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:

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Truly CA on YouTube:

Truly CA on PBS Video:

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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...

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...

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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

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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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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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The "adorkable" senior dog named Bunny

Choosing to adopt an older dog can be rewarding in many ways. For my friend Shelah Barr, owner of Happy Hounds Massage, the little old dog she met transformed into an adorkable bundle of curiosity and seeker of sunshine.
In Shelah's own words, this is what happened:
I first laid eyes on Bunny in 2009. I had gotten calls from a few volunteers about a dog who had just arrived at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue who seemed to be in pain. I can't believe what I saw when I got there - what a mess! She had been on the streets for a while, then someone had shaved her entire head, ears and body, but left the long curly foxtail encrusted fur on her legs and paws. She had a rash, was hopping off one back leg and goose-stepping with the front ones, trying to get someone to pay attention to her. What a clown. Anyway, I checked her out and had my suspicions about her knees so after a quick visit to the vet the next thing I know she's had surgery on both knees and I'm rehabbing her! And now I can't get rid of her. 
She's the oddest dog I've ever had. She has immense curiosity about people and things - she walked up to a guy jackhammering with genuine interest in the jackhammer and him! She's not afraid of anything, loves big dogs, thinks cats are the best thing ever, and has the strangest penchant for sitting and laying down in driveways. She's recently expanded her proclivities to crosswalks, wheelchair ramps, and a nice cozy space right next to the active streetcar tracks. She even plopped down in front of the neighbor's house where the driveway was going to be built. People like to theorize why she does that, but I think we'll never really know why. Just another mystery that is Bunny!
You never know who you'll fall in love with, but I think Shelah now definitely knows why senior dogs rule. 

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My vacation included cleaning sleepy eyes, offering affection, and sausage bits to stray and pet dogs in Turkey

Going on vacation should be fun. When you have a dog, if you cannot take them with you, leaving them behind can be tough emotionally. It's also not fun if your separation is distressing for both of you. When you love a dog like I do, and your furry best friend is aging rapidly, you choose to stay with them every chance you can rather than leave them, even for an hour. You can question my relationship with her and call the depth of my attachment unhealthy, but I can look back now and say with confidence that I squeezed every ounce out of our limited time together.

Image from

Up, Up, and Away!

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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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Maddie's Fund President Rich Avanzino will retire this summer

There are few people in animal welfare I admire more than this guy, Richard Avanzino. When I first started writing about dogs after adopting my first dog from the San Francisco SPCA, I learned about a man who fought for the life of a little dog named Sido. As the President of the SF/SPCA in 1979, Rich stood firmly against the current California law that allowed someone to “destroy an animal like a piece of furniture." Thanks in part to his efforts, the law was changed and Sido was given a second chance.

"San Francisco Superior Court Judge Jay Pfotenhauer ruled that the right to dispose of property after death does not extend to killing a living creature."

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There is no doubt if my big dog Cleo had been around at the time of Sido, she would have been euthanized, but fortunately perceptions and practices changed, thanks to the work of Rich, the SF/SPCA and Maddie's Fund. I will always be grateful to them.

Maddie’s Fund® announced that its president, Rich Avanzino, will retire this summer [...]

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Nine ways an old dog shows that they love you

It has been such a gift to have a dog grow old with me. Adopting her as an adult made our experiences interesting, and after our years together, I'm convinced that senior dogs rule. 

Spending time together I learned about her likes and dislikes. We discovered her favorite, over-the-moon, reward. Hint, liver or sardines, in either order, or even better, together.

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Living with my first old dog had me experiencing life in a new and unexpected way, giving me a point of view that helped me better understand my aging parents.

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