The Joy of Adopting a Senior Dog: In Memory of Maggie

For dogs unfortunate enough to find themselves left to chance in a shelter, their age has a lot to do with their odds of adoption.  The likelihood of an elderly dog getting a second shot at life and a loving home is frighteningly low.  However, because they often come with lots of good life experience, training, and manners, they can be the best companions.  You might find that opening your heart to a dog that has less time on this earth is too risky, but it could be worth it, even if for only a short while.  That old dog could be your best comrade and your favorite company, your most precious friend.

One little senior dog found herself advocated for by a team of United Hope for Animals volunteers when she needed it most.  She was abandoned at the Baldwin Park Animal Care Center, and she was weak and ill.  A typical Friday evening turned into a team effort to rescue this sweet pup, who would soon be named Maggie. While volunteer Claudia Angel phoned vets for a last-minute appointment, Director Laura Knighten coordinated with the shelter and with volunteer Janette Cooksey to transport her away from the shelter and to the life-saving medical care she required.  As it turns out, Janette not only gave that helpless elderly terrier a ride, she gave her a home.



Janette so beautifully writes of the joy she found in adopting a senior dog:

In July 2011, I was asked to pick up a Wire Fox Terrier from the Baldwin Park Shelter.  The Abandoned Terrier Rescue Association would then take the dog in to their rescue. 
I will never forget when I saw her in that kennel. We were told that she was a 1 year old pregnant female. Instead she was an elderly dog in very poor health.
With the help of Claudia Angel and Laura Knighten, I was able to adopt her that day.  Unfortunately, she was so sick I had to rush her to the vet.  Dr. Mitchell at Montrose Pet Hospital kept this poor little girl for a week.  She had pneumonia, along with many other health problems.  We weren’t sure she would make it.  But, she was a tough little girl and survived.  I picked her up from the vet a week later and brought her home.  The Rescue still wanted to take her in (no matter how old she was), but I felt so sorry for her.  I decided to keep her.
I have always adopted adult dogs (5 or 6 years old).  I have never adopted an elderly dog before.  The vet estimated her age between 15 – 17 years old or older.
She had many physical health problems.  She could not hear, had limited eyesight, she had no voice (she had been debarked), Cushings Disease, Liver Tumor, concave back and very bad teeth.  When the vet cleaned her teeth she told me that she had never seen such bad teeth in a dog.  Not only did teeth have to be pulled, but there was a foxtail wedged in the root of her tooth.
I could tell by looking at her that this sweet girl had a horrible life.  I believe she spent her entire life as a backyard breeding dog in a kennel having puppies. 
As I drove home from the vet with her, I heard myself saying “what am I going to do with this dog?”  She’s old and sickly.  And I shamefully admit I didn’t want to adopt her.  Little did I know the amount of love and joy this elderly dog would bring in to my life.  I named her….Maggie.
When I first brought her home she would cringe when I would try to pet her. She had no social skills. She was afraid of humans.  As time went on she let me pet her, hold her and she would give me little kisses.
Her greatest pleasure was meal time.  I don’t think I have ever seen a dog so excited about her meals.  Maggie had a joy for life.  She enjoyed the simple things….meal time and a soft bed.  She seemed so appreciative of everything I did for her.   Every time I looked at her, she would make me smile.
Maggie sleeping

Maggie in her bed

I have loved every one of my dogs, but Maggie was special.
Only a dog….only Maggie could have the forgiveness in her heart to love people again. After being treated so badly her entire life she was capable of loving people.
I learned more from this little girl than I ever thought I could. People would say that she was lucky that I took her in.  But I was the lucky one. She gave me so much.  Friends told me how kind I was that I took in this elderly, sickly dog, but it was Maggie that showed me how wonderful an elderly dog can be.
Although I only had her for a short time….I had to put her to sleep in July 2012, she taught me so much.
Maggie gave me an appreciation for the elderly dog. I would not hesitate to take another one in.  The senior dog that no one wanted became one of the sweetest dogs I have ever had. 
I miss her so much.  It was Maggie….this elderly, sickly Wire Fox Terrier that showed me how wonderful an older pet can be.
I am honored to have had Maggie in my life.  That elderly, sweet girl that I will never forget.  It is for her that I continue to rescue / adopt senior dogs.
Because of Maggie I recently adopted Buddy (aka Washington), a 17 year old Miniature Poodle who was surrendered by his owner to the same shelter.  He is such a sweetheart.


Thank you,  Maggie.  Thank you for showing me how wonderful an elderly dog can be.
 Thank you, Janette, for sharing with us Maggie’s story.  We are glad that she was able to spend the remainder of her life in loving arms.  
Maggie and Buddy have been lucky enough to retire in peace with people who truly care about their happiness.  Yet, so many senior dogs are passed over in their shelter kennels purely because of their age.  These dogs deserve to spend their golden years being loved.  Who knows in what condition they’ve spent their lives, but it was with people who gave up on them.  They need our attention just as much as the young pups that so easily steal our hearts.  
 If you are considering adopting an adult dog, please think about giving an elderly dog a chance.  

A Girl with a Heart for Animals

The average person may find it difficult to stand up for something they are passionate about and make a difference—especially when people say they are too young or too old.  Eleven year old Casey didn’t let that stop her from listening to her heart and making the decision to help animals.  She wanted to put her efforts into volunteering at a shelter for her Girl Scout project, but was told by many shelters that she was at least 5 years too young. Despite being discouraged, Casey did not give up. With UHA’s help, Casey finally was allowed to pursue her goal of doing anything she could to make the lives of these animals better.  

Casey, Girl Scout Volunteer

Casey Volunteering at Glamour Shot Day

“For my Girl Scout Bronze Award project, I wanted to do something to help a dog rescue program.” Casey said. “Most of all the rescues or humane societies require volunteers to be 16 or 18.  When we took one of our  rescue dogs for a check-up at Montrose Pet Hospital, I asked Dr. Mitchell if she had any ideas about who I might be able to work with.

“She helped me find Claudia with United Hope for Animals. Claudia met with my mom and I to share ideas.  She thought that it was important to get the word out about the great dogs at the Baldwin Park Shelter, so I decided to make a flyer and post it around La Canada, La Crescenta, Montrose and Pasadena.  

“I also wanted to do something for the dogs, so I made treats for volunteers to give them on Glamour Shot day.  My parents volunteered to work at the adoption events at Petco so I could go along to help.”

The tragic statistics for animals admitted to the shelter added to Casey’s determination. Without a rescue group to advocate for them, many animals have a mere 4 days at the shelter before they are euthanized. This upsetting information fueled Casey’s desire to change the lives of these pets, and her efforts have grown to be much more than a single project.  

Armed with the knowledge she has gained working with UH4A, Casey wants other kids her age to fight for what they’re passionate about, no matter what. According to her mother, she has built valuable communication skills and her confidence in herself has grown.  

 Casey’s mom, Lisa, shares how this project has affected her daughter:

“It has been wonderful watching Casey find an avenue to share her passion about homeless animals.  She spent a lot of time online and with Claudia learning about how United Hope for Animals works.  Spending time at the Baldwin Park facility opened her eyes to the fact that there are many, many people who do not care as deeply as she does about their pets.  She was shocked by the number of people in line to surrender their animals.  

“Casey has become a true advocate for these animals.  She keeps track of the animals that are available and follows up to see who has been adopted or rescued.  She sends emails and talks to family and friends about the importance of spaying/neutering and adoption.  She even collected money for United Hope for Animals in lieu of birthday gifts this year.



“United Hope for Animals put Casey’s donation in use to help pay for Buster’s medical bills.  Buster is a lovable guy who was suffering from an easily-preventable infection of the anal glands.  Read more about Buster’s story here.

 “Casey plans to work on her Girl Scout Silver award this year through United Hope for Animals again.  She looks forward to becoming an official volunteer at the Baldwin Park Shelter when she turns 16.  Until then, she is determined to continue helping with the adoption events and raising awareness about the problem of homeless pets.  

“How many eleven year olds do you know who would ask for donations instead of presents for their birthday?  How many kids would spend so much of their time helping others?  Change always starts with one person listening to their heart.  It doesn’t matter who they are, how old they are, or where they come from.  In this case, the power and passion of one child has made a difference in the lives of so many animals in need.”

United Hope for Animals is proud to help Casey help animals in need.Thank you, Casey, for being such a terrific teammate of United Hope for Animals!

End Suffering by Preventing Suffering: Spay/Neuter!


Volunteer at the S/N ClinicMany Americans would be shocked to know that just a few short hours south of Los Angeles, land of movie stars and sunshine, dogs live on the streets, scavenging due to starvation, dying of preventable diseases, and reproducing at a rapid rate due to a lack of spay/neuter resources.  The local Mexican pounds, or Perreras, fill up endlessly as a result.

“The percentage of animals [in the Perreras] that are either adopted or claimed by their owners is negligible,” Marlene Revelen, President of Animal Advocates of the United States (AAUS) says.  This means that most pets who enter the Perrera don’t make it out alive. Between January and June of 2012, 22,399 dogs were euthanized in seven Baja Perreras (Tijuana, Mexicali, Ensenada, San Quintin, Nogales, Saltillo, and San Luis Colorado).

While over 22,000 dogs euthanized in a seven-month period points to a staggering problem — there is hope. One of the most effective means of ending suffering in the Perreras is preventing pets from ending up there in the first place.

Every month, United Hope for Animals teams up with AAUS, 4 Paws, and other individual sponsors to support a spay and neuter clinic in Baja, California. The clinic travels to areas where people do not have the financial means to alter their pets, and in doing so provides this needed service as well as pet-care education.

Dogs after surgeryThe clinic team is made up of about 30 volunteers and three veterinarians, who devote a Saturday or Sunday from 9 am to about 6 pm, performing as many spay/neuters as possible.

Laura Sandoval of AAUS reports that there hasn’t been much need of advertising the clinic, as people share information with their friends and family. Dog and cat owners who could not otherwise afford to pay for the surgery line up each month, and often only have rope, wire, or shoe laces to leash their dogs, Sandoval said.

In March, the clinic team surpassed its goal of 80 procedures when a record number of 111 pets were altered: 77 dogs and 34 cats!

United Hope for Animals was able to sponsor 40 of these surgeries, thanks to generous donations to our Spay and Neuter Program.

We hope to continue our regular support and even expand it, increasing the number of animals we can help each month. For just a $20 donation, which goes toward anesthesia, sutures, and other medical supplies, you can sponsor the spay or neuter of one pet and prevent the suffering of thousands more.

With your help, there is hope. Please consider donating here!


Volunteer with puppyFamily after clinic

Happy-Not Harrowing-4th of July!



BANG! BOOM! CRASH! Happy 4th of July!

What to us are sounds of celebration, from firework explosions in the night-time sky, to fire crackers slamming against the ground, may be quite different and even horrifying to the ears of an animal. Well-meaning families often bring their four-legged friends to large crowded gatherings, pool parties, and picnics to enjoy our exhilarating Independence Day. Without preparations for a safe day for your pet, disaster could strike. Many dogs become frantic and nervous in these situations, sometimes even fleeing in fear. This causes a great spike in the number of lost/stray intakes at local animal shelters, where dogs sometimes never reunite with their owners. What can you do to keep your pet safe and sound this 4th? Here are some helpful recommendations:


  • Due to open gates and doors and loud, startling noises from fireworks, becoming lost is the top July 4th holiday hazard for pets. Keep your pet indoors while you are enjoying the fireworks show.
  • Keeping your dog inside with soothing music playing during fireworks can help him feel safe and secure.
  • If your dog is fearful of fireworks, speak with your vet for a recommendation for a mild sedative. Trembling, pacing, and heavy panting are all signs your dog is stressed.
  • For parties at home, keep your dog away from items like glow sticks and citronella candles, and busy with some special or favorite toys.

  • Keep your pooch away from forgotten plates of food and drinks. Alcohol, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, chocolate, and onions are especially dangerous.

  • For Fourth of July outings, plan ahead and bring a fresh supply of water and a doggie bowl.

  • Never leave your dog in a hot car.

  • Whether you are at home or away, make sure your pet is microchipped and wears an ID tag with a current phone number at all times. If you have moved or changed phone numbers since adopting your pet, verifying that the contact information registered with your pet’s microchip is up-to-date will help your pet get home faster if he should get lost.

I can remember my first Independence Day with my little Pomeranian, Romeo. Thinking it was a perfect opportunity to show off my sweet companion to friends, family, and other dogs, I popped him in the car and drove off to the nearest firework show. Not only was it horrendously crowded, as usual, but it was hot, humid and a bit bewildering for Romeo. This alone might have been stressful for him, but I had no idea what was in store when the first firework thundered in the sky above us! Suddenly, with a shrieking and shaking pup in my arms, I realized what a terrible mistake I had made. Minutes later, I was dashing into my car, frantic pooch in tow, wishing I had put more thought into his possible reaction to the earth-shattering sounds.

Romeo on Appalachian Trail

Romeo on The Appalachian Trail in VA, June 2012

Of course he couldn’t understand that these unexpected, intense sounds were to be enjoyed with transfixed “Ooos and Aaahs.” He just wanted to run in terror! Thankfully, he was fine by the time we got home and to the security of my bed, but I have never assumed he’d like to join me at a firework show since!

So, if you are not certain of your dog’s behavior in these types of festivities, consider having a back-up plan in case your pooch doesn’t handle it well!