An older dog might be incontinent and have to wear doggie diapers around the house. It may also be blind and deaf and maybe even suffer from dementia.
But a group of Florida advocates say senior dogs make great family pets because they know so much already and only need love and understanding and a soft lap or sofa to lie upon.
“When I see that silver face, I just fall in love,” said Kerri Bauer, a foster parent of senior dogs with Vintage Paws Sanctuary of Sarasota. “When I see a dog that is older and can’t walk or is incontinent and know that we can make a difference by helping them, I am willing to put in any energy it takes. And it usually only takes the correct medicines, correct love and correct care.”
From 1 to 4 p.m. on the third Sunday of every month, Bradenton’s Motorworks Brewing, one of the most dog-friendly places in the city, hosts Yappy Hour, an event that showcases a different animal rescue each month.
The featured rescue on Sunday was Vintage Paws Sanctuary, which started rescuing senior dogs in 2004.
People who support Vintage’s mission can adopt for about $125 or become foster parents where Vintage pays all veterinary and feeding expenses.
Organization president and founder Jennifer Hummel and its event coordinator, Bauer, along with some foster families who came in support, may have changed some minds about senior dogs.
Bauer is a foster parent to five Vintage Paws’ senior dogs. She also has a husband and two small children.
“My kids love it,” Bauer said, explaining that the senior dogs are quite playful with the children, but only for about five minutes at a time, not for hours on end as young dogs might be.
“I think senior dogs are fabulous for several reasons,” said Ruthie Heffernan, a Vintage Paws supporter. “You don’t have the whole puppy thing where you have to be with them every two hours and train them. They are well past the stage where they chew things up. They are much more easy going and not as energetic, so they are perfect.”
Hummel, owner of Ace Pet Resort, which is where Vintage Paws is based, said the mission of her organization is to provide a home-like environment for senior dogs to live out their lives instead of dying by premature euthanasia. The organization is hoping one day to build a “retirement home” for dogs.
The reasons people give up their senior dogs include complexity and cost of care, the death or incapacitation of the owner or just because the dog was “too old,” Hummel said.
Hummel’s message to families considering giving up a senior dog is that there are many, many options out there other than giving the animal up. Even Vintage Paws is willing to help people keep their pet in their home.
“My message would be, ‘Keep your dogs, please,’” Hummel said. “They love you and want to stay with you. There are a lot of vets who will help. But if you can’t, please find a reputable rescue. Don’t put your dog for free on Craigslist. Please don’t do that.”
Vintage supporters Bill and Kathy Meyer of Osprey are currently foster parents of three senior dogs. They have five dogs of their own.
“It makes you feel good that you have done something to save an older dog and they have so much love,” Kathy Meyer said as she sat at a table at Motorworks, which always invites dog lovers to bring their dogs in while tasting their 30-plus beer brands. “We have a 16-year-old Vintage Paws’ dog that is blind and deaf but she is so loveable. If people could see that, they would want a senior dog.”
Added Bill Meyer, “Even though they are a little more work when they are blind and deaf, you got to love them.”
Vintage Paws’ adoptable dogs can be seen on the organization website, vintagepaws.org.