Life

You Won’t Be Able To Put Down “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts”

You Won’t Be Able To Put Down “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts”

My Old Dog, Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts is my new favorite book. Alongside Lori Fusaro’s gorgeous photographs, Laura T. Coffey tells the stories of nearly two dozen homeless dogs, each of whom was adopted as a senior, and given a chance to live out their golden years as a cherished pet and beloved family member. Coffey and Fusaro take the readers through the doggy doors and into the homes of the families who have adopted the old dogs. We meet George Clooney’s beloved Cocker Spaniel, Einstein, who travels everywhere with the actor, begging for exotic cuisine all over the world. And author David Rosenfelt and his wife Debbie Myers, who, through the Tara Foundation, have made it their mission to rescue as many unwanted dogs as possible, no matter the dog’s age, health, or size.

“When you have two dogs, getting a third is a big deal,” David told the author, “But when you have twenty-six and you get a call saying that a golden retriever is going to be put down at three o’clock, you take a twenty-seventh.”

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To be completely honest, when I was asked to write the article for My Old Dog, I attempted to mentally prepare myself. You see, when it comes to dogs, I am the pawfice softie and the literal town crier. Stories about dogs overcoming adversity, or putting their lives on the line to save someone else, or even a video of a little boy getting a puppy, all of that stuff, turns me into a big blubbering, tearful mess. So a book about senior shelter dogs who were in need of homes, oh man, that’s my kryptonite.

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Four million dogs and cats are put down each year in shelters across America. The older animals are the highest risk for euthanization. In her Introduction, Laura writes about the time she and Lori spent traveling across the country getting to know senior dogs, and the people who want to help them.

It turns out that senior dogs contend with some of the same issues as senior humans: in a culture obsessed with newness and youth, they can get sidelined or, even worse, shunned…Shelter dogs over the age of six or seven should not be considered damaged goods. Instead, they should be snatched up quickly because they’re probably pretty much perfect.

Within the first couple of pages, it is clear that Laura and Lori do something amazing in My Old Dog. While the subject of old dogs can sometimes be uncomfortable for people—perhaps it can seem too hopeless, too heartwrenching, too insurmountable—the authors make it something inspiring by capturing the dignity and zest for life that these old pups demonstrate day in and day out.

In the book’s foreward, musician Neko Case writes:

Some people think it might be too sad to adopt an older shelter dog. I get that. As dogs age, they often face health problems — or worse — and who among us doesn’t want as much time with our pets as we can get? But always remember that special superpower of dogs: they live in the moment. They live for today. They enjoy what they can enjoy right here and right now. We humans tend to worry and fret about our illnesses and frailties — but dogs absolutely, unabashedly do not. This is just one of the many lessons we have to learn from them.

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Lori’s pictures are buoyant and cheerful. Laura’s recounts of their stories are equally so. We meet Bob Fitzgerald, who adopted retired racing Greyhound, Jimmy Chee, in January 2014, after series of hardships:

It was right around this time that Bob ventured out to the farmers’ market where he met Jimmy Chee. He still smiles when he thinks about how quickly they connected that day.
“He just came up and he leaned on me,” Bob said. “I spent a long time with him. I didn’t want to leave without him. I think it was kind of a thing that was meant to be. He needed someone to spend time with him, and I needed someone to spend time with me.”

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There’s also Maddie, a 7-year-old Shih-tzu who was adopted by 75-year-old Madelon Weber at no cost through the incredible ‘Seniors for Seniors‘ program, and helped the grieving widow enjoy life again.

The book is absolutely beautiful.

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My Old Dog is not sad, it is not about dying, it’s about living. And much like the senior dogs themselves, the book is full of life and humor and an inextinguishable spirit.

Don’t get me wrong, I still cried. Stories like Chaney’s, a retired military dog who reunites with his former handler; or the nuns at Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine, who went into the shelter with a plan to adopt the dog that no one else wanted; and Healey, the blind and abused American Staffordshire terrier, whose adopter, Teresa told Laura and Lori, “I’ve never seen a dog transform the way Healey did — ever. He is no longer shy, scared, or broken. He is confident. He is lovable, he is kissable, and he never, ever growls. He has overcome so much. . . . I can’t tell you how much forgiveness this dog carries in his heart,” all had me weeping for sure.

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But more often than not, I found myself moved by the boundless joy the book evokes. I brought the book out at parties to read a favorite line or two, recommended it to strangers at the dog park because, well, they’d get it, and one time, while I was reading a particularly uplifting chapter on a crowded subway, I found myself actually kissing the book. I hadn’t fully realized that I had just laid a big wet one on a book until I saw some fellow commuters smile at me, but that’s what My Old Dog does. Reading these dogs’ stories, and looking at their beautiful faces, feels like a hug, or better yet, a big slobbering dog kiss. Each chapter felt like the incredible, loyal, full-of-love, and gray-at-the-muzzle dogs were by my side. I was, and still am, envious of the people who adopted them.

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I used to think adopting a senior dog was a charitable act that people do out of the goodness of their hearts. But since reading My Old Dog, I’ve come to learn that the experience is as healing for the owner as it is for the pup.

They may not be able to see very well, or chew kibble any more, or get up a flight stairs on their own. But the one thing these old dogs know better than anyone, is how to love.

Pick up your copy of My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts here.

 

All images via Lori Fusaro

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