In the dog-adoption world, the older pups are the ones who are often overlooked by potential adopters. This is because senior canines may have less energy and show a mellower demeanor than their younger counterparts. They may also carry a host of health issues that come with their advanced age. This is why for most people, adopting senior dogs is not a popular practice.
But for Alice Mayn, the opposite is true. When she met a 12-year-old Golden retriever named Lily in 2007, her life and perspective were changed in the four months she got to spend with her.
Lily landed in an animal shelter in Sonoma County, California, and Alice was the one who volunteered to pick her up and foster her. It was love at first sight for both parties when they first met.
“She came out of the kennel and gave me a kiss,” Alice, now 74, told TODAY.
With her infectious enthusiasm, Lily charmed everyone who met her. She was clearly loving life despite the multiple health issues she had, including a nasal infection, a tumor on one eyelid, seizures and a blood disorder. A photo of the happy dog below sums up her whole personality, according to Alice.
“That’s the epitome of who she was: just constant joy,” she said. “You know, ‘Life is good. I may be really sick and I may be really old, but this is great. I love this.’”
Unfortunately, her time with Lily was cut short when the dog died in her sleep one night in 2008. The following day, Alice had the idea of starting a non-profit dedicated to helping rescue and find homes for dogs like her beloved Lily.
Of course, the organization was named after her: Lily’s Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary.
The sanctuary, located in Petaluma, California, spreads across five acres. The dogs there experience all the loving and care they could get, with volunteers present 24 hours a day on the site to supervise the furry residents. There are also dedicated “cuddlers” who dedicate their time to doing just that with the dogs.
“We think these dogs should be treated like family pets and we get as close to that as we possibly can,” Alice said. “It’s a happy place.”
To increase awareness about the “joys and rewards” that adopting senior dogs can bring into one’s life, Alice launched this year’s inaugural Saving Senior Dogs Week. The event runs from November 4 to 10 in partnership with 10 other senior dog rescue groups across the country.
Through this effort, Alice hopes that it will also draw attention to the unfortunate fact that senior dogs in shelters are often overlooked when in fact, dogs older than 7 provide benefits to its adopters.
“For the most part, they’re very easy to bring into a household because they’re settled. A lot of them are well-trained,” she said. “They’ve been through their puppy stages — they’re not chewing anymore; they’re not running.”
Some of the dogs there ended up needing new homes because their owners are unable to care for them anymore. Others are left on the streets. But no matter how they came to be in the sanctuary, these dogs tend to exude gratitude, according to Alice.
“You look in their eyes and you can see their behavior and you just know how grateful they are,” she said.
They’re also really resilient. Many of the dogs who end up in the sanctuary have a host of health issues and therefore had short life expectancies. But they defied their illnesses and lived much longer thanks to proper medical care and all the love they receive from the people around them.
“That’s the thing you learn from these dogs: No matter how bad things are, there’s something good out there. Relax and you’ll feel better,” Alice said. “What we get from these dogs, it’s just amazing. … They deserve love and good care and happiness.”
Alice hopes that her efforts result in more collaborations among senior dog rescue organizations so that more people would be encouraged to have them as pets.
“None of us can do it by ourselves. None of us can save all the dogs,” she said. “There are a lot of dogs out there that need to get saved and we just need to help each other and get more people involved. That’s the only way it’s going to work.”
Watch the video below to hear Alice talk a little about the joy that adopting senior dogs can bring into a household.
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