Senior Dogs 4 Seniors: Bringing Senior Dogs and People Together by Diane Pierce

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Isabella. Photo courtesy of Senior Dogs 4 Seniors

Senior Dogs 4 Seniors is a foster-based rescue that primarily places senior dogs in the homes of older people in the St. Louis area of Missouri. A grant from The Grey Muzzle Organization helps them with their veterinary bills. This post was written by Senior Dogs 4 Seniors founder and president, Diane Pierce.

My husband, David, and I have both 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. When 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.

Initially we were a foster home for Love-a-Golden where we fostered over sixty Golden Retrievers. 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 it and be heartbroken.

Luke. Photo courtesy of Senior Dogs 4 Seniors
We found that these senior dogs were the best behaved dogs - as they are potty trained and not as 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 could support that relationship.

It was hard work to get our 501(c)3 tax exempt status but in early 2008 we were ready to start Senior Dogs 4 Seniors. We have had an adoption event every Saturday since then at a Petco store located in a neighborhood with lots of seniors. Slowly we recruited foster homes and had some adoptions.  We work with several veterinary clinics who charge us less. 

We get dogs from three different sources: puppy mills, surrenders, and from shelters like St. Louis County Animal Control and the Humane Society. You may know that Missouri is the puppy mill capital of the country. Generally the breeders will retire their dogs at 7 or 8 and will give them to rescues. These dogs have not been socialized and generally are very skittish and need to learn how to become a pet. Dogs are surrendered to us for various reasons – moving and can’t take the dog, dog not good with little kids, too busy for the dog. Of course, the dogs at the shelters come from all kinds of backgrounds. Some were even found as miserable, emaciated strays.

Courtesy of Senior Dogs 4 Seniors
First we get the dogs to a vet and get all their vet work completed. If they need grooming, that is done too. Then they go to loving foster homes where we say all you need to provide is the love and the food. The fosters are very truthful about their dog’s behavior to the potential adopters who come to our adoption events. We have found that there is someone for every dog. We have had some for over a year and started to think that nobody wants this dog. That’s when someone will walk into our adoption event and stare at him and say I love that dog! 

We have found that the senior people that adopt from us sometimes are not able to drive and need some help in caring for their dogs. In order to accommodate their needs, we provide several different plans that adopters can sign up for. Some older adopters were also worried about what would happen to their dog if they became unable to care for them or after they passed away, so we did some research on the verbiage needed for their Trust to include their dog. We currently offer four different plans to our adopters:

A - Adoption

You are asked to pay a one-time adoption fee.

B - Basic Care

Our basic care will include routine veterinary care and grooming services. We will pick up the dog and take them to the vet or groomer and return them to you.

A forever home for Winter and Beannie. © Senior Dogs 4 Seniors
C - Complete Care
Our complete care will include routine veterinary care and grooming services as well as a monthly visit to deliver dog food, medications, preventative, flea and tick preventative. We will trim the dogs nails and clean up your yard.

D - Dog Trust
We will provide you with the language needed for your lawyer to create a Dog Trust. When in place, we will provide ongoing physical, emotional and financial care and support for your dog in the event of your death or disability. 

Of course, the dogs benefit from finding their own forever home. But the senior adopters benefit just as much. Here is a list of some of the benefits found for older people who have dogs.

1. Pets Lower Blood Pressure. A study of health patients showed that people over 40 who own pets have lower blood pressure than people who do not have pets. Another study showed that talking to pets decreased blood pressure.

2. Fewer Trips to the Doctor. Seniors who own dogs go to the doctor less often than those who do not. In a study of 1,000 Medicare patients, even the most highly stressed dog owner/guardians in the study had 21 percent fewer physician contacts than non-dog owner/guardians.

3. Less Depression. Studies show that seniors with pets do not become depressed as often as those without pets.

4. Easier to Make Friends. Seniors with pets meet more people and like to talk about their pets. 

5. Seniors Become More Active. Seniors with pets go for more walks and are generally more active than those without pets. 

Molly finds her match. © Senior Dogs 4 Seniors
6. Pets are Friends. Most everyone, but especially seniors, will say that pets are their friends.

7. Pets Fight Loneliness. You are less likely to be lonely with a canine friend around.

8. Seniors Take Better Care of Themselves. Seniors take good care of their pets and better care of themselves when they own a pet.

9. Sense of Security. Pets help seniors to feel that someone they trust is always around.

One of my best stories included a call I received from a lady who adopted a mixed breed dog from us named Edna. She called me one evening crying.  She said that she wanted to let me know that she had been diagnosed with cervical carcinoma and was in chemotherapy now. Between her sobs, she said that she would not be making it through chemo without Edna. She continued that she walks Edna 30 minutes a day. You know why?  Because Edna loves it.

I received another call from a senior lady who had adopted a darling Shih Tzu from us. She called me to tell me that she had lived in her apartment building for two years and had never met any of her neighbors.  Now that she was outside walking her darling little dog, she had met all of her neighbors.

So far we have taken in close to 1,400 dogs and have spent $330,000 on vet bills. We could not have accomplished this without financial assistance from organizations like The Grey Muzzle Organization.
 
For additional information about The Grey Muzzle Organization's grant recipients, including Senior Dogs 4 Seniors, visit Who We Help.

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 nonprofit groups nationwide.
 

About the Contributor:  Diane Pierce is the founder and president of Senior Dogs 4 Seniors. Diane and her husband, David, are both retired and spend most of their time in their rescue work. Senior Dogs 4 Seniors has a mission of placing older dogs in the loving homes of older people and to support that relationship. They do limit their work to the St. Louis, Missouri area.