Guest Post: Our Senior Dog Journey, "It began with Tara"

Maybe it's because I'm old. Maybe it's my wonderful memories of my own old dog. I don't know why but I am profoundly touched by senior dogs, and the people who foster and adopt them. This is why I am sharing a series of guest posts from Karl and Jessica Schneider.

They regularly share their stories and photos on the Grouchy Puppy Facebook wall. I had wanted to have one or two of their dogs be a featured reader of the monthly newsletter, but then Karl sent me the most wonderful story of their journey into the world of senior dog adoption. It is a long story featuring many dogs. It is perfect for anyone interested in fostering or adopting a senior dog.

It joyfully demonstrates the positive influence of a dog many times over. Their story is long with each dog playing a meaningful role, thus I chose to spread their stories into a 3-part series. I hope you enjoy each post, and look forward to your comments.



Our Senior Dog Journey: It began with Tara

by Karl and Jessica Schneider

Our story begins like many good ones do.  We never set out to adopt senior dogs, but shortly after Jessie’s mother passed away, her chocolate lab, Tara, came to live with us.  She was 8 years old at the time, and was the most amazing dog you could ask for. She was our first. 


Tara was an only dog with us for almost 7 years.  She really enjoyed being an “only” dog and to be honest, didn’t really get along that great with other dogs.  We were just fine as a one dog family, and didn’t really have any plans to get any more.  That was until one year when she was almost 14 and our neighbors asked us if we could dog-sit for their dog, Lilly, while they went on vacation for a week. 

Tara had gotten mellower in her senior years so we said yes with some trepidation. We were surprised at how well they got along and even played together.  It wasn’t long after that experience we started looking for a companion for Tara. 

We didn’t have a lot of guidelines.  We just knew it should be an older dog, and not a younger more active one.  Tara enjoyed her nap time and quiet time, and we didn’t want to take that away from her.  One day while I was out of town for work, Jessie texted me a picture of a dog (Bobo) that was featured in our local newspaper.  He was a 12 year old chocolate lab boy, very close in size to Tara.  We called the rescue that was sponsoring him and set up a visit at our home.  I wouldn’t say that Tara and Bobo hit it off right away, but she also didn’t give us any signs that she didn’t like him either.  As his foster mom was telling us his story, and hers, we realized that he needed to stay with us right then.  I think his foster mom was a little surprised by our reaction and tried to talk us out of it, but we both knew that he needed to stay with us.

This is really where our senior dog rescue story begins. 

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Maryland house, volunteers with big hearts, create sanctuary for senior dogs

In the movie, It's a Wonderful Life, you learn that every time you hear a bell ring, an angel gets its wings. Wouldn't it be nice to believe that every time a person or group chooses to help homeless dogs, especially senior dogs, that it is also a sign of something wonderful happening? Their compassion is a sign that the world at large, that humanity, is choosing to do the right thing, not because they are coerced but because it is the right thing to do. They are proof that not everyone is consumed by greed or narcissism, as much of the media would have you believe.

There are people and groups who understand that the compassion we show towards senior dogs will have a positive influence on the world. Watch this video about a Maryland retirement home for senior dogs, and be inspired:



 Via National Geographic

Nearly two-dozen dogs are spending their golden years at House with a Heart Senior Pet Sanctuary. Sher Polvinale and a team of volunteers at this Gaithersburg, Maryland, home spare no expense and care for the dogs' every need—from washing and feeding to medications and vet visits.

Click here to learn more about House with a Heart Senior Pet Sanctuary:

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The Five Myths of Having a Senior Dog

Three years ago, while looking across the room at my old dog, I had five fast responses to anyone fearful of loving a senior dog pop into my head. Reading through them this weekend, I still think they hold up and make good examples of why you should never let your fear of heartbreak prevent you from having an old dog in your life.

After our Cleo passed late last year, I have had many encounters with older dogs and each time they made me laugh and shake my head at these myths. 

Some people think having an old dog is the opposite of fun. I beg to differ with them. 

Check out these five myth-busters:

Myth 1. They're boring.

Fact: How can you be bored when you have this face around keeping you in stitches?

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Myth 2. They're expensive.

Fact: We eat the same foods as she does, only minus the kibble. Even her pills are delivered via high-grade liverwurst that we share.

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Coco the Pit Bull offers the best medicine for her truck driver papa

What's wrong with Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)? Because if Coco the Pit Bull and her papa and BFF Chris had not found themselves in Kansas City, Missouri when Chris collapsed, their story could have had a very different, and tragic ending.

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From the Huffington Post:

Truck driver Chis Price was worried about more than just his health when he collapsed in Kansas City, Missouri, while out on a haul last month. 

Price, whose home is in Tennessee, was even more concerned about his driving buddy: a sweet white pit bull named Coco -- who'd been with him all over, nonstop, for seven years, and who was taken away by animal control as Price himself was carted off in an ambulance.

There was good reason to be nervous. An estimated 3,000 pit bulls are killed in animal shelters across the country each day.

Read the rest of their amazing story 

Visit Kansas City Pet Project on Facebook.

Coco and Chris' story is a good example of why we need to end breed specific legislation. It does more harm than good.

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Angus the first SFFD search and rescue dog

Dogs will put their lives on the line for us humans, and it never ceases to amaze me. With my own dog, I did not take for granted her willingness to protect and watch over me. I see search and rescue dogs and just want to give them a treat, a pet or anything that is allowed, because as you can see from the photo here, when these dogs are on duty you have to respect their boundaries.

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Senior dogs give love even when you don't ask

Last weekend, my husband and I were walking in Napa before breakfast. As we passed by the fairgrounds, I slowed down to watch a man slowly walking by the entrance with his pair of Shelties. They were beautiful dogs and in the distance their fluffy bodies reminded me of my beloved Cleo. I smiled at them and seeing our interest, the man made his way in our direction. Nudging my husband, I whispered to slow down. Hopeful that he was friendly and wanted to engage with us, I was thrilled when the stranger steered his dogs directly towards us.

He told us how he noticed our interested faces across the parking lot. I half-listened to him and immediately spoke directly to the dogs. They were soft and silky, playfully sniffing us and leaning in for some pets. They swirled around our legs, very happy and comfortable with our affection. The man told us the dogs were seven and nine years old but from their energy level you'd never have guessed. 

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How beautiful are Shelties?     Photo credit: Jenny2513

That pair of senior dogs knew what they were doing. These Shelties were giving us some much needed love, even though they didn't have to. You know, it's not the first time I have noticed that older dogs seem to know stuff that we don't, like when to offer affection to passersby. It happened the week prior as I walked to the store in my neighborhood.

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Paying it Forward: 5 Ways To Ease Your Grief After Your Dog Passes Away

It wasn't easy to see my old dog pass on ahead, but I am determined to focus on the good that came from our time together. She inspired hundreds of good deeds over our nine years together. We raised money for local senior dogs during her #Cleo8 homecoming day celebration. She inspired a major pet company to donate an inventory scanner to a pet food bank. Throughout her life with us, Cleo's very presence walking down the street inspired smiles from children and adults alike.

Taking a page from Cleo's playbook, I wanted to share five ways that we tried to give fearlessly following her passing. Helping other dogs and dog lovers feels like something Cleo would want us to do. She came from a rural county shelter and knew hardship before us. As a part of our family Cleo knew love, good food, a healthy environment and a warm bed. Why not pay it forward?

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Our final gift: Why we chose in-home euthanasia for our dog

We were lucky. Though we still had to say goodbye to our beloved dog, being able to let her go while in a quiet home setting gave us as much peace as it probably did her. We had a great veterinarian but driving in the car, and any amount of time at the vet stressed our dog out, from day one. When she was younger, driving in the car 20 minutes meant she'd get the chance to spend an hour or two at the beach, one of her favorite places. We felt that type of stress was a fair trade, and I think she did too. Everyone, including our dogs, deserve the chance to die with dignity and in peace. 


Sometimes tragedy strikes and a peaceful ending isn't an option, but if you had the chance to give your dog the opportunity to pass on, from their own home, would you take it?

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Spotlight on Senior Dogs: Older dogs are worth every moment!

LilysLegacy.orgLook at this sweet old face. Sunny is an adoptable dog at Lily's Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary in Northern California. This is a rescue and sanctuary that we've been following for a couple years now. [Loving Old Dogs] Like San Francisco's Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, they help older dogs find new homes or have the chance to live out their days in a loving home environment rather than be discarded and forgotten in a shelter.

I believe both organizations are important to support because how we treat our aging population, this includes our companion animals, reflects back on us as a society.

I've been writing about the many valuable life lessons that my old dog has been teaching me over the years, and when I see that people continue to discard a dog just when they've matured into the best part, I'm grateful these two nonprofits exist. 

Imagine sitting with your favorite grandparent, enjoying their steady support and love when you needed them. Now look at Sunny and imagine the love and quiet joy an older dog can bring to a family. 

If our dog Cleo taught us anything, she showed us that old dogs are worth every moment of love and ounce of heartache...

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#MUTTScomics Remembers Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers is right! From day 1, to day 3,225, our sweet dog has shown us how grateful she is that we brought her home from the San Francisco SPCA.

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Meet Tennessee Therapy Dog Team Shiloh and Sandy

The Grouchy Puppy motto is, “Give Fearlessly Influence Positively” inspired by people like Sandy and dogs like Shiloh. Together they spent six years as a therapy dog team in Tennessee visiting nursing homes and a children’s grief camp. They positively influenced hundreds of lives over the years by fearlessly giving their time and presence. The following is a first person essay about their experiences [...]

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15 Beautiful Dignified Images of 9/11 Search and Rescue Dogs

There is something about a grey or white muzzle that grabs my heart. I see an older dog who has lived a full life and they have an aura of calm, because they know they are surrounded by love and loyalty for their companionship and service.

This is a portrait of Bretagne, living the quiet life of a retired search dog. It's been over ten years since he was one of almost a hundred search and rescue teams on the ground trying to find those missing at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Only fifteen canine members are still with us, living with their handlers at home. See their incredibly moving portraits in a book by photographer Charlotte Dumas. Get a tissue if you fall for noble and gentle furry features like I do [...]

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Nominated therapy dog works every day helping distressed kids

If you have ever whispered a secret to your dog raise your hand. Who was having a bad day when their pet out-of-the-blue came over to cuddle? The bond between humans and our pets is special. This real connection can have a positive influence on both human and animal.

To witness the human-animal bond demonstrated between a therapy dog and a distressed child is amazing. Dogs have a way of getting to the heart of the matter real quick. Feeling out of sorts? In my house it doesn't surprise me anymore when my dog senses my down mood, then gets so close to me I'm compelled to turn my attention to her, and away from my discomfort. 

Trained to encourage kids, a dog gives fearlessly

After sitting in a shelter a long time, imagine a sickly discarded dog finding not only his forever family but his perfect job -- in the process earning a 2014 Hero Dog Award nomination. Read Charles and Bentley's inspiring adoption story, and how this therapy dog team has found its calling helping our youth. 

Adopting RX

Charles Parkins lived in Florida when he and his daughter met RX. Charles was interested in adopting a dog who he could train as a therapy dog to work with him in the West Palm Beach, Florida Juvenile Detention Center.

Charles writes, "My daughter and I went to Big Dog Ranch Rescue and while looking at the 400+ dogs available for adoption we entered the “big dog barn” and were greeted by row after row of excited barking dogs. As we looked at all the dogs we found “RX” sitting in his kennel looking at us, not barking. We learned that RX had been there for awhile. He was found in the parking lot of a national pharmacy chain in a dumpster. He was heartworm positive." 


They adopted RX and renamed him Bentley in honor of his new life. As Bentley went through months of heartworm treatment, Charles recovered from a hip replacement. While they both slowly recuperated together they grew very close. Charles also began working on Bentley's training. 

"Life has a funny way of changing direction..." 

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Therapy Dogs "open the door to a connection" for Oregon Hospice Patients

Dogs have a gift when it comes to making a connection with people. I know a few shy and introverted folks who blossom when I walk up with my big dog Cleo. Their faces light up as we approach, and we spend a few minutes sharing anecdotes about dogs while they pet Cleo. This is one of the few times when she is willing to stop in the middle of her walk to "hang out" with someone who needs a little furry love. 

I've also seen the impact on hospice patients and their families when a therapy dog arrives. The warm body, the happy face and gentle demeanor can work wonders on the emotions.

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Read this wonderful example in Oregon of how therapy dogs are helping patients and grieving family members alike [...]

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