There are too many sad stories about dogs being ripped from their homes and left in shelters simply for being old. Just the other day I read about a couple who dumped their 14 year old dog just for being 14. I’m sorry but who does that!!
Just when they need a loving home and family, they’re left in a strange and scary environment. Too many are killed because they’re considered unadoptable, the “lucky” ones end up in no kill shelters, and some are really lucky and get to spend their final days in a foster/forever home.
What about those old dogs whose families can’t afford to or don’t want to pay for costly treatment? Do they end up suffering, or are they simply euthanised?
It’s so frustrating!!
These stories are beyond heart breaking and leave many, including myself, frustrated because we don’t know how to help. Of course we could foster or adopt an old dog, and many of us do, but sometimes that isn’t an option. Even when it is we may still want to do more.
The fact that animals are seen as property, having no more rights or value than a table, definitely doesn’t help.
Did you know there are actually some vets who don’t see much worth in old dogs? It’s shocking but very true.
Get on your soapbox
If you want to make a difference in the lives of senior dogs, perhaps it’s time to become an advocate. So what does that mean exactly? Simply put, an advocate is someone who is passionate about a cause, and does what they can to support that cause.
According to en.oxforddictionaries.com it is – “A person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy”
Why would you want to be an advocate for old dogs?
Here is why I advocate for them –
- No dog should end their life on the cement floor of a shelter, or at the end of a needle because no one wants them, and that is doubly true for an old dog
- Viewing animals as disposable, and in this case I mean old dogs, shows a fundamental lack of compassion in people, and that scares me
- It’s what I was put on this earth to do
- It’s good for my soul
Here is what you need to know in order to advocate for them
It’s up to you whether you want to go global or stay in your own backyard, but here is some food for thought. Local is easier to gather information about and easier to see the impact you’re having. If you do start off in your community nothing stops you from aiming for a wider reach at the same time, or when/if you’re ready.
Determine Your Strengths
It makes sense to make a list of your strengths before jumping in.
- Do you like to be front and centre on stage?
- Are you comfortable giving talks to smaller groups of people?
- Does your strength lie in the written word?
- Do you have great organisational skills?
- Are you happiest when you’re researching?
- How are you at getting people united on social media?
Knowing what you’re good at and most comfortable doing will allow you to make the biggest impact, in the best way you know how.
Know what’s going on
- How many old dogs end up in your local shelters every week/month/year?
- How many are killed?
- How many are adopted?
- How many spend their lives there?
- What reasons do people give for dumping their dogs? (can’t afford the vet bills, prefer young dogs, moving…and what is the truth)
- Do shelters have a retention program offering help, support and advice to keep old dogs with their families?
- Do shelters or rescues offer incentives to people who foster or adopt a senior dog?
- Are there local rescues who pull old dogs from shelters and find forever fosters/permanent homes for them?
- Is financial assistance available for people who need help covering vet bills?
- Do any vets offer a payment plan/reduced prices for lower income pet parents?
- What, if any, are the animal protection laws in your town/city/state (if you see that’s relevant to the way senior dogs are treated)
- How are senior dogs treated in other cities/towns/states?
- What resources do they have that can make a difference in your community?
Why is all this information needed you ask? Knowledge is power, and knowledge gives you confidence. When you’re well versed in an issue you can speak intelligently to anyone about it, no matter who they are and what they ask.
Don’t have all the answers yet? Don’t panic. You’ve learned so much about what’s going on with senior dogs anyone can see how influential you will be. If it’s a statistic, quote or piece of information you’re looking into, let them know. Is it something you hadn’t thought of or heard of before? It’s okay to say you don’t know but will look into it and get back to them.
Nothing wrong with gathering information and launching a campaign on your own. Truth be told I prefer to fly solo, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t connect with like-minded people. They may already have a lot of the information you seek, not to mention the power of many voices working for the same cause.
Helping out hands on in a shelter or rescue is a great way to gain a better understanding of the issues and challenges facing them, and senior dogs in the community.
Get on your soapbox
Where you get on your soapbox and what you say can depend on whether you’re advocating on your own or helping an existing group. Here are some ways to get your message out there, the ones you choose may depend on whose message you’re sharing.
Create a social media account just for your cause, and post often about what’s going on, progress, concerns…
Post your articles on a free website that’s easy to set up, and call on experts asking if they’d like to write a guest post for you. Tell them you’ll share a link to their project/rescue…
Search Facebook pages for goings on in your area and share any talks you’re giving, events you’re planning or just as a way to call attention to what you’re up to
Send a press release announcing your advocacy work to local newspapers. Do research on how to write one to give yourself the best chance of getting it noticed…and published
Speak at community events
Go to town meetings
Email local organisations/schools/universities and volunteer to speak
Set up a stall at local events and find creative ways to attract people to stop by. One way is by having a big banner of super cute photos of old dogs. Stay away from images of sad dogs behind bars, even if that is too often the case.
Stock your table with –
- Resource material and information about the cause, and make sure everything contains your website address, social media and other ways to get in touch
- A sign-up sheet for anyone interested in helping (include a list of the type of help you’re looking for)
- If you have a budget, even a tiny one, search online for websites that sell promotional materials and have pens, bottle openers or badges made with the name of your campaign and contact info
Organise a fundraiser
Whether you’ve decided to start a fund to help people struggling to pay vet bills for their old dogs, or a group you’re teaming up with needs money to help spread their message, a fundraiser is always a great idea.
From bake sales and candle sales, car washes and lemonade stands to dog walks for thousands, there is no shortage of fabulous ideas.
Put pen to paper or finger to keyboard
Surely compassion is something that should be taught in vet school! I don’t know whether it is or isn’t but based on some I’ve met I’m leaning towards no. If it isn’t craft a note asking why not, don’t they think it would benefit, and add a few ideas of how you think they could do it and topics they could discuss. For example – telling someone their dog is old wouldn’t be a very helpful diagnosis!
Write a letter to the editor(s) of your local newspaper(s) discussing the importance of caring for our senior dogs and what you’d like to see happen in your area.
Elected officials are the ones making decisions about the treatment of animals. Figure out what’s lacking when it comes to senior dogs, then write to them expressing your concerns and what you’d like to see done to protect these vulnerable animals.
Write articles about senior dogs and submit them to a variety of well-known pet blogs (check their sites to see whether or not they accept guest posts), pet magazines and newspapers
Horrified by what you’ve witnessed at your local shelter? Of course you want to highlight what’s going on but your number one priority is keeping yourself safe. Make a note of your concerns, days/dates, what you saw, who was involved and any other relevant information. Do you know someone who works or volunteers there you can speak with? Can you approach the person in charge? What about the board of directors? The governing body responsible for overseeing shelters in your community?
Start a podcast
If you love to talk starting a podcast is for you. It’s super easy to do, and it’s free! Make a list of potential guests, both from the local community and beyond and see the difference you’ll make in the lives of senior dogs.
Research anyone involved with senior dogs in one way or another –
- Shelter staff
- Organisations that offer grants to senior dog rescues
- Trainers with experience helping senior dogs
- Anyone else you can think of advocating for seniors
Never leave home without resources
Keep a stash in your car and some in your purse, because you never know when you’ll have the opportunity to hand them out. You may even meet someone willing to help distribute!
Media and those with a high profile
Research local journalists/tv personalities/writers and other higher profile personalities and see who has a soft spot for animals. Reach out to them to see if they’d be willing to write about your cause, interview you or front a campaign. They may surprise you and say yes right away so be prepared with your elevator pitch and a clear idea of how they can help.
Use the hashtag I created
An easy and clear way to spread your message is by adding the hashtag I created #seniordogadvocate.
Share posts of old dogs needing homes
What could be easier than hitting the “share” button on the post of a senior dog looking for a home, and trust me it can make a difference! Because it’s so easy be careful not to bombard your followers with too many posts.
Encourage others to foster or adopt an old dog
When someone you know is thinking of getting a dog, talk to them about adopting an old one. If they’ve never had a dog before, fostering is a great way for them to get experience, without the years and years of commitment. Most rescues pay for vet bills which is a bonus!
You attract more with honey
You’ve decided to advocate for senior dogs because you have a passion and want to make a difference. It’s too easy to start lecturing and getting in peoples’ faces, telling them how horrible they are and what everyone is doing wrong. I certainly find it easy!!
While I can relate to the depth of your passion and despair, and you want nothing more to go all wild west on them, that behaviour will never win you the support you want. In fact, it can seriously damage your cause, reputation and message.
Be well spoken, polite, gracious and well informed. Don’t get sucked into arguments and mud slinging, rise above and be graceful. After all, our beautiful old dogs are relying on each and every one of us to advocate on their behalf. That thought will always keep us on track.
You’re a star for wanting to make a difference in the lives of old dogs, now go out and shine as their advocate.
I think older/senior pets have so much personality and love to give! The thought of giving up any of my pets just because of their age is unthinkable. But saying that, I wonder if some of the people that choose to do so, do it because of financial reasons? Not that they can no longer afford the pet, but possibly they can’t afford the health care of their senior pet and think that by taking it to a shelter or rescue the pet will (hopefully) get the care they need? I’m not saying this is right, and it breaks my heart to see these pets out of their environment and taken away from the families they’ve known all their lives. And I agree that honey gets you much further ahead 🙂
Sadly I do believe there are cases where it is down to finances, and I know there are organisations popping up to help with vet bills. Of course it’s not widespread and not everyone is aware help might be available. I don’t think stats are available on the reasons, but I shudder to think how many are simply because they’re old. I’ve seen and heard many instances so it’s a fair bet it’s not uncommon.
Michelle & The Paw Pack
I could just never understand how someone could give up an old pet strictly because he/she is old or not as healthy as they used to be. My oldest dog is 10 and even though he’s still very healthy, I cherish every second I can with him and will continue to do so until he takes his last breath here with me by his side. Our pets, dogs especially, dedicate their lives to us. To reward that loyalty by getting rid of them during a time of their lives when they probably need us the most just seems so cold. Adopting and/or fostering senior and hospice pets is something I’ve been considering once we move and have more space. I know loosing each one will break my heart, but at the same time it will bring me some joy to know I helped an animal live out the rest of their lives knowing they are loved and cared for rather than abandoned and alone.
For those of us who truly love our animals, dumping them is impossible to even imagine. Fostering senior and hospice pets is a beautiful thing to do. I’ve lost dogs after 2 days and 3 months, but it’s all in how you see it. Of course it’s sad and heartbreaking, but knowing because of you they spent their last weeks and months (maybe even years) in a loving home is a feeling that cannot be matched.
Lola The Rescued Cat
We get so upset when we hear of an older pet being dumped just because they’re “too old!” We’re not afraid to get on our soapbox about it, either! Thanks for writing such a great post, and we hope it encourages other to get on their soapbox, too!
Nothing like a trusty soapbox to let our feelings be known. As a little aside, when I was leaving a job many years ago here in England, being the only North American there and not afraid to speak up, one of my parting gifts was a box that said “Hindy’s Soapbox.” Best gift ever!!
I strongly believe that anybody who dumps a dog just because the dog is old should be banned from dog ownership for the rest of their lives.
If only they can manage the ban, but it’s impossible. As a matter of fact more than one person that dumped an old dog walked out with a puppy. How is that allowed?
I think that without knowing I have been an advocate for old or elderly dogs for a long time. I had two bichons that lived for 18 years. I know how it is to have an elderly dog and how their life changes, so I guess that made me sensitive to this topic. I wish I could foster or adopt, but financially I cannot do it right now. That doesn’t mean I do not think elderly dogs deserve to end their lives happy and in a good place.
I’m sure you have been, you just didn’t attach a label to it! The great thing about fostering is the rescue pays all the bills. Smaller ones tend to ask that you pay for food but vet bills are their responsibility. Naturally contributing always helps but sometimes you can’t. Might be an option one day.
This is such a heartfelt and important post! I couldn’t agree more! The same can be said with cats too. It’s heartbreaking to here stories of how animals end up in the shelter. You are absolutely correct! It was not until I started volunteering that I learned about such vain reasons people dump their pets. I’ve heard everything from we are going on a 3 week vacation to my old pet is ill to they are old and I can’t take care of them anymore. It’s so sad and infuriating. I’m happy to do more to help senior pets. I can definitely step up and share more. That’s the least I can do in addition to volunteering and fostering. My best experiences so far fostering included fostering an older cat! No regrets! Happy to report that cat found his forever home by Christmas last year too!:) Hindy thanks for sharing, and being a great senior dog advocate!
Thanks Kamira! It is shocking, especially when, like you say, once you start getting involved the stories people tell. As I’ve mentioned I used to volunteer in the “oldies” room at a shelter in Florida, and one of the dogs finally got adopted. We were all so happy we couldn’t believe it, and don’t you know the next day they brought her back. Why? Because she didn’t know how to climb stairs! You just want to scream at this idiots. You are a great advocate for cats and doing so much to help by fostering.
What a terrific post Hindy! Great ideas for advocating for senior dogs in the community and educating others. These are all great ideas. It breaks my heart to see older dogs surrendered like they have no value anymore.
Love & Biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them
Thank so much Cathy, and these ideas can help no matter what cause someone wants to advocate for. It truly is heartbreaking and many times over the years I wondered if the people who dumped Red in a kill animal control facility ever gave a second thought to what happened to her. I always assume no, but who knows!!
It is heart-breaking to think that people would abandon a dog just because it is old. I do have empathy for people who can’t afford the vet bills and take a dog to a rescue hopeful that someone else will be able to care for the dog that they love. And I always wish that when rescues pay for the medical procedures that they would return the dog to the family that loves it. I’m glad that there are resources for people to get help with vet bills, and I wish there were more resources available.
It truly is heartbreaking when someone feels there is no choice but to surrender their old dog because they can’t afford the vet bills. It would be wonderful if more help was available, but how many dump them for no sane reason. Sad!
I hate it when people get rid of their pets just because they’ve gotten old. Taking care of a senior (whether it’s an animal or a human) is difficult, but so important because all they’ve given to us.
We can only hope when these people get old they experience the same lack of compassion they showed another sentient being.
These are great ideas no matter what your cause is. Very professional and thorough.
I hate seeing older animals dumped for whatever reason.
Definitely, these advocacy tips work for any cause.
The Dash Kitten Crew
You ned to make this into a printable booklet. It is so inspiring and worth a read for anyone who wnats to advocate and those who need to know why,
I love senior cats and will take one in if it needs my help. Well done on a fantastic post.
Thanks Marjorie. Do you mean for sale?