Guest Post: Our Senior Dog Journey is Destined to Continue

I can't seem to put my finger on the reason 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.

Their story is perfect for anyone interested in fostering or adopting a senior dog. It joyfully demonstrates the positive influence of a dog many times over. Last week they introduced Bobo and Jameson to the family.

Today is the final part of the 3-part series, and I hope their story has resonated with you as it has with me. I look forward to your comments.


 

Our Senior Dog Journey is Destined to Continue

by Karl and Jessica Schneider

We learned a lot about how dog relationships develop having Jameson, Addie Maye and Schnapps.  Addie and Schnapps clearly deferred to Jameson, but he never abused his power. At that time, he was just happy to be with me whether I was in my office or working outside.  The three of them never really played together, and since they were all different shapes and sizes, we couldn’t take them all walking together, but they developed quite a special dynamic.  As you can see from this picture, Schnapps would curl up with Jameson, between his long legs.  We have several pictures like that.  Jameson was just such a kind and gentle soul.

Jameson and Schnapps

Jameson left us that August.  His body just couldn’t contain his spirit any longer, and I think he knew his family was in good hands with Addie Maye and Schnapps.

For a long time after that, it was just the two of them.  They were building their relationship.  They were also becoming the core of the family.  Schnapps is the boss, and Addie does his bidding.  When he barks in a certain way, she comes running.  Also during that time, Schnapps had several health issues which caused him to be away from home for many days.  Addie clearly missed her little buddy when he wasn’t around. 

Schnapps made it through all of those challenges and made friends wherever he went.  No matter what hospital he was at, he was always the most popular guy there.  One of surgeries caused him to lose part of his lower right mandible.  This causes his tongue to hang out all the time.  He also has only two teeth left.  Of course they’re the two lower front canines.  None of these challenges stops him from doing whatever he wants.  He eats and drinks just fine, although very sloppily. 

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Feb. 15-17, 2016 Helen Woodward Animal Center bringing Free Animal Welfare Workshops to Sydney, Australia

Four years ago I attended a mini-ACES workshop where effective tried and true ways to find families for orphaned pets. The session was led by Mike Arms, a man directly responsible for saving millions of animals. As President of the Helen Woodward Animal Center he is an inspiration because he was the first person I ever met in animal welfare who applied business principles to pet adoption practices, and how to raise compassionate children. 

Today, the Helen Woodward Animal Center, in partnership with Blue Buffalo, is very honored to bring The Business of Saving Lives, free of charge, to Sydney, Australia.

The Center has been providing brand new ways to look at animal welfare, marketing, social media, fundraising, humane education, and more through The Business of Saving Lives workshops for over 14 years with life-saving results. In mid-February this year, The Business of Saving Lives will travel abroad for the first time and Helen Woodward Animal Center has selected Maggie’s Rescue in Sydney, Australia to host the first internationally-located training.

“I’m very excited about the upcoming workshop and its potential to decrease euthanasia rates in Australia and enhance the outcomes for our Aussie companion animals,” explained Lisa Wright, Founder and Director of Maggie’s Rescue. “The workshop is bringing unique international perspectives on companion animal welfare and management issues that we feel will create progressive and forward-thinking dialogues amongst all levels of government and key stakeholders.”

Mike Arms

The Sydney, Australia-based The Business of Saving Lives Workshop will take place at the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney between February 15th and February 17th, 2016.

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Our Senior Dog Journey continues with "Bobo and Jameson"

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, and perfect for anyone interested in fostering or adopting a senior dog. They joyfully demonstrate 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. Their story begins with Tara, and follows with Bobo and Jameson. I hope their story resonates with you, as it has with me, and look forward to your comments.

 


 

Our Senior Dog Journey "Bobo and Jameson"

by Karl and Jessica Schneider

Jameson was about 10 years old, and had been at animal control for 7 days. His time was up. Fortunately, someone that worked there took a shine to him and brought him home.  We scheduled a meet and greet, this time at the foster Mom’s home. As before, we had two dogs who didn’t immediately take a shine to each other, but Jameson definitely took a shine to me. 

We told the foster mom that we would take him home right away. She was surprised, but could see the conviction on our faces. Jameson fit right in.  They quickly became our “Grumpy Old Men”.  It was like they had been together their entire lives.  Jameson helped Bobo, and us, to move on from the loss of Tara.

Bobo and Jameson

They would antagonize each other, but there was never a cross word between them. One of our favorite stories is of the time that Jameson was laying on Bobo’s blanket in Bobo’s spot.  He was very particular about his blanket and his spot. Bobo walked up to him and stood over him as we watched.  Not a sound was made, but we’ve always envisioned the dialogue going like this:

Bobo: Jameson, you’re in my spot.

Jameson: So what, I was here first, go lay somewhere else.

Bobo:  That’s my spot, why don’t you go lay somewhere else.

Jameson:  I’m not moving.

Bobo:  I’ll sit on you.

Jameson: No you won’t.

Bobo: I’ll sit on you.

Jameson: No you won’t.

Bobo:  Yes I will.  (at this point Bobo has begun to turn his body to position himself to sit on Jameson)

Jameson:  Don’t do it.

And then he sat on him.  It was one of the funniest things we had ever seen.  There was never a growl or a bark.  We have so many great Bobo and Jameson stories that I could go on forever.

Jameson was just an amazing dog.

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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

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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Why we should care about old dogs

When you think about it, we are not so different from dogs. And as I've experienced with my aging parents in the last years of their lives, there are overlapping priorities, behaviors, and desires between older people and older dogs.

November is Senior Dog Adoption Month, and a good time to draw a few dotted lines between what I learned from parents, and my beautiful senior dog.   

image from www.grouchypuppy.comWhy do senior dogs matter?

When you push past transparent efforts to pull on a person's heartstrings, there lies a much bigger issue, and it's serious. Old dogs are still disproportionately found at shelters. Sometimes they end up there simply because their family passed away. Other times they are discarded. I believe if people knew what they were missing they would seek older dogs out. They would care. My experiences have shown that as a dog ages, they enter a precious stage of offering valuable life lessons to us humans.

What sort of life lessons can an old dog teach you?

I'll start with a big one. Compassion. In today's world, politicians and talking heads are telling you on 24x7 news channels that every homeless person is horrible and just waiting to rob you. Yes, crime is real, but no, not every homeless person is bad, just like dogs in shelters are not bad. What is lost under these sensational headlines is the compassion and empathy for homeless people and homeless pets.

Give older dogs a chance to share their wisdom. People of all ages can learn compassion and gain empathy from an old dog. And from my experience, when you take the time to engage at their pace, your days become richer.

Simple needs win.

The older you get the less stuff you care about. Easy walks and laid back days are in order. You are at an age when you value quietude, and a warm soft bed. Savoring quality over quantity is how my dog lived her final years. She showed me every day the value of slowing down and being in the moment. Spending quiet time with her helped me be more present with my mother. I was more attuned to how my mother was feeling, and when she needed to rest.

Hat trick.

Shorter visits, earlier nights and smaller meals make up your day. Routines become more important as we age. I loved how my senior dog knew exactly when she wanted to go for a walk each afternoon, and I loved how my dad went to the same restaurant every Thursday. They both reveled in their favorite routes. I think my mom verbalized what my dog could not about preferring smaller more frequent meals.

We humans are not so different from dogs. All of these points I bring up are things I experienced with my own senior dog, and both my parents in the last years of their lives. As I move through middle age I'm already seeing my needs and desires shifting, along the same patterns. Being around them increased my empathy a thousand-fold for life as a senior.

Man and dog are social creatures who age, and most don't want to do it alone. People and dogs respond equally to affection and compassion. We all appreciate kindness.

The positive influence from caring about, and for, older dogs is something you don't want to miss! Pass it on!

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My early exposure to dogs left a lasting positive influence thanks to my mother

Where I lived growing up, some girls were horse crazy, some obsessed with dolls, while I was nuts about dogs. Certifiable! I have my mother to thank for the early exposure to all things dog. As an animal lover since childhood, she would take her allowance to spend on riding and grooming horses on the outskirts of Seattle every chance she got. In 1969, after her youngest child began kindergarten, my mother became a dog trainer. She focused all her free time on dog training, showing our family dogs, and other dog-related activities for almost thirty years.

image from www.grouchypuppy.comMy mom recently passed away. Among the things she left behind for me was a scrapbook filled with images from her entire career as a dog trainer in Monterey County. It's impressive! She not only put her heart into her work with her students, but she also stood up in public, writing several letters to the local newspaper about important issues such as dog bite prevention and puppy socialization. 

I remember her teaching evening obedience classes, but with a child's memory. Looking through this scrapbook, I realize now how much she really loved teaching, and how serious she was about setting the dogs up for success. She gave frequent homework assignments, and even used our dogs for demonstrations. She told me how her last dog, Magi, was practically raised in her classes. I never made the connection before but now I see that their special bond is why she understood so well my own closeness with my dog Cleo.

It continues to amaze me the positive influence a dog can have on our life. Knowing how Cleo helped me manage my introverted nature, I can appreciate how dogs helped my mother's similar tendencies. No wonder she was never in a hurry to remarry when she had such a wonderful animal companion. As a doberman, I bet Magi also made mom feel protected at night.

I didn't realize it back then but my mother tried to instill in me, and in her students, the notion that dogs will give fearlessly to you. When you have a dog she taught, it's your responsibility to provide them with a safe and loving environment, and to respect their doggy nature. 

Thanks mom! I'm grateful to my mother for the early exposure to dogs. At an impressionable age, I learned not only how to be responsible for a dog but I also got a chance to experience the power of the human dog bond. That is a gift to any child, but especially so for an introverted one.

When did you discover your love, or special connection to dogs? Did you have a parent who recognized the positive influence of dogs early on?

 

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Older dogs can help you meditate and relax

With my first senior dog I discovered that older dogs can help you meditate. Spending our days together, I experienced real moments of complete relaxation and peace. Was it her zen-like personality, or as an older dog did she know something I didn't?

Look at her expression! Not sure about you but my heart rate is slowing just looking at her photo...

image from www.grouchypuppy.com

5 Reasons Older Dogs Help You Relax

  1. Soft snuggles rule and induce the production of endorphins
  2. Destructive puppy phase is long past, they're way more interested in just chilling
  3. Older dogs enjoy laid back walks more than marathon hikes or runs
  4. They can show you what aging gracefully looks like
  5. Feeling her absolute trust is incredibly empowering

If you are looking for a way to counter the stresses of the world, or need your own live-in yogi, consider an older dog. 

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Let an older dog teach you about life

As my friend says, adopting a senior dog isn't hard because you get to write the final chapter of their life. Isn't that a great approach? Rather than letting fear or sorrow motivate you, choosing to bring an older dog into your home and life in order to have your love and care be the last experiences they have is just wonderful.

You can't make old friends. Experiencing life with our own senior dog taught us a lot.

  image from www.grouchypuppy.com

Whether you have a dog who is approaching their senior sweetheart years, or you are thinking about adopting an older dog, here are some of the life lessons an older dog can teach you: 

  • Older dogs show you how to savor naps. No more 20 winks! Learn to let the wash of serenity soothe your spirit.
  • When you slow down to enjoy the sights and smells of a walk you often make new discoveries, even in your own backyard!
  • As they age, senior dogs love and appreciate feeling protected and nurtured as much as any puppy
  • None of us know what we will experience after we leave this earth, but feeling the steadfast fellowship of another being as we go forward is something we all would cherish
  • Living in the moment and focusing on the simple pleasures found around us each and every day is a gift, and something older dogs know well.

What has an older taught you about life?

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Nor Cal Elderly Couple's Animal Hospice Featured in KQED's Truly CA Shorts

Here in the Bay Area, our compassionate response to pet overpopulation and to finding homes for "less adoptables" like senior dogs has been admirable. I've been a supporter of Muttville Senior Dog Rescue for many years, and the incredible Lily's Senior Dog Sanctuary in Marin County for the past couple of years. 

For all that is available to animals in the Bay Area, more awareness about non-euthanasia options is needed. This Sunday, November 1, as part of a group of short films on KQED Truly CA you will meet an elderly couple in the North Bay giving dogs, cats, and horses, the chance to live out their lives with dignity rather than be euthanized because of age or disability. 

 

Last Stop in Santa Rosa

An elderly couple in Santa Rosa runs a hospice for dying animals that creates an alternative to pet euthanasia. Without a voice to decide their own fates, these aging and disabled animals rely on humans to make the best choice for them.

Tune into  San Francisco’s KQED 9 on Sunday, November 1st at 6pm PT  to watch this short documentary by Elizabeth Lo, in the Truly CA episode: Truly CA Shorts: State of Discovery, which features five short films exploring the California experience.

For more information on Truly CA:

Truly CA: http://ww2.kqed.org/trulyca

Truly CA Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KQEDtrulyca

Truly CA on YouTube: http://bit.ly/1JfMTOg

Truly CA on PBS Video: http://video.kqed.org/program/truly-ca/

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Saying goodbye to our dog taught me how to bid farewell to my father

Saying goodbye to our dog taught me something about how I want to bid farewell to every loved one in my life.

This time of year in San Francisco is especially beautiful. The pink skies in the evening are filled with all sorts of clouds, while the mornings have a slight damp chill as the marine layer slowly pulls back its cover off of the city. Frequently, I find myself rising before dawn so that I can watch the city wake up. The quietude allows my thoughts to roam, most recently toward thoughts of loved ones and death.

image from www.grouchypuppy.comMy beloved Shepherd-Husky, Cleo, died a year ago, and it was tough on us to witness her decline in health. She was a big dog, robust and full of personality, until she wasn't. I saw her, again, and again, meet each new physical challenge, and win. She faced allergic reactions to foods, diabetes, seizures, blindness and dementia. It was a huge blow to suddenly realize that she was fading, that the grim reaper had his grip on her and wasn't letting go.

I had to let go, before she did.

A year before Cleo passed away, our vet told us we would know when it was time to say goodbye to her. He was right.

Watching her closely, getting down on the floor to see what life looked like from her eyes, and just spending quiet time together, I saw her decline. Her body was steadily deteriorating no matter how much I loved her.

Cleo loved exploring the sights and smells of the city. She was the mayor of our neighborhood. From shopkeepers to school children, everyone knew her. She was larger than life!

The look of joy on her face after she had pooped was priceless. Her posture erect, she'd proudly kick dirt back over her deposit, daring the next dog to top it. No wonder people thought she was a boy. More than a few times I took a few handfuls of dirt in the face while I bent to scoop her poop. She would look back at me grinning. I'm sure my laughter fueled her zealous display.

It was heartbreaking when Cleo began losing control over when she pooped. I saw her face when it just rolled out of her and onto the sidewalk. She stopped caring about an activity that had been her signature for years. Now her wobbly stance and loss of control, produced a dispirited expression.

I learned so much about myself and what "quality of life" means from this dog. As she came to the end of her life, I appreciated why we should not dwell on the past, or only focus on the future. She showed me how to be present, and to quietly embrace our time with loved ones.

When the time came to say goodbye to Cleo, I felt that I had done everything I could to be ready. I would only find out if this was true later.

A year has passed and I have the chance to lean on those experiences, to see how they stand up with the recent death of my father.

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More people understand how wonderful old dogs are

Stroll down the street in San Francisco and you will see people happily walking, or sometimes toting in a modified carrier, a senior dog. In my neighborhood, especially on weekends, I see people of all ages with an older dog on the end of their leash or in their arms.

The tide is turning and attitudes about older dogs are changing. Just look at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue on Rescue Row in San Francisco. They have saved and rehomed more than 3,000 senior dogs since 2007.

If one organization, in one city, can have that kind of positive impact, imagine as more cities and communities across the country focus on ensuring our senior sweethearts have a forever home.

More people are appreciating how wonderful old dogs are...

www.grouchypuppy.com

Are you finding more people in your community loving a older dog?

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Major airline uses social media and a beagle to win hearts and return your lost stuff

Forgot your headphones in the seat pocket? I did. I'm probably also one of the few people who wishes the FDA Beagle will stop and visit me at SFO baggage.

This news from a major airline carrier out of Amsterdam is making me think hard about my next trip, and feel better about my carry-on. Watch this video from KLM Airlines:

From a teddy bear found by the cabin crew to a laptop left in the lounge. Locating the owners can sometimes be a challenge, so special forces have been hired…

 

KLM’s dedicated Lost & Found team at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is on a mission to reunite lost items as soon as possible with their legitimate owner.

Seriously, this is one smart airline to employ a dog as a goodwill ambassador, and delivery method. I can think of a few airlines, starting with United, who could benefit greatly from this same service.

First therapy dog teams giving out cuddles for stressed out travelers, now passengers could have their lost cell phone or teddy bear returned to them by a cute dog? Yes, please!

What do you think? Best use of social media and dogs from a major airline?

 

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This corgi puppy tackling stairs is everything

This little dog is trying so hard to manage these stairs. I feel his frustration. Anyone who has tried to work through their pain or anxiety when trying something new, and difficult, knows what this corgi is going through. You can tell he's trying to talk himself into one more step.

Next time I climb one of the many San Francisco hills and stairways, I plan to channel this little corgi. What a little motivator...

 

Who's with me? 

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City dog walks, who's happier?

Taking your dog for a walk is something everyone needs to do daily. The exercise benefits both ends of the leash. However, the next time you are out with your dog consider the stranger passing you on the street. If it's me, you should know that your dog may have just made my morning...

image from www.grouchypuppy.com

 

As much as I appreciate the blue bird of happiness, having this sweet puppy cross my path made my day. How about you? Do you get a shot of joy from a stranger's dog?

 

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Dogs are a healthy and positive influence on relationships | New Study

image from www.oregonlive.com

Another study is out proving how dogs are a positive influence on our life. This time the data shows that we are more likely to develop friendships and have healthy social interaction, thanks to our dog. 

From Oregon Alive:

The type of relationship they may develop ranges from a brief social interaction to the development of new friendships. Interestingly, the U.S. dog owners were much more likely than owners of other species to consider people they met through their dog as a friend.

People were even more likely to meet each other through pets than via their children's school, according to the research results, and walking your dog is among the top five best ways to meet new people.

Many of the pet owners also said their pets helped them establish relationships that led to tangible forms of social support in both practical and emotionally supportive ways.

Read more about how dogs positively influence us

Mine sure did! Tell me, has your dog helped you make friends or be more social? 

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