In March I wrote a post called Senior Dogs and the Gifts They Bring, https://dogstwentyfourseven.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/374/. It came from my heart as our lab is almost thirteen and I know many other sweet senior dogs. Older dogs have so many wonderful attributes: years of wisdom, a quiet gentleness, and love galore for their friends and family. Their behaviour is somewhat predictable and training has been well established, what is not to love!
I received a comment on my post from Jeff Narucki via Seniorpooch.com. I was curious who he was and what Senior Pooch represented. We emailed back and forth and have become friends. He lives in California and I found his side passion very interesting. I asked if I could interview him for my blog to share with others his great work! The following are my questions and his answers.
Q: Did you grow up in California?
A: No. I’m originally from NY (Levittown, NY to be exact, which is on Long Island).
Q: Were you raised with a dog in your family home as a child?
A: Yes. My sister brought home a stray which was our first dog. He didn’t last too long as he had some pretty bad aggression issues that we couldn’t work out. After that we got a golden retriever (Penny). Before Penny passed away we got Chuchi (A cocker spaniel/lhasa apso mix).
Q: How did your passion for Senior Dogs start?
A: It all started quite by accident. I was looking to adopt a dog and came across the dog that I wanted in Craigslist. I went to an event at the local Petsmart to meet him. “Bob,” was an awesome dog, his foster mom’s 2 year old was sitting on top of him playing with his ears when I arrived. Unfortunately, Bob needed a big yard to burn off all of his excess energy. I explained that I had a condo on the first floor but would make any accommodations to any dog that I’d take on. As it turned out, they were bringing over an older dog that would fit in perfect with my lifestyle. He was a stray who had spent 2 months in the shelter who the rescue volunteers had taken a shining. “Coal” wouldn’t look me in the eye and was hesitant to even take a treat from me. Something told me that he just needed a second chance. Although the rescue volunteers said that I could foster him first, I adopted him that day. Just because he ran away from home, didn’t mean that he didn’t deserve to have someone looking for him. I would be that person if no one else would. I renamed that flat-coated retriever/border collie mix “Boo Boo” and the rest is history.
Q: What made you decide to start your website and when?
A: After I had to put Boo Boo down due to chronic arthritis and bad hip dysplacia, I ended up adopting Rusty. Where Boo Boo was shy and reserved, Rusty is outgoing and vocal about telling everyone about what he wants, however they had the same nervous look in their eyes. Within a month of adopting Rusty I had the shell of SeniorPooch.com up planning on educating people on how great senior dogs are and that they present more benefits than challenges. The site really started to take off a few weeks later in June 2011.
Q: What are your goals for the site?
A: To continue to educate people that they can make a difference in the lives of senior dogs and the impact that even older dogs can have on our lives. I’d like to expand this educational role internationally and help change the perception of older dogs from being a burden, to being adoptable. My goal is to bring together the people and tools necessary to make this happen.
Q: How has it evolved over the years?
A: In the year that SeniorPooch.com has been live, it has gone from solely a personal tale, to one that includes an adoption page for senior dogs (http://adopt.seniorpooch.com/), as well as communities on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest to reach a wider audience in a variety of ways.
Q: What things have you learned with this site?
A: The challenges with adopting senior dogs are worldwide. There are a lot of great folks out there putting in the effort to save as many old dogs as possible. Many more than I would have expected.
Q: What attributes do Senior Dogs bring as a forever dog to a family?
A: They’re usually already broken in. They know what it’s like to be with people and you don’t have to go through the challenges that folks go through with puppies. Potty training is usually already taken care of as well. More often than not, and in every case that me and my friends have seen, older dogs know when they have a good thing going and they’re quicker to adapt to a new owner and show them loyalty. I continue to add to this list of benefits on an ongoing basis: http://www.seniorpooch.com/search/label/benefits.
Q: What are the positives and negatives regarding your work with so many agencies and shelters?
A: I’m very much at the beginning of my experiences with rescue organizations and shelters. Universally, they need as much help as they can get. If you’re interested in working with dogs, even if you can’t take on one of your own, checking to see how you can volunteer might be a great step to take.
Q: What three wishes would you love to make come true regarding your work with senior dogs?
A: I’d love to see:
1. More local focus on senior dogs and time put in by rescue and shelter staff to take older dogs to events and keep their website profiles up to date
2. Reducing the number of older dogs that need to spend time at shelters.
3. More local support for rescue and hospice service for older dogs to give them the extra leg up that they need to keep them out of shelters.
Q: How much time do you volunteer to the cause weekly
A: It varies from week to week. Some weeks I’ll spend 10-15 hours getting ahead or writing ads for adoptable senior dogs. Sometimes it’s just an hour or two. I’m in the process of talking with a local rescue to see how I can help them out more.
Q: Do you know sites we as Canadians could check out regarding Senior Dogs needing homes?
A: Petfinder.com is the best site in both Canada and the U.S.
Q: How can we make a difference in Canada?
A: Get the word out. Adopt a senior dog. Be seen with your senior dog. One of the big deciding factors to start the site was when I adopted Rusty and folks would come up to me who I didn’t know and asked if my last dog had passed and how great it was that I adopted a senior dog. I had one couple who stopped me in the park a couple of months back that live upstairs from me who commented how much I showed that I loved that dog (Boo Boo) and when they were ready, they got a shelter dog (5 year old mix) themselves.
Q: Have you meet some interesting people, who inspires you?
A: I was able to reconnect with the woman who rescued Boo Boo from the shelter just recently. I’ve also talked with some great folks throughout California, North Carolina, and Florida who have done a lot either directly working with senior dogs or have just taken in many over the course of time. In the UK, the folks at Oldies Club are another one of my inspirations.
Q: If people want to help your charity from Canada what can they do?
A: I’m not actually a charity, although I would like to add that element to what I do. If you’re looking to make a difference, I’d encourage folks to check out the websites of their local rescue groups and let them know how they can help. Alternatively if there is a person reading this that is reading this that wants to make a difference, they can always check out older dogs on Petfinder.com and donate money to help with their upkeep.
Q: Are there great books to read on Senior Dogs?
A: “Good Old Dog” and “Senior Dogs for Dummies” are two of my favorites. I have a few others that I’m reading now and hope to provide reviews on shortly.
Q: Tell me about your dog or dogs?
A: Right now Rusty (senior German Shepherd/Akita) is my only dog, which suits him just fine. He was adopted after being saved from being euthanized and put up in a kennel by a gentleman, Larry Abgarian, who I’m proud to call a friend, and whose 20 years or so of rescuing dogs I’ve highlighted on my site. Rusty’s nervousness around other dogs had a lot of folks saying he was unadoptable, but really he is just very forward, so I needed to work with him so that he knows how to best channel his energy when in the presence of other dogs. I’m happy to say that today he’s a neighborhood favorite and has lots of friends, both canine and human.
Jeff Narucki is originally from NY and found himself out in California (Northern California and then San Diego) due to work. He is a high tech product manager and has spent the last 5 years learning how to communicate more effectively with his canine companions. His home on the web is: http://www.seniorpooch.com/.
My husband and I are going soon to visit three dogs aged seven and eight years needing homes. We feel that the time is right to add another dog to our family and a senior pooch could be the perfect fit. Jeff put the seed in my head and I encourage others to think outside of the box for an awesome canine companion.
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