Homemade Beef and Carrots Topper Recipe

Rusty isn't a big fan of toys. Given the choice he's more likely to take a nap rather than spend time with a new stuffed rabbit.

If this sounds like your senior dog (or dog of any age, really) what are you going to do to add a little variety to their life?

Why not try a Supper Topper?

A Supper Topper is just what it sounds like: a special treat to top your dog's regularly scheduled meal.

Today's recipe is for my Homemade Beef and Carrots Topper. It's pretty simple to make. Here's the ingredients you'll need to get started:

Just Say No to Table Scraps this Holiday Season

If you look on the back of most pet food containers you'll see a warning about introducing your dog to a new diet too quickly. Most instructions that you'll find inform you that you should slowly introduce the new food while weening your dog off the old.

Why am I mentioning this now?
Well... right around this time of year there's lots of great things being cooked up in the kitchen and plenty of company around who might not know what treats agree and don't agree with your dog. Giving your dog a higher percentage of new foods than they're used to is akin to changing their diet as drastically as if you replaced their current kibble with another brand abuptly.

Even though I know what will and won't upset Rusty's stomach I've thrown him a scrap now and again. The outcome isn't always pretty as what comes out the other end be that during potty breaks or in the form of a deadly gaseous attack.

It seems that every older dog that I get has some issues getting accustom to new food, so this holiday season instead of dropping a lot of well-intentioned treats your dog's way, consider the following as a few tricks to help avoid causing your pal and upset stomach or worse:

  1. Tell you guests to not feed your dog any scraps. 
  2. If you're OK with #1, let them know not to feed the dog from the table.  At least you'll be able to monitor the situation better.
  3. Make sure any dog-height consumables are out of reach. 
  4. Limit any human food that you're giving your dog to things you would give them during other times of the year. Avoid chicken and turkey skin, as well as gravy and sauces. Also stay away from bread. It's way too tempting to throw your dog the end of a loaf of Italian bread because its tough like a biscuit. Trust me here. Don't do it. Dogs have a much more sensitive digestive system than humans and trying to digest that much grain is going to give some dogs (pretty much all the old ones I've had) the runs.
  5. Finally, watch their bowel movements, and if something doesn't seem right consult your vet.
More often than not you can get your dog back on track with a couple of days of boiled chicken (with the fat skimmed off) and white rice, but for medical issues, you're best to check with a professional first. 

Dressing up your dog for Christmas

Every year, thousands of dogs are forced to where either a Santa hat or reindeer antlers in the weeks leading up to Christmas. If this sounds like you and your dog, consider the trauma and ridicule that you're putting them through and... if they really haven't been that good this year, or they really like it, then by all means give them exactly what they deserve :)

Where's Santa?

Oldies Club - Champions for senior dogs in the UK

Pretty shortly after launching I was amazed at the traffic that I was coming in from around the globe. I connected with one of those folks, Victoria Clare from the Oldies Club, on Twitter. From their mission statement: "The Oldies Club helps older dogs find forever homes."

Sky's Ball Dance is a big hit with her foster parents
Since our missions are so common, and Oldies Club has been around for so much longer, I wanted to learn all about how they got started, what they're doing today, and what makes them tick. In the process, I also learned something about how adoptions work and that the things that motivate us to do right by our old canine companions is the same, regardless of which part of the globe that we live.

SP: First, can you tell me a little about the Oldies Club, its mission, and how it got started? How long has it been around?
VC: Oldies Club was founded back in 2005 by regular visitors to an internet forum who wanted to help an 13 year old dog called Ted who had been found straying and was was terrified in the noisy, stark pound kennels.  Publicity for his plight led to several home offers for him - many from people who would not have considered adopting a younger dog. 

After that, a group of volunteers decided that they would work together to promote other old dogs across Britain who might otherwise be overlooked.  It became clear that there were far more old dogs in need of urgent help than rescues able to give them appropriate care so we started taking some of them into foster homes of our own, and fundraising to support their medical needs. We became a registered charity in 2007.

We now work with over 100 other dog rescues across the UK to promote their old dogs. Every dog has a special writeup on their own page, created by our volunteers.  Often busy rescue volunteers don't have time to think of all the questions an adopter might want to ask, so we try to make sure that all the information you might need about a dog is written up clearly and in a way that makes them sound appealing!  

We also operate as a rescue exclusively for dogs aged 7 and over.   Although we do occasionally use kennels briefly when a dog has just come in, we try to get dogs into one of our volunteer foster homes as quickly as possible.  We feel that kennels are not the best environment for elderly dogs that may have specific medical needs and are used to a home environment. 

SP: How did you find out about it and made you want to help?  What's your current role?

Looking forward to a new year with has been around for six months and some sixty some-odd posts, not including those on adoption. I can't believe how blessed and/or lucky I've been at having been able to connect with quite a few folks that think that senior dogs are pretty cool as well. Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to contact me to see how we can work together or just to share your own story. My goal here is to inspire those who are considering adopting and older dog, but all of you are my inspiration.

I've gotten a lot of the tech work related to the layout and shop portions of the site complete. In the future I'll be streamlining the categories in the navigation, as well as including more sidebar items, including highlighted posts, contests, and links to other resources around the web. I'm also in the process of working on the first couple of videos, which I'm targeting for early next year.

Whew... that's no small amount of work still left to be done, so if there are particular things that you want to see or want to see more of one feature or another (or <gasp> things that you'd like to see less of), go ahead and comment below. I've also opened up the comments, so you don't need to register. Alternatively, you can always send me a note via the Contact tab, above.

Look for new interviews, tips, tricks, health, rescue, pet profiles, and other posts in the coming weeks. Maybe you'll even see a guest post or two.

Thanks again for all your support,

How to Break the Holiday Dog Adoption Blues

You've seen  the commercials:

The parents sipping their coffee by the Christmas tree as the kids run down stairs to unwrap their gifts and lo and behold, there is a puppy with a ribbon around its neck.

What a great present!

Fa-la-la-la la-la... wait.

Let's pause on that for a moment and look at some of the top reasons for folks relinquishing their pets to shelters:

  • behavior problems
  • not enough time
  • cannot afford care
  • allergic
  • new baby

With the exception of the last item, the first four are reasons that are only obscured by the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  Let's look closer on how to avoid these:


December Adoption Update

I couldn't be any happier with this month's Adoption Update.

We've had months that more dogs have been adopted, but this month, my person favorite, found her forever home:

The lovely and talented, Hazel, found her forever home.

One of the reasons that I started this site was to learn as much as I share about all the good from bringing a senior dog into your life and how much it does for all parties involved.

I think Hazel's story highlights how impactful even the simplest of decisions can make in someone else's life. In this case, recognizing how special Hazel is and caring enough to do something about her predicament.

My thanks go out to Lori, Karen, and Hazel's foster mom for looking out for her and working to eventually find her a home to call her own.

RUFF building new facilities for dogs left behind

I came across Rescued Unwanted Furry Friends (RUFF) Rescue several months ago when starting After extensive review of their website and seeing all the good that director, Janice Brooks, and her staff of volunteers are doing, I wanted to do something to help get the word out. In particular, I wanted to call out all of the good they've been doing in spite of an uphill battle with a lack of funding since the Gulf Oil Spill.

I've researched a lot of worthy organizations that provide valuable services to our aging canine population and decided that the RUFF Rescue is the first such organization to receive the SeniorPooch Golden Rescue Award for its efforts.

Ruff has saved over 2,200 dogs since its founding back in 2004 in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, many of which found their way there from deployed military and senior citizens who were not allowed to bring their canine companions to their nursing homes.


Assume the Belly Rub Position

There is always a price to be paid. Always. 

Rusty's price for all of the smiles that he gives away to all of the people that we meet everyday is a belly rub first thing in the morning.

Some dogs like biscuits. Others like playing ball in the backyard.  Rusty is a belly rub man through and through.

The other day, I was watching TV and I heard him growling at what I thought was the door. It wasn't. He has assumed the position above and was trying to get my attention.

Top Ten Things My Old Dog is Thankful For

This year, Rusty has a lot to be thankful for, so I figured I would jot down just a few of the things that make this old dog's day:

10. Taking an extra turn around the parking lot with his head out the window

9. Belly rubs at 5 AM

8. Extra long walks in the park

7. Listening to the rain come down on his patio rug (and not getting wet!)

6. The therapeutic powers of the world's best back scratching hedges this far west of the Mississippi

5. Getting to see his foster dad from time to time

4. Showing me he knows the way home all by himself

3. His giant Kong Wobbler - Who knew eating one bit of kibble at a time could be so much fun? (Look! There's another one!)

2. Keeping the neighborhood safe from the raccoon menace

1. Finding a forever home

Feel free to share some of your own.

Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!
--Rusty and Jeff

Senior Pooch Benefit 3: Older dogs have more developed personalities

I hesitate to say that senior dogs are necessarily more mature or have fully developed personalities, but having "been there, done that, know where all the bones are buried", older dogs come with a pre-established set of personality traits that they've developed over the course of their lives.

Whereas a puppy may, in general, be more impressionable, a senior dog may have established behaviors for a variety of scenarios.


Local San Diego Artists join together to save pets

The following was passed along to me from our friend, Lillian Cox, who received a call from Stacy Steel, the Executive Director for the Foundation for Animal Care and Education (FACE) who has a charity auction under way with some one-of-a-kind feeding stands for your favorite dog or cat. FACE has done a lot of good over the years, so here's your chance to pitch in and give them a hand, and pick up one of several really creative works of art that just happen to be in the form of raised feeding stands.

"Talented San Diego artists have created 60 unique masterpieces of art that will double as a pets’ feeding station. The stands come in a dizzying array of colors, textures, themes and media, as well as in two sizes. This designer dinnerware is a MUST HAVE for all pampered pooches and coddled kitties. They will make a fabulous one-of-a-kind Holiday gift for any dog or cat lover.
The stands are currently available through an online auction which will run until the end of November. All proceeds from this fundraiser entitled Artists-4-Animals will benefit The Foundation for Animal Care and Education (FACE). To place a bid or make a direct purchase visit the FACE website at The stands may also be viewed at the FACE Foundation office in Sorrento Valley and at local pet boutiques and veterinary hospitals (contact FACE for exact locations).

Shop for recommended items for your SeniorPooch

I'm happy to say that after a little wrestling with some technical challenges, I was able to get the shopping page up tonight (aka, this morning.)

I'm only recommending product that either I've tried either the exact product, or some variant, or someone I know has tried the product. I'll continue to post reviews of products as part of the regular blog posts. A portion of each sale goes back to funding the site and initiatives.

Anyway... let me know what you think and if there are products or services that you'd like me to review.

Building trust is the best way to give an old dog a new lease on life

Back in 2007, when I adopted Boo Boo, he was a meek little guy who just wanted to be left alone.  Over the course of three months I realized that I was finally gaining his trust when he started sitting in the same room as me.

I openly admit that I had no clue what I was doing and there were many times where I doubted that I'd ever figure out what was going on in Boo Boo's head. He was different from any dog that I had ever had.

Boo Boo in the beginning
How could I ever understand what he had been through?

He shrunk from quick movements and danced away when I put up my foot to prevent him from trying to get out the door first. He hid from loud noises, avoided other dogs, and didn't like to be touched.

How did I finally break through?


November Adoption Update

It was a good month for adoptions here at

Thanks go out to Cathy Grovenburg, and Melissa Lisbon for putting together such a great ad and helping to get Misty Rose noticed and ultimately adopted.

Danny was adopted in quick order.
 was Emma, who not only found a couple who were the perfect fit, but also another older schnauzer brother who she's getting along with famously.

Keep an eye on the main blog, as the adoption page for some changes to help promote those older pooches still on the look out for the perfect retirement villa and family to call their own.

Adopt a Senior Pet Month has done it again. This month it's Adopt-A-Senior-Pet month.  They don't have a dedicated page for this event like they did for Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet, but they do have a variety of resources that you can check out to help your senior pal break you in. I've included a video and links to articles to get you started.

Related Links:
The First Days with Your Senior Dog 
Caring for Your Senior Dog
A Companion Animal's Golden Years


Happy Halloween from SeniorPooch

The Batman is elusive. The Batman is just. The Batman's will is stronger than mine.

Twenty minutes of wrestling with Rusty to wear his Halloween costume, I threw in the towel. At one point he accidentally got one of his legs in the Dark Knight's pants, but he like Batman, he wasn't interested in taking pictures in costume.  Since the cape and cowl   didn't fit me, we compromised and he wore the ears.

Make sure to keep your candies away from your Batman (or Wonder Woman or Lady Bug) as chocolate isn't good for dogs, yet they always find a way to track it down even when placed up on a table.

Did anyone else (attempt to) dress their dog up this Halloween. This was my first attempt, but I'll be back.

How One Couple Made a Difference for Two Elder Dogs and Vice Versa

Leslie Lee is a fantastic writer of equally fantastic tales of fiction.  However there's nothing fake about the following article that she wrote for the Marin Independent Journal called:

Tails of Marin: Older Dogs Have Much to Offer

For me, this highlights how much life older dogs can share with us from the perspective of one couple, who through some strange twists of fate, took on two elder dogs in a short time span.  This post points out a couple of benefits of adopting older dogs that we'll delve into deeper in future posts of the Benefits series.

If this post made you smile, I'd encourage you take a look at the Marin Humane Society and if you have an extra dollar or five to give at the end of the week consider making a donation.

Top Eight Tips for Putting a New Face on Old Dog Adoption Ads

All dogs, no matter how old, deserve a warm place to live and someone who can share their golden years. I found my two most recent canine companions on the Internet and cringe when I think of how tough it must have been before we were able to search for them online.

If you're creating an ad for an adoptable senior dog, consider this list help your friend put their best paw forward:

Making a Difference in the Lives of Homeless Pets in the Bay Area: San Jose Animal Advocates

Melissa and one of her inspirations
behind  SJAA, Newbie
I had the good fortune to reconnect with Melissa Lisbon, principle co-founder of the San Jose Animal Advocates (SJAA), whose goal is to support local Bay Area shelters and rescue groups.  Melissa and I have known each other for years, so when it became apparent that we both doing something about our passion for pet-related issues, I had to talk with her about what she has been up to:

SP: What's SJAA's mission and how long have you been around? 
ML: We are an advocacy group which helps promote the efforts of our local animal rescue groups and local shelter through community events, fundraisers and other promotional venues.  San Jose Animal Advocates was established back in March 2010.

SP: What was your inspiration for the group?  

October Adoption Update

The first few months have been very good to and I'd like to thank those of you who have contributed to postings that are on the site. 

I'm happy to report that two of Senior Pooch Adoption's alumni have moved on to new homes:

Bear, a 9 year old German Shepherd in the San Diego North Region Shelter is now resting easily in his forever home. Kudos to his new parents for reaching out to this handsome guy.

Girl, who was living at the Pasadena Shelter until recently, was pulled by a rescue organization that is now fostering her. Technically she's still available, but it's great to hear that she's getting the attention that she deserves until she finds her forever home. If you're the rescue organization fostering her and you'd like to keep her up on the site, let me know.

If you or someone you know is trying to get their old canine companion adopted or fostered, don't hesitate to click on the Contact Us link above and pop me out a note. The number of folks who are checking out the site is steadily picking up, and wouldn't it be cool to help get your pal adopted more quickly? Of course, I don't charge anything for posting, and if you need help writing a description, I'm happy to help. I also cross promote the postings here on a variety of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to help spread the word.

Keep those cards and letters coming folks and thanks again for helping to get the word out about the site.

World's smartest dog

Originally posted on, December 8. 2009
Captain Canine
Captain Canine
Writers can spend a lifetime looking for their muse.  That inspiration, which makes them want to get up and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.  I’m lucky in that I’ve never had that problem.  My biggest issue is being focused.  I can sit and crank out short stories all day and all night, the challenge: being able to string together enough consecutive hours for it to make a difference.
Two years ago, that’s exactly where I was.  I had plenty of great* ideas, but I was all over the place.  It was one particular story that I was working on that helped me round the bend.  It was a horror story about a faithful canine companion, his family, and a horde of zombies.  The research was pretty light considering that I had always been a dog owner.  Around the same time I started talking with folks about my writing “hobby.”

Senior Pooch Benefit 2: There's plenty of room between a rock and a hard place

Most of your older dogs are just going to be happy with a nice quiet place to sleep and the security knowing that you're going to always be there. You don't want a dog that's zipping through the house like a mad man anyway, and lucky for you older dogs have figured out by this time that slow and steady is the way to go.

I'll caveat this by saying that most senior dogs are going to require a place to live with at least two rooms.

Why two?

Supper time and the battle of the bulge

But I only ate twice today (not including that rabbit)
Rusty continues to fight the battle of the bulge, but I think we've gained the upper hand.  Several weeks ago he was back down a couple of pounds, and it looks like he lost another pound or two since.

Our secret: Carrots.

Three out of every four times I would have given him treats, instead of giving him biscuits, I reach for the carrots. When we started, he wasn't interested, and would take the carrots and drop them out of reach. A little positive reinforcement (and cutting out the treats altogether for a week), and he's very happy to take a carrot to his favorite snack spot.

A special shout out to Leslie Lee, who pointed out how much her dogs like crunching on carrots and apples.

Nominate Muttville

I just received a note from Sherri Franklin, the founder of Muttville, to help get them nominated to win $10,000 for their charity.

To help, all you need to do is to send an email to 7x7 Magazine, email address: and let them know that you want to nominate Muttville.

As you may or may not know, they're a great organization in the San Francisco Bay Area that is dedicated to finding forever homes for senior dogs. Every week they put out a post of the pets that they have adopted, so wouldn't it be great if we could get behind them to help do even more good.

You don't need to live in the Bay Area to vote. The contest ends on October 10, 2011, so get in there and vote!

More information on the contest can be found at this contest link

Senior Pooch Benefit 1: Been there, done that potty training

This posts kicks off a series on the benefits of adopting and owning senior dogs. I'd still like to hear from all of you and your experiences with older pooches, but I wanted to explain to those of you on the fence about adopting that there are a lot of great reasons why they should take the plunge. Conversely, I'll also be launching a series discussing the challenges of taking care of canines as they reach their golden years. The benefits far outweigh the challenges, but I wanted to make sure that everyone had both sides of the story. Check under "benefits" and "challenges" topics links to your left.

With that out of the way, let's talk about:

Been there, done that potty training

If you've seen it once, you've seen it a million times on ads for senior dogs: "already housebroken." Like any of these benefits, your mileage may vary; however not chasing around puppies who haven't figured out proper bathroom etiquette is pretty cool in my book.

Early on after taking in an older dog, it's always good to make sure that the dog understands that you're there to work with him or her on this most important aspect of their hygiene. Taking them out and finding a few regular places to go helps, as well as working in a few extra trips during the early days of your relationship, so as to not encourage accidents brought about by making your new pal wait too long.

Growing up with Penny

We got Penny as a puppy from my aunt.

It seemed like she was always part of us. Always around, but never underfoot.  Getting along with everyone, including the mailman, who would stop to pet her after dropping off the mail.

She was also a heck of a catcher, which was something that we found out by accident.  My dad would throw tennis balls to he to fetch and she would snag them out of the air. Pretty soon after, she would run out to the edge of the backyard whenever one of us picked up a ball, waiting for us to play catch.

Teaching Leave It

Once again, from the school of "You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks", I bring you "Leave It".

OK, so it's not exactly a brand new behavior.  It's been done a million times before.  The dog is taught to leave a treat with the command "Leave It", which can then be carried over into other situations.  I got the fundamentals from Rusty's foster dad.

Rusty picked it up after two or three times, which was pretty remarkable, considering how food motivated I thought he was.

I started by holding the cookie in my closed hand and telling him to leave it.  He'd only get the cookie when upon hearing the command he turned away.

Next I upped the stakes by opening my hand while repeating the command.  The first couple of times, I had to close my hand to preventing him from snatching the cookie ala Kung Fu, when Cain tried to snatch the pebble from his master.

Adopt-a-Less-Adoptable Pet 2011

Once again, the folks at shows how much they care by finding unique ways to promote the adoption of available, loving pets.  This time it's with their Adopt-a-Less-Adoptable Pet Week which is happening from September 17-25.

In addition to senior pets; blind, deaf, black-colored, pitbulls, FIV+, and pets with a variety of other conditions will be featured on in their gallery. Rescue organizations that are members are encouraged to pick one of the pets that they have posted on the site to be a representative of a less-adoptable, but otherwise deserving pet.  Take a look when you have a chance, you might just find that diamond in the ruff. will have up one of their banners promoting the event throughout the week.

Dreams of Mammoth Bones and Poodles

It might seem like a simple thing to you and me, but one of the great luxuries that you can afford any older dog is a comfortable bed and safe place where they can lay there head for the night. After a few brisk walks each day, Rusty is more than happy to camp out on his bed and call it a night.  Four months in and he's comfortable enough that he's not sleeping with his eyes open or popping up to check out every little noise, as long as he can see that I know where it came.

This picture is brought to you by the letter Zzzzzzz
Everything else we accomplish from here on out is gravy.

Five tips for choosing a great vet for your senior dog

Finding a veterinarian for a dog of any age can be a daunting proposition if you think about all of the very stressful reasons why you may have to go to one of them.  

I've been going to Pacific Petcare for the last four years and can vouch that they're the best in helping me to look out for the health and well being of my dogs.

Why do I think they're so great?  They hit all of my major criteria for what makes a good vet.

Take a gander at the list below when searching for a new vet for your old dog.

To being with, they have to...

It's a bath scrubber. It's a de-shedder. No, It's the ultimate canine belly rubbing accessory

I recently came across the Kong Zoom Groom by accident while shopping in Petsmart for a rubber scrubbing mitt for Rusty's first bath. I had a few criteria for what I was looking for, includung:
  • Soft bristles, long enough to work the shampoo through both his inner and outer coats 
  • Easy to hang onto 
  • Durable, in that I didn't want to have to replace it after 2-3 uses 

Milagro finds a home in Sunny San Diego

Nancy Stern, a training consultant, author, and speaker in San Diego, reached out to me recently to share  her experiences with her recently adopted senior lady, Milagro.  

What struck me about Nancy's tale is that it wasn't anyl that different from mine.  When I adopted my first senior dog, I wasn't sure I knew what I was getting myself into.  Happily, both of us are examples of us getting much more than we bargained for (in a good way.)

Rusty makes the big time: Coast News Coverage of

I've posted on Facebook and Twitter that this was coming, but Coast News did an article on Rusty, Boo Boo, and myself and the journey that brought us to  I'm extremely grateful to Lillian Cox for her beautiful article and Larry Abgarian for introducing us.

The picture in this post shows Rusty (wearing Boo Boo's scarf) posing for our photo shoot.

Wait, did I just say "photo shoot"?

It's still pretty surreal to me.  Rusty on the other hand was unphased, soaking in the attention from the patrons of Champagne Bakery in Encinitas where we met.

We both had a great time chatting with Lillian about our story, as well as learning more about her own adventures.  To learn more about what she's writing about, you can visit her blog: A Nose for News.

The article can be found at: Man's Passion for Dogs Leads to Blog

Photo by Larry Abgarian.

Listening is more than just using your ears

One of the more remarkable books that I've read recently on training is, The Dog Listener, by Jan Fennell.

The premise of the book is that dogs are happier when are free from being the boss for their household and can just be companions.  Like any book, your mileage may vary on the results and how it works out for you and your dog, but for me I find a lot of what Ms. Fennell says has real practical applications in getting your dog to trust you as the head of your household.  I think the book could have been considerably shorter, because she uses the same 3-4 tips for every single example that she uses.

The first half of the book uses stories from Fennell's experiences to get her points across.  The second half is written more like a how-to book, but in narrative form as opposed to show a bunch of training steps that once accepted are foolproof.  Both parts are entertaining and well worth your time to read.

The overriding message throughout her work is that consistency is the most important factor to reinforcing the behavior that you want.  It works for me, even with a dog with as big of a personality as Rusty has, so I think it's worth a read.

Book: The Dog Listener, by Jan Fennell
Kindle eBook: The Dog Listener (Kindle Edition), by Jan Fennell

You get the popcorn, I'll get the remote

Movie night back at the ranch

 Boo Boo was quite the connoisseur of fine television.  Most of it involved the Simpsons or anything with blonde women.  He used to pick up and sleep in the office whenever Star Wars came on the tube.  I can only attribute this to his aversion to loud sounds and his disappointment in the ret-conning of the original masterpiece where Han obviously shot first.

Conversational Advice on the Care and Maintenance of your Senior Pooch

Good Old Dog Book CoverIn between owning BooBoo and ultimately taking Rusty in, I questioned whether I had done enough.

Had I done the right things? Was it enough?

I was pretty sure that I did. At least I thought that I did the best that I could.

I picked this book up just to make sure and to prepare myself for the next time that I would adopt a senior dog, because I was certain after caring for BooBoo for the time that we had, that there would be another senior dog in my house the next time I ventured into the world of canine companionship.

Good Old Dog is a great book for the layperson who is interested in what it takes to care for an older dog.


A Big Day for the Big Dog

Rusty and I were interviewed by Lillian Cox at Coast Magazine News today.  We're both exhausted with all of the attention that we got while sharing stories of pets of all types that we've owned.  I'll have more on this within the next week.

He's sleeping off all of the extra attention that he got, including many photos snapped by Lillian.  Larry Abgarian, Rusty's foster dad, introduced us and provided all of the back story of Rusty's adventures before he came to live at Casa Jeff.

thumbnail Putting a treasure trove of loving adoptable pets at your fingertips

For my last two canine companions, I've gone to to start my search.  From what I can tell all of the shelters and rescue organizations have some presence there.  In addition to making it incredibly easy to find exactly the right type of pet that is right for you, they also have great videos on selecting your ideal pet and what to do when you get home.

They boast 17 million adoptions in 15 years of existence, which is no small feat.  Consider that each adoption frees up an additional spot at a rescue that gives another animal a chance to get adopted and the numbers really start becoming astounding.


Up on deck: Book Reviews

As an avid reader, I've read my share of books on dogs, their care and feeding, training, stories, etc.

You get the picture.

Over the next couple of weeks I'll be posting reviews for books that were as informative as they were interesting.  Your mileage may vary with these, so you might find the information presented as too basic, or way too advanced.

Please share what books that you've found most useful and why in a comment.

Pet Foster Parents: Being there when it's most important

Rusty, Larry, and Wendy
One person might not be able to save all of the dogs in trouble, but there are those folks whose generosity reaches beyond what normal people believe is possible and use their creativity to find hope.  This sort of hope comes in the form of lending their voices and hearts to dogs that need it the most.

I'm talking about those men and women who take on the responsibility of taking in supporting a dog until  they can find that forever home.  This post is dedicated to those courageous folks, and in particular, Larry pictured here, who was Rusty's foster dad for a year.

If you think fostering is something for you, there are a lot of rescue organizations that are looking for this sort of help.  One such organization down here in Southern California is Coastal German Shepherd Rescue, which has a web page set up to explain the options and how to get started.  In Northern California, check out San Jose Animal Advocates Foster page for a thorough description of the difference that you'd be making by helping out dogs (or other companion animals) during particularly stressful times in their lives.

Stylin' some new threads

Boo Boo with his favorite bandanna
The only comment on Boo Boo's chart when I brought him home from the shelter was that he came in with a bandanna and that another dog took from him shortly thereafter.

I picked up this bandanna a week or two after bringing him home and he frequently received a lot of praise for his style.

Kudos to the folks at Pacific Petcare, who always would give him one of their holiday bandannas, one for Christmas and another for Halloween, during our many visits.

Site Updates - Fifty percent more fluffiness

 Over the last couple of weeks the site has quickly been picking up steam.  Thanks to everyone that has taken a moment to reach out to post a comment, or write, or give their suggestions and well wishes.  Over the past week I've been working on a few updates that went into place today.  Namely:

  • The URL - We're still a Blogger hosted blog, however, I picked up the domain name and hooked it together.
  • A New Banner - With a little bit of elbow grease and measuring, I updated the banner to allow everyone to see more of the content upon entering the page, by reducing the logo height.
  • Linked to the Twitter Feed - More on why we needed a Twitter feed later, but the short of it, is that there's a lot of complementary work that I'm starting to do in the Twitterverse in order to get the word out about senior dogs in need.
Also, you'll also now be able to contact me via the domain @ jeff@ (remove the space in between the @ and  This is an old trick to make it more difficult for the spammers to mine the page for email addresses.)

Thanks again for all of your kind words and support.  I'm inspired to grow this site into something that makes a difference in the world, while continuing to report on the adventures of Rusty and the other senior pooches that touch our lives.

Brain Games

I find that just like with people that dogs who are stimulated mentally on a regular basis are more happy.

Here, Rusty is playing with his Kong ball, trying to figure out how to get the treat out.  Having tried the brute force method (aka eating the ball or chewing it to pieces) he's starting to move it from side to side to get at the treat.

Boo Boo, on the other hand, had a routine that he used to go through: picking up the ball and flinging it in the air, picking it up and shaking it from side to side, rolling it around, and finally banging it against the wall.  The steps that he took were impressive and hysterical to watch.

Weighing in - Reigning in the LBs

Congratulations to my pal, Rusty on dropping a couple of pounds.  As a larger dog, I've learned that it pays to keep an eye on his weight so that it doesn't take as big of a toll on his joints later on down the line.

He could still stand to lose 2-4 more pounds, so I'll keep him on his current diet until everything stabilizes.

Previously, I thought that I was giving him the right amount of food for a dog 75 lb dog (he weighed 80), but it turned out that the 2 cup scoop I picked up from Petco actually measures out 2.5 cups of food.

Adopted! Dog: Hunter - English Springer Spaniel (Vista, CA)

Updated: Hunter has been adopted into his forever home, including several furry family members!  

I'm called Hunter, and I'm searching for my forever home. 

Hunter is a senior English Springer Spaniel, but you'd never know it to look at him!  Playful, and energetic, he has a very loving personality with people.  He weighs 57 pounds.  Hunter must be an only dog.  He is house-trained, neutered, and microchipped.  Good on a leash and great in the car.


No pressure

Something pretty common with older dogs, especially those that have spend significant time outside on the cement is the occurrence of pressure sores.

Like any existing injury, should it change or the pet start paying more attention to it, it's best to check in with your vet.

The best way to deal with them, is to avoid them altogether by giving your old pal a softer place to lay on outside.

Here's an interesting article I found on the topic:
Heal Your Dog's Elbow Callus

Why adopt an older dog?

I recently had someone at work ask me why I would get a dog so old, although I suspect the question was really, 

"Why did I adopt an older dog?"

Quite simply, I did it because they deserved a second chance, I wanted a dog, and I felt I could handle the challenge and expense.

Adopting in spite of the challenges a senior dog brings

Senior dogs do come with baggage, but honestly, some handle it much better than others. My pal Boo Boo, for example, was afraid of everything when I got him. I couldn't put my foot up to block him from going out the door first without him cowering like he was going to be kicked. For some dogs, trust doesn't come easy. It was probably six months before I noticed that he wagged his tail for the first time.

Potential Expenses are just that Potential

The expenses can get up there quickly. Not in every case, and sometimes not until the very end. I'd venture that breed, size, and how well they're taken care of play big factors in these areas. As an adopter, you should do the research to understand the types of financial resources to take care of a dog of any age. Senior dogs do have their share of health related issues, however, these can happen with dogs of any age. Plan ahead, consider taking out pet insurance, and make sure that you're all in it for the long haul.

Consider the adoption an exercise in patience, because you may need it when working with a dog more set in their ways

Patience is another big factor. Some dogs are stubborn, and none more so than some older dogs. I've been lucky in that once we achieved a certain degree of trust, that my dogs have had an open mind about working with me. It may very well be that older dogs are so set in their ways that they take longer to train, so patience is something that I've had to learn when dealing with challenges. On the dog's side, the biggest challenge would appear to be, at least from what I've read in the many ads for older dogs on, is that they recommend the older dog, being an only dog. I could definitely see that and would never recommend dropping a puppy in with an old dog, who is more interested in sleeping than jumping around and playing all day.

Older dogs have had their share of experiences, including training

That said, older dogs are frequently house trained, and are usually eager to please their new owners (at least in my case). With Rusty, this has translated into me teaching him a variety of new tricks and skills, the most important being "Leave It". We still have a ways to go, but with persistence (and the occasional treat... OK sometimes more than occasionally) he's learning all sorts of new things and is much less of the madman that I adopted.

As far as I'm concerned, there will always be an older dog in my house for all of these reasons, as well as knowing that I'm giving a voice to someone who cannot speak for themselves. 

Roadkill - It's what's for breakfast

In my quest to work on "Leave It" with Rusty, we were testing it out on a dried up squirrel carcass that was in the road that he's been interested in for the last week.  Unfortunately I've learned that there are some limits to my training skills. 

Before I stop him, he snatched up the squirrel skin and was going to make a meal of it.  Somehow I was able to get all but the end of its tail away from him. 

We've got some work to do on "Leave it" and "Drop it".

Sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks

Rusty's a trouble-maker. He doesn't get along with other dogs. He's aloof. He's got aggression problems.

These are just a few of the things that I heard that others said about Rusty, my 9 year old German Shepherd/Akita mix. Lucky for me his foster dad saved him from being put down in the shelter or I would never had the chance to prove everyone wrong.

Back two months ago when I got him, I might have even thought some of those things were true, but it became obvious early on that it was more nerves than anything that were causing what appeared to be aggression brought about his nervousness.

Each dog is different, but the most important thing that I've learned is that you first need to build trust. Trust and not letting behaviors of the past control the future. Sure, there were times when there was a bit more barking than I would have liked, but almost immediately, we had a very tight bond. I would say within a few days he was pulling a lot less on his chain and had chilled out around the house so that meeting other dogs became possible.

Now, don't get me wrong... this was a bit of a stretch for me, reintegrating an 80 lb. alpha dog back into his place in society. 

First, we set up some ground rules for my new senior dog:

1. No meeting dogs that were too anxious - Common sense and the results are that we're on our walks, when we see other dogs like that and I don't give him the signal to move to the other side of me, 4 times out of 5, he's avoiding them anyway.

2. Always meet face-to-face - This was a little bit easier said that none, considering there are folks who interpret the leash laws differently than we do. Two or three times I've had to turn him around to face a charging dog that wanted to meet us. Every time, but once the other dog stopped well short of us when we faced them. Almost every time the owners of the other dogs (those that weren't on a leash) had no control of their animals and couldn't get a response after 3-4 times calling them. Very uncool and irresponsible.

3. Be ready for anything - They're still dogs. I'm in no way a professional trainer and I certainly don't have a dog's senses that tell it when another dog is anxious or not. The plan was to play it cool, calm, and alert.

To date, I'd say that we've met on average one new dog every day and in most cases we've all had very positive experiences, and after seeing the same dog 2-3 times, Rusty and the other dog usually just pass each other wagging their tails.

Now, that's not every case, and I'll get into how I could have done a better job in some of those instances in other posts, but reinforcing socialization every single day, including knowing when not to socialize, has paid off in a big way, so much so that we can pass barking dogs on the other side of a fence without so much as an acknowledgement.

It starts with an ending

Three and a half years ago he found me looking for a dog at an event in the Encinitas Petsmart. I didn't go there looking for him. I already had another dog in mind, but that one didn't fit the bill.

"He needs a yard to run around in," the volunteer told me. At the time I was disappointed, but there were plenty of other dogs there, fortunately, I never got the chance to look at another one. "Can you you hang around for a few minutes," the volunteer asked. "I think your dog is on the way."

My dog? My dog. I was intrigued, but here I am three and a half years later and there was never really any doubt that a nine year old flat-coated retriever/border collie mix would have made such a difference in my life. There were plenty of reasons why I shouldn't have taken him home, and he wouldn't have minded one bit, but I did.

Two months back I laid my friend to rest after three and a half years of adventures that neither of us could have imagined. I'm grateful for the great times we had and that well before the end I had figured out exactly what the criteria were for determining the time was right to say goodbye. I miss him terribly, but I'm glad knowing he's in a better place now and that he went there without me prolonging his suffering to lengthen our time together.

This blog is for Boo Boo and for my new senior buddy, Rusty, and all of those senior dogs that make a difference in their owners' lives.