Anyone who has ever witnessed a sunset knows those last bits of light, those few gorgeous golden moments, can often be the most spectacular, rewarding parts of the day. The same holds true for dogs in the sunset of their lives. Senior canines, while perhaps in their last few years on Earth, still have some gorgeous, spectacular moments to share.
This is a big reason why Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco exists. Founder Sherri Franklin recognized that senior dogs were overlooked at animal shelters all across the Bay Area. In fact, nationally, senior dogs are often the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized. Franklin knew a big reason for this was the lack of public understanding and “marketing” of older canines. So in 2007, she formed Muttville as a way to help these seasoned dogs find forever homes.
“I love these old dogs,” says Franklin, who began volunteering at animal shelters more than a decade ago. “They just struck a nerve with me.”
Since its inception, Muttville has rescued and re-homed more than 1,600 senior dogs.
“They are the perfect companions,” Franklin says. “They are easy. They don’t ask for much.”
This nonprofit organization rescues any size or breed of dog age 7 and older, sometimes much older. Shy dogs, ill dogs, or those with special needs are all welcome. Even dogs with life-limiting health issues have a place in Muttville’s hospice program. As stated on the group’s website, “If we had our way, no dog would spend its last days in a cold, dark shelter.”
Muttville has no problem finding dogs to save. In fact, there are usually upwards of 70 senior dogs at one time awaiting adoption, which can happen in a matter of days or even months. Due to the depressed economy and volatile housing market, many heartbroken people surrender their dogs to Muttville after losing their home or income. Dogs also come to the organization as strays or through personal requests, rescue groups, and shelters both near and far. Many have nothing wrong with them, except for their advanced years. A large portion lived in loving homes for years until the owner died or faced major life changes.
Nearly a quarter of Muttville’s adoptive families are themselves senior citizens. The Seniors for Seniors program waives adoption fees for adopters age 62 and older, and sets them up with a care package filled with beds, bowls, and other goodies.
“I think it’s something more organizations should strive for,” Franklin says.
Another innovation is the option to do a two-week trial before committing to permanent adoption.
In 2012, the group opened up a new shelter in San Francisco, which Franklin likes to call “transitional housing.” The cage-free, homelike facility became the perfect place for newly acquired Muttville dogs to stay for a bit while temperaments were evaluated, health conditions monitored, emotions mellowed out, and a well-matched foster home located. With more than 60 volunteers offering up their houses and hearts as foster families, there’s never much of a wait, says Franklin, who notes the group also manages 200 other volunteers throughout the Bay Area.
Despite her group’s explosive adoption numbers, Franklin still has to battle the fears people have about senior dogs. The biggest one revolves around loss. How can I adopt this 10-year-old German Shepherd Dog when it may only live another two years?
How can you not give it a chance?, Franklin counters. Because even if you only get to live with your new dog for a short time, you will love him forever and emerge on the other side a better person, she explains.
“These (senior dogs adopters) are so rewarded by spending time with these dogs, no matter how long,” Franklin says. “It’s a wonderful experience.”
For more information about Muttville Senior Dog Rescue and to find out how you can help, visit muttville.org
The efforts of Muttville Senior Dog Rescue to aid and rescue dogs inspired FreeKibble.com, a website dedicated to providing nutritious food to shelter animals, to donate 5,000 meals to Muttville.