Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Dignity of Age

Morley.
This old guy's face says it all. He passed away yesterday in the arms of a new friend after leaving the shelter (he was a stray) and after relaxing into a week-long compassion hold. Rumor has it that the cute girl dog in the house, Grace, perked up Morley's spirits a bit during his final days. Way to go, You dawg.

We're surmising, but it sure seems like a lot of sick and older dogs have been losing their homes since the economy started wacking out on us. Vet assisted euthanasias can cost as much as $150 and lord knows treating canine cancer is only possible for people with Whole Foods life styles ... So, here we are. Getting depressed about it is certainly an option, but so is setting out to do nice things like this:

  • Donate your old fluffy blankets to your shelter so the skinny dogs can sink into a good sleep.
  • If they'll let you, give a shelter dog a bath and let your fingernails grow out a bit so you can dig in deep when you lather. That's sheer heaven to a dog that hasn't been touched in years.
  • Drop off some stew or roasted chicken and ask shelter staff to give to dogs on their last day (They will) Everyone should be so lucky.
  • Can you do a compassion hold and let a sick dog like Morley have a final week or two of comfort in your home? Ask your shelter to consider you for this kind of work.
  • Read this website for more ideas: Senior Dog Project
  • I met the owner of the Senior Dogs site years ago when I impulsively pulled a tired senior doberman from Berkeley Animal Services. Senior, as in sunken eyes ancient. I had the idea then that Doberman Rescue would surely want him. Ha! And so, Tim and I were 'stuck' with the (forgotten) challenges and huge rewards of loving Henry - the oldest, most wonderful doberman ever known - to me, anyway. Thinking of that dog still squeezes big fat tears out of my eyes. Old dogs are the best.

    Here are two seniors that recently charmed their way into our adoption program. They aren't ancient - in fact, at 8-some years old (guessing) they both have spunk to spare. But we expect that they aren't going to fly out the door anytime soon due to their age. That's okay...We're counting our blessings in the meantime.

    Right: Daddy-O
    Below: Frida Brown
    For more info: contact@badrap.org




















    Morley's Photo: Nicole Rattay, his final friend.

    37 comments:

    Anne K. in L.A. said...

    This post brought tears to my eyes. I am glad Morley got a chance to be with a family before he passed.

    Thanks for sharing all the info regarding senior dogs. Once my husband and I get into a bigger place that allows us to have more than one dog, we'll definitely look into compassion holds. I never knew such a thing existed.

    Thanks again for sharing.

    Kirsten said...

    Older dogs are wonderful. Personally, I'd choose a dog w/ age and character over a crazy puppy any day. It's always sad watching them get passed up at the shelter for pups, or having them brought in on their last legs... I love the idea of a compassion hold. I'm gonna suggest that at work. I often want to foster the oldies, but as they are not considered adoptable, they generally don't make it to the foster list. :/

    Anonymous said...

    What a beautiful post--I love senior dogs. Morley's soulful eyes are going to haunt me all day.

    Sarah said...

    Thanks for a great post about the seniors! There is a wonderful organization up in my neck of the woods (PNW) that focuses on the oldies but goodies: www.olddoghaven.org

    About a year and a half ago I picked up a Weim for ODH from a local shelter he'd strayed into. Of unknown age, unneutered, and in the shelter's words, "decrepit", I had agreed to foster him sight unseen. Of course I ended up adopting him! He's a wonderful dog, and, according to my vet, is getting younger all the time!

    Anonymous said...

    Aww poor Morley!! He had so much character!

    Anonymous said...

    Awwwwww.....that's touching. You can read a lot in the old dogs' eyes. They have such sweet, knowing faces, and a calm, gentle wisdom about them.

    who wouda thunk it?? said...

    I have had the privilege of owning five dogs, right up to their last days, and the end. sad sweet, heartbreaking, and SOOOO wonderful to offer a dog a loving and dignified close of life. Please dont think of how you will "feel" about it and open your heart and offer some love!!
    I currently have two 13 yr olds that are winding down.... I see their cloudy eyes and know that sometime in the future, I will have to watch these two old girls go. They have been together ten years

    who wouda thunk it?? said...

    I have had the privilege of owning five dogs, right up to their last days, and the end. sad sweet, heartbreaking, and SOOOO wonderful to offer a dog a loving and dignified close of life. Please dont think of how you will "feel" about it and open your heart and offer some love!!
    I currently have two 13 yr olds that are winding down.... I see their cloudy eyes and know that sometime in the future, I will have to watch these two old girls go. They have been together ten years

    Donna said...

    Thank you Anne K. ! I hope you find your bigger place soon.

    I think I should explain the concept of compassion holds since many shelters won't know what you're talking about ... In some cases, when you come across an old guy that deserves a spot in the sun, you have to adopt the dog outright as yours and cover all costs. And in other cases, you may be able to find a rescue group to sponsor you for expenses related to the dog's immediate comfort, and typically, his final vet visit.

    That's not to say that dogs don't 'grow younger' as with Sarah's example! -- sometimes you discover that they aren't at all ready to leave the planet, so you have to game plan. Susi Ming, who runs BR's Bullyhaven, may commit may many months to her never ending string of compassion holds.

    And since health and behavior issues are unknowns, it does help to confer with a rescue if you can for guidance and support with any difficult issues and decisions that may come up.

    Bless you for wanting to help. Old dogs bring rich rewards to those who love them.

    BerkeleyBecca said...

    You're doing the work of the angels. When there's room in our household for another dog, we'll consider caring for a senior. (Current 4-legged family members include a 17 yo shelter cat, a 16 yo arthritic pit bull mix, and a 12 yo kelpie-shepherd mix. It's pretty much an animal old folks' home around here.)

    Anonymous said...

    Kirsten, I so don't get the "dog with a potential foster home can't be fostered" attitude of your shelter! Why would they refuse your offer to foster an old dog? Even if you can only do it for a short time, that still means the world in the life of that dog. In fact, it strikes me as incredibly cruel for a shelter to refuse such an offer. Maybe you can get them to rethink that policy.

    Donna said...

    anon - Kirsten lives in a part of Australia where pit bulls are banned.

    Jungle G said...

    This brought tears to my eyes and tore a chunk out of my heart...god bless the work you are doing. I try to help as much as I can, thank you for sharing about compassion holds.

    Kelly said...

    I adopted a senior pit back in February (we think he's anywhere from 10-12 years old), and he is just the most awesome, loving, laid back dog ever. He even gets the zoomies once in a while. :)

    He's won the hearts of everyone we know. I realize that we may have less time with him than our other dogs, but it makes the time we do have with him even more precious.

    If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. There's so much to be said for opening your home to an older dog!

    Anonymous said...

    frida may be a senior, but i think she's the nicest dog at oas! someone is going to be so lucky to bring her home!

    Anonymous said...

    Dear Creator-of-all,

    I don't worship in a church, at least not the traditional kind where I have to wear a dress, but I'm a believer anyway. I can't look in my dogs' eyes without seeing a reflection of your wisdom and your abiding love. I know you're out there; my dogs tell me so.

    I try to live my life by your will. The rules seem simple enough. Be nice. Play fair. Share your cookies with those less fortunate. Champion the innocent. Never waste a sunny day. Leave the world a better place than you found it.
    I try every day. I am just one mortal with all my flaws and foibles, but oh, I do try.

    So I ask you this: please, when I am old and wrinkled and forgotten, and when my mind is eroded by the ravages of time, let there be someone... anyone... who will pull me from the shelter and take me home and love me for even one precious week before it's my time to go. Please let there be someone out there who will honor my faithfulness and show me that my life mattered. And that I deserved to be loved.

    -Amen.

    Windy and the Pittie Grrls

    Anonymous said...

    Donna, (Or other knowledgeable folks)

    Just for clarity, isn't the SPCA required to PTS your dog for free, if requested?

    Anonymous said...

    We took in a 16 year old Chow mix that I thought would be a hospice case. Taz ended up being quite the character! We called him the sheriff because he was always telling the young dogs that he didn't exactly care for their foolishness. When he came to us, he was missing a lot of hair, his teeth were horrible and he had Cushings disease and hypythyroidism, and at times, a grumpy old man attitude. I say he earned the attitude after coming from a house where hot soup was thrown on him during a domestic dispute! The old guy ended up living 2 years with us- a medical anomaly. In that time he played the jailhouse dog at a Pirates of the Caribbean haunted house that we had at the school, and rode on a float in the Los Gatos Christmas parade. He touched many lives, and although I knew without question that it was his time, it was still not easy to let my old boy go. Adopting seniors is a great experience, and I will do it again when the herd thins around here. (Especially if it is a Pit!)

    Seniors rock!

    Natalie

    Love all the BadRap dogs said...

    This is one of the few legitimate ways they should pass on...old age,illness or aggression issues that can`t be resolved.
    I`m glad Morley had some good days with Nicole before he had to leave.

    katie said...

    I've adopted three senior dogs now, and even though it was hard hard hard at times (I lost my last one to a brain tumor after 15 months), I don't regret it one bit and I'll do it again when the right oldster comes along.

    Lucysfabrics.com said...

    I love old dogs!!!

    We adopted our Chow Chow at 9 years old, because his owner passed away and no one would take him. He is 12 now and besides being a little deaf, he's doing just fine. The vet bills have been minimal with him. I wish people knew that old dogs don't always equal high vet bills.

    Donna said...

    > So I ask you this: please, when I am old and > wrinkled and forgotten, and when my mind is eroded by the ravages of time, let there be someone... anyone... who will pull me from the shelter and take me home and love me for even one precious week before it's my time to go. Please let there be someone out there who will honor my faithfulness and show me that my life mattered. And that I deserved to be loved.

    Amen, Indeed.

    anon - SPCA is just a generic name that private shelters use. Each SPCA runs independently and has its own practices and policies. Some private shelters will euthanize pets as a service to the pet owners - usually for a fee. Public (city) shelters are obligated to take every dog in from within city borders, so they're the place where most low income people send dogs that they can't afford to care for.

    Anonymous said...

    Ahh, Morley. You are at peace. Thank you Nicole (and all of you senior loving rescue people!) for keeping an eye on these guys. All dogs should be able to experience the love of a family before they leave this place. Morley, your beautiful face brings a tear to my eye. RIP little buddy.

    Kirsten said...

    anon 12:04:
    As Donna said, Pit Bulls are banned where I live (and I'm quite new at the shelter). I passed on the senior dogs info to my manager, who likes the idea. It's doing the rounds @ work. We do have several nice old dogs up for adoption right now. But with stretched resources, and few foster homes, usually underage puppies and kittens, and recovering cruelty cases get fostering priority. That's why people putting their hands up to foster old dogs is such a great idea. I'm sure it'll catch on.

    Donna said...

    Good luck with that Kirsten. The more people care about the so-called 'unadoptables,' the better for all the dogs.

    Ken Foster said...

    Okay...this made me cry. In fact, I didn't realize I was crying until I heard the tears hitting my bed sheets. I know, it is totally corny but true. And, of course, I was snuggled between two pit bulls and a rottie at the time.

    I love the idea of a compassion hold, but I don't know if I could do it.

    The numbers of dogs becoming homeless, along with their owners, is really alarming.

    Anonymous said...

    I`ve always been afraid of adopting an older dog and now I feel selfish and wrong after reading this.
    I was never thinking about the dog.I was thinking about my grief and sorrow when I lose them.

    I`ve lost a dog at ~5 yrs due to illness and I`ve lost one at 17 due to old age and others in between.
    I`ve always thought I wanted to have them for as long as possible and that`s how I convinced myself and justified not considering an older dog.

    I was wrong.It`s not about my loss.It needs to be about giving them a good life whether it`s 5 weeks,5 moths,5 years or 17 years.

    Thank you Morley.
    I`ll never forget you.

    Anonymous said...

    I could do it but I'm in Texas. Hmmm, guess I should check out the Houston SPCA, aka Dr. Death's (Patty Mercer's) place. There would be nothing more satisfying than pulling a precious old dog out of lock up and treating them to the best for the last weeks/months of their lives. Who knows what they've been through. I just know hugs and soft bedding go a long way.

    Boris' Mom

    Amanda said...

    What a very touching post and Morley is handsome, even in his advanced age. Many thanks and kudos to those that strive to give senior dogs some comfort and love before they leave this world. It's a wonderful idea and very inspiring.

    Newman's Mom said...

    I was so touched by Morley. Those eyes say it all. I printed the picture of him & I have it on my desk at work. Morley, you will live on in the hearts you touched.
    Sleep well little man.
    Dona Fong

    Anonymous said...

    Sweet dreams old Morley. Say "hello" to Rags........We love you.

    Pam said...

    Something about these older guys really gets me when they come into the shelter-- like they've spent so many years on this earth, yet w/o having had the opportunity to experience what it means to be loved.

    Doc Sinister said...

    Since this post went up I've been trolling our local kill shelter's site, looking for older dogs. The oldest dog in their adoption program is 4, though a search of all their dogs reveals a lot of olders canines. (Not many older pits, as Donna and Tim have noted elsewhere many pits never see their second birthday.) I was surprised to find, among the great many pit puppies and young adults, a single 11 year old pit female (currently being fostered by the people who found her as a stray). I can't help but wonder what story she'd tell if she could - and I can't help but be greatful for the kind people who are fostering her. (Our kill shelter does not offer last rights, and what are the chances of an 11 year old even making it into their adoption program?)

    Another reason to adopt a senior dog? Some apartments (like mine, which doesn't allow large dogs of any breed) will make exceptions for older pets.

    Donna said...

    Hi Doc - Older dogs can be the first to go on the e-list because adopters aren't interested. If someone wants to help a deserving senior, I'd suggest letting the staff know so they can alert you to a new intake before they go down. Even so, you may have to hustle to get there as soon as you get the call. With so many dogs coming in the door these days, they may not stick around long. We just pulled a 12? year old pit/golden and while the staff was very happy to see him go home, they were just as relieved to have an open kennel for the weekend incoming.

    Doc Sinister said...

    Thanks for the info Donna - that's what I suspected might be the case.

    Stacey said...

    I love your blog and I love this post. I'm a volunteer with the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City and one of my best friends is a pit bull named Atlas. He ended up at Animal Control after the breed ban took effect in Kansas City, Kansas. Luckily for him, he was brought to the HSGKC which is a no kill shelter.

    I take him chicken every Saturday, and spend at least an hour with him, just letting him climb all over me, snuggle on my lap, and giving him some good old TLC. What a love!

    Thank you for this wonderful blog. I'm such a fan!

    koolmama1970 said...

    To whoever wrote the prayer, it really lifted my spirits and brightened my day. May I please have you permission to copy this to hang in my office. Thanks!