GLENVILLE — Finding a forever home for elder stray dogs can be tough, but it just got a bit easier for those coming into the Animal Protective Foundation.
The Grey Muzzle Organization, which supports senior dogs, has awarded the shelter a $10,000 grant to assist with medical care for senior dogs. It’s the third year that APF has received the grant and in 2019 alone it was able to treat and adopt out 22 senior dogs.
One of those was Gigi, a 12-year-old pug and pitbull mix, who had to have a mammary mass removed before she was set to leave the shelter. Another was Estelle, who was transferred from Schenectady Animal Control and is around 8 years old. She had the same type of mass removed, and was found to have renal insufficiency (or kidney failure).
According to Amy Duskiewicz, the director of operations at APF, senior dogs tend to stay longer at the shelter than their younger counterparts, in part because they require more medical care. Another factor is that for some, adopting an older dog is too emotionally risky.
“The thing that we hear most often from folks is that they have just lost a pet recently and they’re not ready to get into another relationship with a pet knowing that they’re going to be gone sooner than later,” Duskiewicz said.
“The people who do adopt our seniors, whether it’s the dogs or the cats, they usually are intentionally coming in because they have soft spot for the seniors. They understand and appreciate that these pets deserve [a] loving, wonderful end of life.”
Those who adopt older dogs also tend to get a clearer picture of the dog’s personality and energy levels.
“You get a better sense of how they’re going to be in your home as compared to teenage dogs,” Duskiewicz said.
The Grey Muzzle grant helps APF and potential adopters get an accurate view of each senior dog’s health as well.
“One of the things that we prioritized was doing blood work on all of our senior dogs before they go for adoption. That’s to help people have some confidence in what they’re taking on,” Duskiewicz said.
A portion of the grant also funds dental care, which many stray dogs that come to the shelter need. The other most common medical treatment needed for senior dogs is mass removal and testing. That was the case with Gigi and Estelle, both of whom tested negative for cancerous cells.
This level of medical care can be expensive for APF, depending on how many senior dogs it takes in and the severity of their health problems.
“We expect that we’ll end up helping between 20 and 30 dogs this next year as well with that grant money. It all depends on the dogs coming through… One pet might only cost a couple of hundred dollars to care for and others [might cost thousands],” Duskiewicz said.
The cost of adopting a senior dog is $175, which hardly covers the vaccines and initial medical care. The grant helps to close the gap between the adoption fee and the expense of the medical care needed for senior dogs to be adopted.
In the future, APF hopes to make its senior dog care program sustainable so that that gap won’t be quite so wide and they won’t depend entirely on grants.
“We have a vet care fund that people can always donate to that goes toward specialized medical care for pets in our facility. That’s a way that people can help us continue this great work,” Duskiewicz said.