When Ed Brower lost his wife to cancer, he felt lost and alone. A retired manager with the Vallejo school district, he no longer knew how to fill his days. His daughter, Tracy, took him to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco, where they met a spunky Poodle named Felicity. Wearing a festive sweater and bows in her ears, Felicity had come to Muttville from a high-kill shelter in Los Angeles.
“She was going to be executed there,” Ed says. Like many older dogs in need of homes, Felicity was once not considered adoptable. Despite good health and a friendly disposition, her age (estimated as around seven years) marked her as less desirable than a puppy or younger dog at most shelters.
Muttville, however, is a different kind of dog rescue, designed to reach out to senior and special needs dogs, offering them the extra care and time they need to find suitable homes. A no-kill, cage-free rescue, Muttville has saved over two thousand dogs and continues to take in new ones every day.
Ed and Tracy connected to Muttville through its Seniors for Seniors Program, which helps match senior citizens with older canine companions. The program waives Muttville’s adoption fee and covers the cost of all medical care before adoption. If a health problem leaves a dog owner unable to care for the pet at some point in the future, Muttville happily reassumes care, an arrangement that provides a sense of security for seniors who have the desire and ability to care for a dog but aren’t sure what they’d do in an emergency.
The Seniors for Seniors program also hosts a regular “Cuddle Club,” offering seniors who aren’t able to adopt a dog the chance to spend an afternoon with some of Muttville’s sweetest residents. Muttville’s downstairs community room offers a cozy spot for visitors to snuggle up on couches with the dogs, giving and receiving affection and providing the mutts with essential attention and socialization. Cuddle Club visitors can also participate in some aspects of a dog’s care, like providing a walk around the block.
The Seniors for Seniors program makes adoptions possible for canines and humans who might otherwise not find each other. Judy and Jim Jorgenson of San Francisco wanted to adopt another dog after their beloved terrier died, but they were having trouble finding a good fit. An Internet search led Judy to Muttville, where she found Lacey, a Miniature Schnauzer with breed-specific congenital blindness.
Adopting Lacey without the Seniors for Seniors program “would have been out of our range,” Judy says. She and Jim live on a fixed income, and Lacey required medical care, including extensive dental work and surgery to remove a growth. Muttville took care of these costs so that Judy and Jim could welcome Lacey into their home.
Lacey is very confident for a blind dog, happy to forge ahead on walks and find her way around the house with ease. “We’re not terribly high energy, and she fits in perfectly with that,” Judy observes. At the same time, Lacey gets Jim out of the house regularly for walks and is exceptionally gentle with the couple’s grandchildren.
Relationships between senior dogs and people are mutually beneficial. The American Heart Association links pet ownership with a reduced risk of heart disease and greater longevity. Dog owners are also less likely to suffer from depression. As Judy points out, adopting a senior dog can be an especially good choice in later life, as older dogs tend to be calmer and more cooperative.
Felicity, the Poodle who was almost euthanized, now lives with Ed on his third of an acre in Vallejo, where she freely romps around the koi pond and vegetable garden. Ed calls her “the missing link.” As is so often the case with Muttville adoptions, it’s hard to tell whether Ed or Felicity is the luckier of the two. They are both enjoying a better life, thanks to Muttville’s Seniors for Seniors program.
Caitlin K. Clark is a writer and teacher living in San Francisco. Sadly, she can’t have a dog in her current apartment but is coping by volunteering for Muttville.