MALONE — More and more older dogs who have been loyal companions to senior citizens are turning up at North Country Animal Shelter.
Most times, their owner has died or moved into a nursing home or another place that doesn’t allow pets.
Sometimes, the person can no longer feed and care for the animal properly, and their family or caregivers are unwilling to or can’t take on added responsibilities of pet ownership.
That leaves older dogs like Shasha, Maya, Pup, Little, Lola and Georgiana awaiting adoption at the shelter.
The shelter is doing what it can to make older-dog adoptions easy, and it doesn’t cost new owners a thing.
The free Senior-to-Senior Program gives dogs 7 years old and older to responsible owners who are 65 and older.
The program applies to senior cats, too.
The shelter tries to match people with dogs that fit their lifestyle, Shelter Director Shirley Morton said.
“If a dog was raised in a quiet, senior home, you don’t know how they’re going to adjust if it went to a family with younger children around or other animals,” she said.
“We take the time to find a home similar to what they had.”
The shelter is housing about 10 senior dogs, 30 puppies, 30 senior cats and 20 kittens.
Dogs are a little harder to place and can live as long as 15 or 16 years, so matching an older canine with a willing senior citizen makes sense.
“If it’s a dog that’s 10 years old, they’ll live another seven or eight years, which is just fine for a senior person,” said the shelter director.
Morton recently had to tell her family not to get her a puppy after she lost her 16-year-old dog to cancer.
“I’m almost 70, and if a puppy lives 16 to 20 years, I’d be in my 90s or not alive. It’s not fair to the puppy to live longer than I would.”
And that is why the Senior-to-Senior Program can be beneficial for everyone.
“We’re giving them free to a good home that is best fit for that dog,” she said. “We don’t want senior dogs placed where they’re not happy.”
In making the matches, the shelter would determine whether the senior is financially able to care for the pet and has a family member or someone else willing to take it or return it to the shelter if something happens to the owner.
Morton said some seniors considering pet adoption might have concerns about the financial end of caring for an older animal, since more veterinary care might be needed as the pet ages.
But another part of the program’s adoption agreement is the medical-care decisions for an older pet.
“If something should arise or if a drastic illness develops we couldn’t foresee, we’d do whatever is necessary,” Morton said. “We’d make a qualified, educated decision and then ask that the owner to return the dog to us.
“I’d rather have them back with us instead of them running loose and getting killed or starved to death.”
Dog and cat adoptions are handled from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at the shelter.
Information about the Senior-to-Senior Program can be obtained by calling 483-8079.
Email Denise A. Raymo:email@example.com
HOW TO HELP
The North Country Animal Shelter is always in need of money and food donations, but some specific items are especially appreciated.
A multi-species milk-replacement powder called Ultra 24 is mixed with water to feed puppies and kittens, said Shelter Director Shirley Morton. It is easier for them to digest than milk and ensures baby animals get enough high-density protein to grow and develop properly. An 8-pound sack costs about $30, and the shelter can go through several bags a month when feeding so many puppies and kittens.
Other items the shelter frequently needs are Pedigree and Purina Cat Chow, leaches, flea collars or other flea treatment, toys and blankets.
Donations may be brought to shelter from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 124 Bare Hill Road in Malone or mailed to P.O. Box 813, Malone, NY 12953.