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Senior Dogs Are for Everyone

Nobody wants a senior dog. That was the prevailing wisdom a decade ago. So senior dogs that found themselves in shelters were routinely euthanized. Why waste shelter space with a dog that was going to end up euthanized anyway? 

Sherri Franklin knew that wasn’t true. She had been a longtime volunteer at Bay Area shelters, and her favorites were the seniors. She started Muttville in 2007 to rescue senior dogs and find them new homes. As Muttville grew over the years — from a small operation out of Sherri’s home to a robust volunteer-supported organization on Rescue Row — a lot of people discovered how wonderful senior dogs are. That first year, she rescued 27. This year, they’re on track to rescue over a thousand – making the lifelong total over 7,000. Turns out, seniors are perfect for everyone.

Muttville alum live in all kinds of homes: with families, young single people, senior citizens in assisted living communities, students living in on-campus housing — you name it, and there’s a Muttville dog who has experienced it. Every week Muttville receives so many incredible updates, and one recent success story is of Jo Jo Potato (aka Jocelyn #5540).

Jo Jo was an obese tan chihuahua found as a stray in Stockton. She lingered there for nearly three weeks before Muttville swooped in and saved her. She had a large umbilical hernia and was sick with kennel cough. Muttville saved the day and brought her into a foster home who introduced her to her new mom, Brittany. 

Brittany and Robert adopted Jo Jo in May 2018. They had adopted another senior several weeks prior who passed away unexpectedly, leaving a chihuahua-shaped hole in their hearts they wanted to fill. It’s been a little over a year now, and Muttville wanted to check in to see how they were doing.

What made you consider Jo Jo?

We were heartbroken after losing our other dog a few weeks prior, but we knew the only way to get over the sadness was by saving another dog. We talked to the staff at Mutville and they recommended Jo Jo because of her personality — they said it was impossible not to smile with her around, and they were right. We haven’t stopped smiling since we adopted her. 

What has been surprising this time around adopting a senior? 

It has been so wonderful watching as Jo Jo has blossomed. We brought her home after a surgery and she was pretty lethargic … then all of a sudden she healed, and she became this ball of energy and personality. We were kind of like, ‘OK, she’s an old, fat chihuahua who wants to nap all day.’ But it turns out that when she wants to turn it on, she turns it on.

What has Jo Jo taught you about senior dogs?

I wouldn’t adopt anything but a senior going forward. Jo Jo has taught me how perfect senior dogs are — they’ve lived full lives and know so much already. They don’t need to be potty trained; they don’t need a lot. They’re themselves and they know it! And you just get to see them blossom.

Why should people consider adopting a senior dog like Jo Jo?

Seniors are so great. I work for Pet Camp here in the city, and working with dogs before I came to Muttville exposed me to the gentle, slow speed of seniors. It’s wonderful to navigate life through her eyes. She’s playful and active and funny and quirky. That, to me, has been probably the biggest lesson. Just because they’re old doesn’t mean they’re boring or dull. Jo Jo is the life of the party wherever she goes.

One piece of advice for people looking to adopt?

Hesitant about adopting a senior? Go meet them. You’ll know. There are seniors that are going to be difficult to care for, but then there are seniors who are just like any other dog out there. They are no more work than having a young dog. That’s the surprising thing. I think having a senior dog can be as easy as having a younger dog if not easier — definitely easier than a puppy. They’re used to routine and there’s a maturity to it. In fact, it’s been such a breeze having Jo Jo that we recently adopted a senior pit bull from Muttville to add to our family.

Bunny Rosenberg is Muttville’s director of community engagement, overseeing outreach events and chairing the annual gala. She is the board VP for Sweet Farm, a nonprofit farm sanctuary, and serves on the SF Commission of Animal Control and Welfare.

Shelter Zone features a shelter and rescue group each month. If you would like to contribute, contact

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Main article photo by: Courtesy Muttville Senior Dog Rescue