Senior Dogs Get Second Chances at Happiness

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Senior Dogs Get Second Chances at Happiness

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Pops has a calm demeanor, a leisurely gait, and a deliciously white muzzle. The 10-year-old black Labrador retriever spends his days lounging, couch-surfing, and keeping close tabs on his human friends – older men and women with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. 

Friday, October 28, 2016 - 9:00am

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Pops is among the thousands of lucky dogs who are finding safe, stable homes in their later years. A mere decade ago, senior dogs rarely were adopted from shelters – and they still get overlooked today – but perceptions are changing for canine senior citizens. A senior-dog rescue movement has been spreading across North America, and the ASPCA, a longtime partner of Subaru of America, Inc., has been at the forefront. Back in 2005, the ASPCA and gave older shelter dogs a much-needed public relations boost when they designated November as Adopt a Senior Pet Month.

“The month of November is all about changing perceptions and opening up people’s minds to how wonderful senior pets can be,” says Joey Teixeira, manager of customer relations for the ASPCA’s Adoption Center in New York. 

The staff at Thalman Square fell in love with Pops because he had so many signature – and desirable – senior-dog traits: He was calmer than a puppy, intensely affectionate, and already house-trained.

“We definitely weren’t looking for a puppy,” Rebecca Rohwedder, a certified therapeutic recreation specialist at Thalman Square, says. “We didn’t want a dog who was rambunctious and extremely playful and running around. Our residents could trip and fall with a dog like that, and we didn’t want to make them nervous by any means. Pops is just so calm and relaxed. He loves to have his belly rubbed!”

The laidback dog has forged some close bonds at his new home. One 99-year-old gentleman keeps a supply of dog treats in his room for Pops and checks on him all day long. Another woman – a lifelong animal lover – takes Pops on daily walks. Other residents routinely can be found lying on the ground with Pops, stroking his fur, and telling him stories.

Get details on how you can adopt a senior pet.

Growing numbers of assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, and other long-term-care communities are allowing live-in pets like Pops because the animals help banish loneliness and boredom for residents. A Place for Mom, the largest senior-living referral service in the United States, said it is able to direct its callers to more than 9,100 communities that accept pets.

“This relates to what we do here for individuals in the last years of their lives,” Rohwedder says. “We want to make those years as good as we can make them … and it feels good to adopt a dog like Pops from a shelter and do the same thing for him.”  

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