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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

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

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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Discover why senior dogs rule: Fall in love with Charlene!

Charlene is our newest chunk of love! This silly girl brightens up every room she enters with a wiggle in her step and a smile on her face.

Charlene is the perfect size for those leisurely strolls down the block and cuddle time on the couch.

Better hurry on down to meet her, we have a feeling Charlene will be adopted in a heartbeat!

Charlene is good with cats, too!

We think Charlene is between 8-10 years young, weighing about 13 lbs.

Find her at Muttville on Rescue Row in San Francisco.

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Why tick prevention medication and regular vetting of dogs is important

We live in San Francisco and had a dog who wasn't interested in going for hikes on local trails or up Mt. Tam. She loved a good neighborhood walk, and as a youngster, an afternoon at the beach or in the park. While we weren't terribly worried about her picking up ticks, we watched over her closely for fleas. We used a topical flea and tick medication every month that could penetrate her thick Husky-Shepherd neck fur. We also gave her monthly heart worm tablets.

Though we didn't like the idea of applying chemicals on our dog, we knew prevention was important and better than the alternative. In her final years, when she'd stopped going further than around the block, we stopped the topical flea and tick medication, and separate heart worm pill. We switched her to a tablet that offered flea control, heart worm protection and warded off intestinal parasites.

Unfortunately every year 1 in 79 dogs test positive for tick borne illnesses such Lyme Disease. Umbecca, a reader of the blog and our Facebook page shared this important story about a Catahoula dog named Ruger. I hope you'll read it and that it helps you understand better why our pets need to be protected from all nature of parasites.

Why tick prevention medication and regular vetting of dogs is important

Ruger was pulled by Janeen's Catahoula Rescue from the SPCA in Fresno, where he was turned in as a stray, with a plan to go directly to Oregon.  His vet check revealed that he has tick borne illnesses Lyme Disease and Anaplasmosis. He is currently in temporary foster care in California until he is well enough to travel. If you are interested in helping fund his medical or travel expenses, following his progress, or adopting him after he is well, scroll to the bottom for more information.

This is Ruger's story:


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Snoopy to unveil Annual Macy's Union Square Holiday Windows Featuring Adoptable SF SPCA Dogs & Cats

Celebrate the season by joining the San Francisco SPCA and Macy's for the 29th annual Holiday Windows event. The window displays feature adorable – and adoptable – cats and dogs who need loving homes. This tradition is one of the most beloved symbols of the holiday spirit in San Francisco.

On November 20, at 5 p.m., the Windows, inspired by the golden anniversary of the classic holiday animated special “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” will be unveiled on the corner of Stockton and O'Farrell Streets by Snoopy, this year’s special guest.


sfspca dog adoption
Photo credit: Rob Schroeder



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