Katie Kalafut and Dan Polifka met in a karaoke bar five years ago. Maybe it was Dan’s serenade, or maybe it was the influence of their mutual friends in graduate school, but they fell in love and will be married in June.
What makes this wedding different from most June weddings is a request on their gift registry.
Instead of creating a traditional gift registry filled with toasters and teacups, Katie and Dan are asking their loved ones to make a donation to The Grey Muzzle Organization in memoriam to their own grey muzzle, Benny Goblin.
Benny was adopted two years ago by this compassionate young couple. While searching for answers on how to help Benny near the end of his life, Katie and Dan came across our website. The couple felt inspired to give back to Grey Muzzle as a result of the support the information gave them in their time of need.
We caught up with Katie and Dan to talk romance - about their own blossoming “puppy love” as well as the love they share for senior pups. Katie voices their collaborated responses.
- What a busy year you two must be having! Besides wedding planning and dog care, what keeps you occupied?
We are both teachers. Dan teaches history at a high school in Cincinnati. I am a visiting professor at a college in Pennsylvania where I teach Animal Learning and Behavior and conduct behavioral research. I am currently looking for a job in or near Cincinnati for next year!
- How about your backgrounds: Did you both grow up with dogs?
I grew up with a menagerie in Iowa. From an early age, I was interested in animal behavior and taught tricks to all of our pets. Eventually, I realized my fun and games could be turned into a lifetime scientific endeavor.
Dan was the polar opposite. Growing up in Manhattan, the only pet in the house was his brother’s goldfish, Chloe. He had never been around dogs.
- What can you tell us about your adopted pups?
I adopted Rory, a Shepherd mix, three years before I met Dan.
Three years ago, I was asked to do a dog training demonstration at a local event. The local shelter was supplying the dogs for the training session and volunteers were walking the pups around, mingling with people and vendors. I noticed a small white dog with an “Adopt me!” vest dragging his volunteer to every vendor, where he could have a treat at each stop. I found out Benny had been in two other shelters (in Georgia and Connecticut), recently had a tumor removed from his back, was recently neutered, had rotten teeth, and was not thriving at the local shelter. I could tell that he was excited being away from his kennel existence and connecting (rather comfortably) with the outside world.
Later that day, Dan told me, “Benny is just my speed.” Well, that was it! We took Benny home with us that night with the intention to hospice him through his final weeks of life.
Benny recovered his vim and vigor quickly. He delighted in walks. He was eating so much we called him Benny Goblin. Rory slowly adjusted to her new “annoyance” and they became fast friends. Our daily walks were slow, but we became more mindful… Benny literally taught us to stop and smell the roses.
- Why should more people adopt senior dogs? Do you see yourselves playing a role in the future with other seniors?
Benny was so grateful for life every single day. It was a blessing being a part of this incredible pup’s life. If we have half of Benny’s positive attitude (when we’re his age in people years), we will have been doing something right.
Rory is now ten and I know there will be another senior dog in our future. We are passionate about adoption, especially the “underdogs” who need a little more help or love for one reason or another. When we’re finally in one household, we will definitely be considering it.
It makes us proud that we changed Benny’s life. We gave that little Goblin the love he deserved throughout the time he had left. And we received more than we ever dreamed in return.
- What inspires you about Grey Muzzle’s mission?
The shelter from which we adopted Benny was connected to a vet who did his tooth extraction without a fee. The same vet helped us find affordable meds. These meds, along with love and a quiet place to sleep, helped Benny to thrive.
This is similar to what Grey Muzzle does for seniors in shelters. It could have been much more expensive for us to keep Benny happy, but we were really lucky. Others aren't so lucky, and that is where the love and beauty of Grey Muzzle comes in. If we can help those who aren't as lucky in Benny's name, we would just be thrilled.
About the contributor
Jo-De Davis has been involved in animal rescue for 40 years. In addition to her volunteer work with Grey Muzzle, she also volunteers with FETCH A Cure and the Virginia Equine Welfare Society and serves on the Citizen Committee for Coordinating Animal Welfare in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Jo-De has spoiled four senior dogs over the course of her adult life. Jack, her most recent adoptee, is 12 years old.