your heart, check out the amazing stories of homeless senior dogs that are now cherished on our “Meet The Dogs” page on GreyMuzzle.org. It speaks volumes!

With the current state of the economy, many pets are surrendered due to the rising costs of vet care. For pet owners considering pet insurance, do your research. Know exactly what is covered (and isn’t), what the exclusions are, and what the rates of reimbursement are. I would suggest comparing different plans at PetInsuranceReview.com to find one that meets your pet’s needs and budgets.

Spreading the word can help save lives! If you liked the interview please share it with your community by clicking the Facebook and Twitter icons at the bottom of this article or feel free to leave a comment. Thank you.

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