In Praise of Adopting Senior Dogs

In Praise of Adopting Senior Dogs

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

This amazing post was written by Tuesdi Woodworth, one of the founders of Miracle GSD Rescue. (Check them out on Facebook.) We have adopted two seniors in our over 20 years of welcoming rescued German Shepherd Dogs into our lives. We wouldn’t trade our time with Sydney or Cinder for anything!


Our Cinder (adopted two years ago at age 8)


Our girl Sydney (gone to the Rainbow Bridge) adopted at age 8

As Miracle GSD Network closes in on our 800th Miracle Dog Rescue, we are proud to say that approximately 100 of them have been age 7 or older. At the same time it saddens us. We wish we could help more of the seniors – but to do that we need to help people understand the joy of adopting and fostering them – these dogs are passed over time and time again, because “It would be too hard to lose them so quickly.”

November is “Adopt a Senior” month. Almost all of the rescues that Miracle partners with have seniors in their programs. Wonderful seniors that are just…..WAITING for a home. And waiting. And waiting. They (and WE here at Miracle) would love to help more of them, but they cannot do it without more fosters and adopters! Everyone always wants the rescues to help the seniors and they get emails and messages by the dozen about it. But how can we save more when they can’t find them homes? When they know they will be there for months and months, because so many people pass them over because they want young dogs. It is just….WRONG. We have to somehow convince more people that adopting a senior is a wonderful thing! Your time with them will be extra special, even if it is a little shorter. How do we convince you? We thought by sharing the story of Miracle Dog #00 – King – might help!

I am sorry that this is going to be long – this is something I am really passionate about it. Please, Please – take the time to read it! I hope that we can convince even ONE person to adopt/foster a senior.

First – All of us at Miracle GSD are so grateful to the fantastic rescues that we work with! They all do their best to help senior dogs when they can, but they all have the same problem…convincing people to adopt them. People want puppies. People want “young” dogs. The Rescues can’t save nearly as many seniors as we would like them to. They simply don’t have space. Seniors tend to stay at the rescue longer, most of the time they can only have one or 2 in residence – as they could be there for months until adoption. That space would turn over multiple times in the same time period with younger dogs. So – they have to be careful. Their hands are tied. When a senior dog ends up in the shelter, it rips all of our hearts out. Yours, too! We all scream for help, and beg rescues to take them. SO – we ALL want these dogs safe, and we all agree they are SO deserving. If that is the case, then WHY aren’t we all ADOPTING OR FOSTERING THEM? Obviously, there are some valid reasons people cannot help a senior. Maybe they have a dog that is not dog friendly and can’t take another. Maybe they can’t afford some of the medical care that might be needed – mobility drugs or that sort of thing. Maybe they live in a home with lots of stairs just to get into it. And of course there are other good reasons.

But do you know what we hear most of all as a reason? “I would take him if I could, but I just can’t do it because I would be too sad that they would leave me too quickly- I couldn’t take it.” Now THIS- this is NOT a valid reason. That comes from fear, and it is selfish. Harsh words, I know. But hey – I can remember saying them, myself a few years ago – so I get why someone uninformed might think that. (Boy was I uninformed, then!). Let me tell you my personal story.

I’ve had German Shepherds, raised from pups, for over 25 yrs. Also rescued greyhounds for the same length of time. A few years ago, when our greyhound passed, we went back to the rescue to adopt another – they had several available under 2 years old. We had a GSD pup at the time, our second, and he was about 6 months old or so. Well – we got there, and they brought out the first girl to see us. OH MY, was she sweet and beautiful. She was a lovely golden color, and so soft and sweet. She slowly ambled up to us, gave us kisses, and went to lie on a bed, I loved her! They said “This is Tillie. She was adopted from us, and her owner died, so she has come back. She’s 8 years old.” MY HEART SANK. EIGHT? I said, umm we said we wanted a dog under 2. He said, Oh – I know. I just wanted you to see her because we really need to find her a home. We will go get another, younger one. He left Tillie there, looking at us, while he brought out the next one. She was adorable, too, and about 2 years old. Fearful, and tiny. Typical greyhound rescue that had just arrived from the track. We will take her, we said. But we kept looking over at Tillie. This beautiful, soulful girl. We just could NOT walk out without her. So we took both dogs. What a fantastic dog Tillie was! We NEVER even thought of her as a senior – she was just a quiet, fun loving presence in our home. She was with us about 3-4 years when she took ill, and we were unable to save her. How I cried when she went, but I knew we had given her a great life. We still had the GSD, now an adult, and the other grey. It never occurred to us that we had done anything special – and again we never thought about her being a senior.

A few years later, my GSD Hobie contracted a fast spreading cancer. He was only 7 years old. The last GSD I had had from puppyhood had lived 14 years, and died of old age. I did everything medically that I could to prolong Hobie’s life, but he died at 7. The weeks before he died (and I knew the end was coming) we did a ton of stuff together, a bucket list of sorts, and the time was super special. I savored every minute because I knew he was not going to be there soon. It was awful when he passed. But I knew I had given him a great home.

So I found myself dog-less. Ok for a few months while I grieved. During that time, I started to see more and more German Shepherds on Facebook popping up needing rescue, mostly in California. I had NO idea this was going on! I am in Maine – we don’t have thousands of dogs in shelters. And a GSD in a shelter would be very rare. I was blown away by what was happening around the country, which until then I hadn’t been aware of! And amongst all those dogs were seniors. Sweet, elderly, beautiful dogs betrayed. I had been planning on getting another GSD pup….but…..the more I saw these dogs, the more I thought – maybe I should help a senior dog. It might be easier – I wouldn’t have to housetrain a pup, run home from work to let them out…etc etc. The idea kept growing, and I kept seeing more and more of them. So I decided. I WOULD do it. I would save an OLDER dog that was on death row! So I did – with help – save a senior dog that was euth listed from a shelter in CA. I won’t go into the mechanics of how that was done here to move the story along. I was so proud, and excited. I had to wait a couple of weeks for his transport, and I was telling everyone here at home about it, and they almost all were asking me “Why would you put yourself through this again! You lost Hobie just a few months ago, and this is an old dog! He won’t be around for long and you will be heartbroken again!” And I kept saying – I will be OK. I am doing a good thing for this dog. I am saving his life! I’d thought and thought about it.

So – King arrived. The shelter estimate was 10 yrs old, I believe he was younger. 8 maybe. He seems to be around 12-13 now. He’s slowed down but he is still pretty active. I’ve had him longer than I thought I would. Can I tell you the JOY that this dog has brought me? He bonded to me the second he saw me. That very day. Don’t let anyone EVER tell you an older dog won’t bond with you. Don’t let anyone EVER convince you that you can’t train an older dog. I’ve checked adoption apps and done interviews for rescues and I have had people tell me that they don’t want an adult dog because of those very reasons. I’ve had them tell me that they want to have a young dog to grow up with their children. I DO understand this, I DO. But how about teaching your children some empathy, too, around this important issue. Imagine bringing a senior into your home, and teaching your kids the value of that – having them grow up with that kind of compassion for older animals? You know how I said when my Hobie was dying, I had a few weeks that were very special with him? We did bucket list sort of things, and the time was super special. With King – we live every day like that since the day he got to me. Because I don’t know how much time he has left, so from the day he arrived – our time has been special! That is how it is when you adopt a senior! And King is responsible for saving HUNDREDS of lives himself, because HE was the reason Miracle GSD Network was formed – his story brought our group together! He started it all! We call him Miracle Dog #00.

Seniors give SO much, and you need to do SO LITTLE in return. Seniors are easy. They are grateful. They fit into most households and packs easily. DO NOT BE AFRAID! When I lost my first GSD at 14, I was devastated. My heart was broken. When I lost my second GSD at 7, I was devastated. My heart was broken. When I lose King, I will be devastated. My heart will be broken. BUT – THIS time will be a little different. There will be a SWEETNESS, too. He would have been dead 4 years ago, if I hadn’t rescued him. Didn’t he deserve those years? I know his last 4 years were better than the prior ones he had lived. And he would have died in a cold, unforgiving place after enduring the crappy life he had been served up – would that have been fair? Because he was old? NO – I gave him something, and he gave me – and the rescue community something. So THIS time – with the sadness will be the sweetness.

Adopting a senior is a joyful experience, not a sad one – you will NEVER regret it. I promise. I would, and will, do it again with no hesitation, until there are no more abandoned seniors being euthanized in shelters. Adopt or foster a senior! From a shelter OR a rescue! If you adopt or foster a dog from a rescue then you are giving them space to save another – you are saving a beautiful life! Please consider it – you can make a wonderful difference in the life of an old dog!


The wonderful King – Miracle Dog #00

You can read more about Miracle GSD Network here:

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about.

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

New Year – New Challenges

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)


Those of you who have hung in with me over the years know that I usually try to interject some humor into my posts. This one is going to be just a little different. I want to talk, very seriously, about rescue.

Chief Guin Liesel

Chief (White), Guinevere (Black), and Liesel (Black & Tan)

As most of you know, we have been very involved with both canine and equine rescues over the past years. This post is all about dogs.

Blizzard Stairs

Blizzard, left tied to a tree without food or water when his “humans” skipped out on their rent.

All of our dogs (who I refer to as my “furkids”) have come through rescues. We didn’t start out to go that route (our initial plan was to buy a puppy). Rather than deal in negativity, I want to tell you that we’re so very glad, now, that we have adopted all our “kids” through rescues.


Cheyenne, the one who started it all!

If you haven’t been with me for the long haul, let me tell you that a dear friend of mine was an officer with a rescue in Georgia when we lived there. She introduced the idea of adoption to me as a logical alternative to purchasing a puppy, as she knew that we both work and that we would, necessarily, be away from home for longer hours than was good for a puppy. She could not have been more correct. I’ve never once regretted adopting an adult (or mostly-adult) dog.


Let me tell you a few of the great benefits of adoption.


  1. Rescue dogs are almost always past the “puppy” stage. “Puppy stage?” you ask. Yes, this is one of the first reasons we decided against buying a puppy. Puppies need to be raised very carefully. They need lots more constant attention than many feel able to give. Puppies need to be taught where they need to do their “business” and they need constant supervision and socialization to help them achieve their potential.


  1. Rescue dogs have (most often) lived with foster families who have learned the talents (and foibles) of each dog. They have learned how well housebroken (or not) a dog is. They’ve learned how each foster gets along with other dogs, often with children of differing ages, and frequently with cats. When you adopt from a rescue, you know – for the most part – who you are bringing into your family.


  1. Rescue dogs are already spayed/neutered. These are not inexpensive operations. For the girls, it’s a bit harder; but, for them all, it’s surgery. The rescues have already taken care of the medical bills associated with making sure your new “kid” won’t be having “kids” of his/her own. What this world does NOT need are more unplanned pups!


  1. Rescue dogs already are current on inoculations, heartworm preventative, etc. Two of our dogs had been heartworm positive prior to reaching rescue. The rescue went to all the expense and spent all the time required (extensive hands-on care to make sure the dog doesn’t become too active while on the remedy) to cure them before they allowed them to be adopted.


  1. Rescue dogs are (again, for the most part) already microchipped. If you wonder whether or not this is a necessity, please go back and read my posts about Nitro – or read “Nitro’s Journey Home” page on Facebook. Microchipping can be the difference between losing your beloved dog forever and having him/her returned to you.

Nitro saying, “Why, YES, it IS Snow! I think I’m going HOME!”

  1. Rescue dogs often have had at least rudimentary training. Once again, because they’ve been in a foster situation or spending lots of quality time with those involved with the rescue, most rescue dogs have, at least, some knowledge of how to act on leash. Many know other commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “come.” (“Stay” and “come” are extremely important for them to know whether they know it before or you teach them after they join your family.) Many have learned other fun tricks, as well.
Bears Obedience Grad Bear

Our Boy, Bear, The Graduate from Obedience Class

  1. Rescue dogs have known rejection. They appreciate when they are brought into a loving home. They show their love (sometimes it might take a while to earn their trust, but they will learn) in more ways than you can ever imagine. A dog’s love – once earned – is unconditional. They will give every fiber of their beings to their family. There are so many stories about how dogs have saved their humans’ lives or protected them from harm. Think of the German Shepherd Dog in Alaska who got the attention of the State Trooper and forced him to follow him to his family’s burning home. Then there are also stories of rescued dogs alerting their families to carbon monoxide, fires, a child having a seizure, and so on.

Our Much-loved Miracle (#307) Dog, Dolly! (Read her story in an earlier post)

  1. Rescuing a dog actually rescues three. The dog you bring into your family is one. The one who comes out of a possible high-kill shelter into the rescue is number two; and the dog that gets picked up off the dangerous streets is the third.
Syd & Dadcrp

Our beloved Sydney with Dad. This was the day we brought her home!

I want to add that adopting senior dogs is one of the most rewarding things we’ve ever done. We have adopted two senior females over the years. By senior, I mean over age 7 (in the case of German Shepherd Dogs – our breed of choice). Both girls had originally had loving homes, but human circumstances had changed their lives. One was caught up in a divisive divorce and, consequently, neglected by the one party she had to stay with. The other’s humans had developed health issues which negated their ability to properly care for their dogs.


Our current senior, Cinder! (You can read her story in an earlier post!)

If you’ve read my recent stories about the Miracle GSD Network and, especially, The Thulani Program, you’ve seen what wonderful older dogs are out there. Granted, adopting a senior is not for everyone. It naturally follows that these dogs will not be with you for a very long time, but the time that you give them will often be the best of their lives. Giving care and love to an older dog comes back 100-fold.

Guthrie T 1

Guthrie in the Shelter (Before rescue by the Miracle GSD Network)

Guthrie T 3

Guthrie T’s a Happy, HEALTHY boy  with the Thulani Program Now!

Let me finish this post with the one truism that encompasses everything I’ve talked about. I’ve said it, easily, 100 times. When it comes right down to it, I didn’t rescue my dogs – my dogs rescued me. They can do the same for you. You’ll see what I mean.



Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about.


Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

Tequila! (Not the Liquor or the Song, But Even MORE Uplifting)

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

Amazing Transformation! Just proves that, with love, anything is possible.

Amazing Transformation! Just proves that, with love, anything is possible.

This is the story of Tequila and her “mom,” Susan. I’ve asked other “Miracle Dog” (as well as other rescue dog) parents to share their stories. This is one that is especially heartwarming to me as this beauty was rescued through Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Dog Rescue just like our Dolly and Cinder. The “before” and “after” photos really tell the tale, but Susan’s heartfelt story, in her own words, resonates with the love she feels for her wonderful “miracle.”

Tequila now! I can hardly believe it's the same dog. She is absolutely stunning!

Tequila now! I can hardly believe it’s the same dog. She is absolutely stunning!

“I watched SWMGSDR’s FB page for over a year. At the time, I had my son’s shepherd here almost 4 years (till October 2014). She went back home to the UP. I was lonely for a dog after a couple months, so I seriously started watching Kristin’s postings and saw Tequila and her intake picture just got me in the gut. I applied and ended up getting her Dec. 23, 2014. The first couple days she was a little aloof – just watching me. I found an old tennis ball in the closet and she just lit right up. We played and played. After that she was at my side every minute, like most GSD’s are. It was challenging at times, at first. Noises really can set her off. Snapping, popping, scraping, blow dryer, vacuum…the list goes on. She pants and paces and drools a lot. Then she settles down. I try not to make a big deal about it and go about my business. It’s gotten much better now.

Tequila taking it easy

Tequila taking it easy

For a while, she would pee outside the bathroom door when I took a shower because she couldn’t see me, but won’t come in the bathroom because she doesn’t like the sound of the shower. She is terrified of stairs, so if I was in the basement too long she would get into the garbage or pee at top of steps.

Which toy to choose?

Which toy to choose?

There were times I wondered what I got myself into, but gradually things started getting better. She started to relax and got more confident. I stop and think she must of had a horrible life and who knows what happened to her. She has become my constant companion and snuggle buddy. She’s very obedient. I use a soft voice and it’s like she just gets what I’m saying. She sleeps on the foot of my bed. One night she was panting and rocking the whole bed, so I quietly said, “Quit panting,” and she sighed and quit panting!!

Are you SURE you don't want to play more?

Are you SURE you don’t want to play more?

She absolutely LOVES tennis balls. Chase, chase, chase! She will put the ball right in my lap and keep bumping it with her nose like reminding me to throw it. Or, if I’m standing, she puts it on my feet so I will kick it!.

Don't worry Mom, I got the car!

Don’t worry Mom, I got the car!

She’s a great watch dog – almost too good. I really have to watch her if anyone comes over. Out in public, she is fine. We go to TSC now and then she loves it. She’s always a little shy with strangers, but not aggressive. At home a whole other story!! In my vehicle, if someone comes too close while I am in it, she will bark – big time. She has given me love and makes me feel safe. We live in the country and who knows who may pull in your yard. I love having a dog to care for and love on again. I’ve had shepherds since 1996. They are the best breed out there. Even though she is a mix with some collie in her, she’s still very much a shepherd. We have come a long way in 8 months and I see her continuing to get better (but I think she will always be a garbage picker if I forget to put it up when I go to work). Still love her!! She is in the house loose while I’m at work. She meets me at the door with her ball. One time she couldn’t find her ball and she greets me with an old mousetrap that was laying behind the fridge (normally hidden by the garbage can). She has to greet me with something in her mouth. She has no accidents while I’m gone. At first, I crated her, but she hated it so I took a chance one day and left her out. No problems! She’s just the goodest girl in the world!!. That’s what I say to her when I come home.”

Is this the picture of a happy dog, or what?

Is this the picture of a happy dog, or what?

Isn’t that just the sweetest story? This match had to be made in Heaven, but the Miracle GSD Network and Kristin Bright at Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Dog Rescue were the vehicle used.

Ready for Mardi Gras (although every day is a celebration for Susan and Tequila)

Ready for the holidays (although every day is a celebration for Susan and Tequila)

It was terrific to meet Susan and Tequila at the recent “Homecoming” reunion. I hope to share more stories like this one in the coming weeks and months.

Tequila loves her

Tequila loves her “baby.”

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Comments” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about.

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!