Review - Orijen's Black Angus Beef Freeze Dried Treats

Orijen Black Angus Treats for Dogs
We recently had the opportunity to give Orijen's Black Angus Beef Freeze Dried Dog Treats and I'm happy to say that they received Rusty's prestigious "Eyes Rolling Back in My Head" Award.

Orijen puts out a fine product made simply of beef and beef tripe. Rusty, who has been known to have a delicate stomach, digested the treats just fine. The texture is just right for an other dog and even those with a tooth left to spare will be pleased. These cubed treats have a flaky texture when crushed, but more or less hold their form.

Orijen and Acana brands are made by the same company. 

Regardless of the size of your dog, I find these an excellent training aid.

Along with many other fine products, you can pick up a bag or three at and head straight over to the Orijen treat section.

Disclaimer: We received a bag of these treats from our friend's at No other compensation was received and this review is strictly based upon my experience with Rusty trying to strip the skin from my fingers to get one of these and his ability to digest the treat.

It's Important to Paws to Get the Scoop on Petographer David Jensen's Latest Project

Flash, David Jensen, Petographer's Dog
One of the benefits of writing this blog is connecting with folks all over the world who care so much about animals that it has become a part of who they are. 

Thanks to the power of the Internet, David Jensen is one of those individuals who I've had the privilege of virtually "meeting."

His quest to find the right photographer for his wife and her loving senior dog some thirty years ago led him on an adventure that he gets to do for a living today: Petography.

David's latest project is a photo book called, Important to Paws. It's imminently about to be funded so I wanted to share this with you all so you have the opportunity to get a first run copy of the book, and help fund David's dream to share what he describes as "[l]essons learned from animal companions."

Let's get right into it with David...

SP: How did you get started in Petography?

DJ: In the mid-1980’s, professional photographers had no interest in portrait work with animal companions. I learned this after searching for someone who would be interested and skilled with creating meaningful portraits of my wife with her aging and beloved collie, Skyler. Our experience with the chosen photographer was adequate. She knew cameras. But she didn’t really ‘know’ dogs.

Something inside started calling me. I loved animals. I had an interest in photography. The next step was to improve my photography. I did this through classes as I completed my B.A. in Journalism at University of Alaska Anchorage. The professional training was helpful. It taught me the basics. I also attached myself to a couple other photographers who were already established. That training, combined with my “Dr. Doolittle” abilities, were a perfect match.

SP:  "It's Important to Paws" is a looks like a great book. How did you decide to bring it to life now?

DJ: Thank you, Jeff. I’m very proud of project. It’s absolutely a tribute to the animals and people I’ve worked with over the years. All of the credit rests with them.

I decided to produce It’s Important to Paws during a mountain climbing adventure near Anchorage a couple years ago. After reaching FlatTop Mountain’s peak, I sat on a rock with Layla, my golden retriever/border collie mix and absorbed the moment. I was proud of our mutual accomplishment. We did something together that was a remarkable physical and mental challenge. We had one of those special bonding moments with each other.

I paused and reflected on what had or has not been achieved in my life. I savored the moment of hearing nothing but wind in the mountains. That is when I accepted the long-procrastinated challenge of finally writing and publishing a book.

SP: You mention commentary, in addition to pictures that will be included. What sort of stories or lessons are you considering sharing as a piece of this work?

DJ: The stories in It’s Important to Paws are eclectic. They’re humorous, sentimental, anecdotal and sometimes biographical. Often, my writings speak from a cat or dog’s perspective. Knowing this, readers will have to consider truth (or my humor) to be akin to a dog chasing its own tail. If caught, one may not have any other choice except to release it and decide whether it’s worth chasing again. If it’s not caught, there’s always the next page.

SP: You obviously have a wide range of subjects to choose from. What are some of the factors that you use when determining which images to use?

DJ: This book features more than 300 dogs, cats, horses, frogs, birds, reptiles and others.

Choosing images that appear in the book was the most difficult emotional challenge of completing It’s Important to Paws. I develop close relationships with the animals that I photograph. All of the animal companions I’ve photographed merit recognition in this project. The best comparison I can relate is this:

Each morning I leave for work with five big-hearted dogs staring at me with their needy eyes. Each pleads “Take ME to work today, Dad!” Yet, I can only bring one or two at a time. Dog noses try to poke through the house door as I close it with the day’s lucky two at my side. I feel guilty that they can’t all come to the studio.

That’s how I feel about It’s Important to Paws. Animal companions who are featured in the book will have their 15-minutes of fame. The others get to be part of the next chapter. But they’re all in my heart every moment of the day.

SP: Do you have any recommendations for people looking to get into the business or just trying to take better pictures of their pets?

DJ: Photographing animals should be about the heart. The act of creating a photograph should be as much about the moment you and others are sharing together as it is about having a final image you’ll cherish. The best photograph on the wall is one that reminds you of the heart and soul of the moment. It should be about the experience.

My concern with society today is the loss of legacies. A photo captured years ago would be artfully placed into an album or framed for generations to enjoy and reflect upon. Today, images (legacies) are erased with the click of a couple buttons or stored on a CD which will never be seen again. They’re posted on social media and are gone in 30-minutes after a handful of views. Memories and art deserve much better.

Make the effort to preserve your favorite memories in a meaningful way. Go to the department store and buy a frame or two or three. Create a scrapbook or album.

Electronics are great but they’re temporary. Prints are something you can touch and feel. Meaningful photography is about experiences, touching the heart, and feeling a connection to something that is everlasting.

Thanks to David for taking the time to talk. You can learn more about all of the great work that he does on the Petography section of his website. If you live in Alaska, I can't think of a better legacy to leave then scheduling some time with David to capture the most important moments of your life with your four and two-legged family members.

Photo by David Jensen.

Happy Birthday to the Wolf at the Door

Rusty, one old lucky dog on his birthday

To The Wolf at the Door on his birthday, 

There's a wolf at the door, but I'm lucky that you live on the inside with me.

Lessons from a Senior Dog

This year you taught me that slowing down only means that you have more time to appreciate all of the things around us. Time to meet with your friends in the park, say HI to someone new, argue with the crows, and even time to watch the rabbits figure out which way you're going to move during our many walks in the park. 

You still surprise me with the occasional full body tackle when I get home or talking me into an extra walk at the end of a long hard day (your indoor voice leaves something to be desired, or at least that is what the neighbors tell me.) This year you figured out how to be even closer to the point that you're now a 75 pound lap dog, so that I can give you a belly rub while I watch TV on the couch. And speaking of 75 pounds, together, we did the impossible and lost that extra weight that we knew would be trouble for your aching joints later in life. 

There's a little girl that we see on our walk that calls you Lobo, but you'll always be Rusty to me, waiting by the door for me to come home or to protect me from the monsters on the other side. 

I love you buddy.

Your boy,


Create Your Own Pet Food Recall Notifications

It's scary to think that almost every day there's a recall out for one type of pet food or another. The Pet Food Recalls of 2007 were particularly troublesome and brought to light the many brands that offshore their production to facilities in China that have insufficient safety controls.

Since forewarned is forearmed, we wanted to share a quick and easy way that you can stay ahead of game and get notifications as quickly as they occur with Google Alerts. What you get are notifications in your email inbox with the latest pet food recall notifications from across the Internet. The hope is that you can configure alerts to let you know when pet food recalls are in affect and get notified immediately.

How can you set yourself up to receive timely notifications of pet food recalls?

  1. The first thing you'll need is a Google Mail account. If you have an account, sign-in. If you don't, get one. It's easy and free.
  2. Next, surf on over to Google Alerts
  3. Once there, you'll be able to put in keywords to create an alert. In the example, below you can see that I've used "pet food recall" (without the quotes) in the Search query field to accomplish this.
  4. Adjust the How often setting to the frequency of how often that you''d like to be notified. Once a day or Once a week, are good starting points, but if that proves too much you can dial that back. Should you choose to go with As-it-happens, you may find that the notifications that you get (all via email) can be overwhelming. We recommend that you start with Once a day. We find that this will trigger a new alert every couple of days. 
  5. That's it. The rest of the settings I leave as-is. I always leave the How many field as Only the best results, and that provides all the results I've ever needed.
Here's what our Google Alert for Pet Food Recalls looks like. Note that you get to look at what the email will look like on the right hand side of the display:

Simple Pet Food Recall Notifications by Google Alerts


Why create a pet food recall?

The purpose of keeping an eye on the products that are being recalled is not to create a panic, but to have the knowledge to make the best decision for your pet on a timely basis. Like any information, it depends upon individuals and companies reporting recalls, so it's not perfect, but it is a useful tool that you should consider.

These quick pet food recall notifications allow me to put a quick eye on my email alerts in the morning and have piece of mind the rest of the day that the food (and treats) I'm feeding my dog haven't been recalled.

We recommend that you review those recalls that are coming in before making any decisions about any changes you decide to make for you dog's diet.  As Google Alerts searches through the text of web pages, false positives can appear. For example, when a web page is referring to a past instance where a particular company's pet food had to be recalled, this may show up in your alert as well, although it may not apply to you or your senior dog. 

Double-Time At the Vet: When It's Time to Increase Your Dog's Check Ups

The day will come when your dog's muzzle grows more and more grey; when you notice that she is not getting along like she did in their younger days. We already talked about this a while back, but this is both a reminder and an introduction to another benefit of visiting your veterinarian more often: talking with them about the best preventative medicine.

The symptoms of many ailments can be mitigated if you catch them early enough.

Common canine joint issues

Arthirits and hip dysplasia are two issues that I've come up against several times. Getting on a diet and choosing supplements that reduce inflammation helped enormously in my dog's case. We also received tips on walking on inclines and declines, instead of the more severe stairs, in order to maintain as much muscle mass as possible. Muscle loss was one of the related concerns that my vet brought to my attention. As a dog gets older, it's going to lose muscle mass. The goal is to maintain a level of exercise that isn't painful to the dog, but still keeps them active.

Skin diseases in senior dogs

Diseases that younger dogs can more easily fight off are a concern as well. Dog's whose immune systems are degrading are more susceptible to more severe forms of common health issues that they would have more easily fought off in their youth. Skin diseases, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria are usually treatable if caught early enough. It may be that you'll need to head to a specialist to address these, however they should be able to give you some tricks on how to mitigate these itchy situations. Domboro Solution, a common poison ivy treatment for people that is available in your drugstore's first aid aisle, was just what the doctor ordered to dry up a rash caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria after the proper drugs were find to fight this illness.

Early canine cancer detection

Cancer is another area where early detection can help. More and more people that I'm in contact are having their dogs treated for cancer instead of treating it as a death sentence.

The point is that looking up how to treat illnesses on the web or talking with your friends may give you a little information or even help you commiserate over the situation, but your best bet when it comes to dealing with canine health issues is to have an open line to your vet. This allows you to work together to maintain your dog's quality of life for many years to come.

Don't take my word for it, make an appointment for a check-up and chat with your veterinarian today.

Bark Out Loud Because Happy Wagging Tails Are for Furever

Tinkerbell, a senior mastiff mixed breed dog found her forever home

James Bond might tell you Diamonds are Forever, but not my friend Tinkerbell, who found her forever (dare I say, furever) home just a few weeks ago. Happily she gets to spend her days hang out with her new family on a sizable piece of property.

For Charlie, the fourth time is a charm. Adopted and loving it.Just because their whiskers are grey doesn't mean they don't have a lot of love to give. 

Speaking of happy endings, our friend Charlie has at long last found his forever home. After a few false starts and an extended stay in a kennel, Charlie met his new foster dad who decided after three days that Charlie needed to be his forever. Charlie gave me a big hug the last time I saw him to help finalize his adoption paperwork, but was perfectly content to remain lounging around when I left. He's more comfortable and secure than he's ever been in his life and is even making strides in socializing with big dogs. I'm so very happy that Charlie finally found someone who recognized how much love he has to give and who knows how to give it back to him.

What's In that Dog - Using Wisdom Panel to Identify Your Dog's Breed Makeup

Wisdom Panel helps you identify the ancestry of your dog
I frequently get asked what breed of dog I have. I don't really know since Rusty was a refugee from a shelter when he came to live with me two years ago.

I had been sticking with calling him a Shepherd/Akita mix based upon his looks and temperament, however the more research that I do on dogs and breed specific health issues, the more I wanted to know if I should be concerned.

Enter the Wisdom Panel.

What is the Wisdom Panel and how do you get started?

The Wisdom Panel is is a simple DNA test that you can administer at home and send into a lab to analyze. The kit comes with a couple of swabs to rub on the inside of your dog's mouth and a pre-paid mailer. Two to three weeks after the lab's receipt of receiving the package you are emailed with a link to get the Insight report, along with the option to upload a picture.

How does Wisdom Panel identify your dog's breed(s)?

According to their literature, the Wisdom Panel uses 300 DNA markers which are analyzed against some 11 million calculations to give an overview of your dog's background going back to their great grandparents.

I went with the Mixed Breed version of the test to determine "What makes up a Rusty Dog?" and found that on one side of his family he has German Shepherd and English Springer Spaniel (the latter being a surprise), while on the other side he has some Chow Chow. I also received a list of breeds that might be included as well, but weren't as prevalent. Overall, given the high indicators of mixed breed parents throughout his history, Rusty is probably less susceptible to breed specific issues caused by breeders over breeding within the same family to get particular traits.

It doesn't matter to me what kind of dog Rusty turned out to be, but it was an interesting exercise. I'd recommend it to people interested in their dog's background or want to confirm breed specific traits and potential ailments that come with them.

Looking for more great details about dog DNA tests?  


Having the Strength to Do the Right Thing: The Emotional Side of Putting Your Dog to Sleep

Boo Boo, my senior dog, resting on the porch
Boo Boo resting on the porch

Eventually all good things must come to an end.

Old muscles are too tired. Joints are worn.

We've reached the limit of the total number of heartbeats that we've been allotted in this life.

It's as much that way for us as it is four our four-legged companions.

Why is it important important to be thoughtful when considering euthanasia for your canine friend?

As owners of older dogs we need to be considerate of our our four-legged friends. Sometimes this means being ready to do the right thing by helping them along on their final journey by having them put to sleep. Ask your veterinarian about what euthanasia options you have so that you're ready when the time comes.

This is an emotionally difficult time, so get in front of this scenario and understand that prolonging your dog's suffering because you're not ready to let go is not the way to go. Consider that after all is said and done, no one wants to think that they caused their beloved pet one extra hour of pain and misery if they could have prevented it.

Remembering better times with your dog and their destination: The Rainbow Bridge

Take heart and know that memories of walks, snuggling, and wet sloppy kisses at inappropriate times will always be with you.

The Rainbow Bridge (below) is a poem written by an unknown writer in the second half of the 20th century which paints a picture of how one day we'll be reunited with all of those furry companions that have given us so many years of love and faithfulness:

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers.
Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...


The Sound of Connecting: Training Your Deaf Dog

Whether your dog is going deaf gradually in their old age, or this malady has come about more suddenly due to exposure to loud noises or ear infections, it never hurts to be prepared.

Dogs are quite resilient creatures and will compensate pretty effectively for gradual hearing loss by bringing in their other senses more an more when making decisions about their environment. For example, the sound of an opened refrigerator is easily replaced by sensing the scents that escape.

Dogs that have partial hearing loss might find it easier if you clap (not in their face, mind you) to get their attention instead of calling to them. 

The vibrations in the air caused when you clap provide a distinct sound over calling a dog who may not get the connection if they have the volume turned down.

Using hand gestures to supplement voice commands to your dog

While to is no hand gesture to command a dog that has it's back to you, continued training throughout the life of the dog is a great way to continue strengthening their mental acuity, as well as reinforce the connection between dog and human family members.

Today, my senior dog hears perfectly well, but I've subconsciously been mixing in hand signals. I noticed how effective they were when one early morning he was getting a bit anxious around the food bowl and I was able to calm him down without touching him. (Full disclosure: he got a hug shortly thereafter for listening.) Note that all of these commands have been initially trained in coordination with voice commands. You can also train a completely deaf dog by reinforcing the command and gesture in other ways. Some of the commands that I mix in include:

  • Stop/Hold: Palm facing the dog
  • Sit: Show the dog your palm with four fingers up, and rotate your fingers up a few times.
  • Down: Get the dog to sit, then rotate your palm down and push it (your hand... not the dog) in a downward motion.

These are just a few gestures that work for me. Whatever you work out with your dog over the long term should get you just as much mileage if you're consistent in reinforcing the behavior.

What other tips do you have for those with dogs that are deaf or hard of hearing?

Related articles:
Deafness in dogs
Deaf Dog US Populations

Bark Out Loud Old Timer

Peppy has been looking for a new home since her mom passed away last year. My friend, Sabrina - The Foster Mama, at the Chihuahua Rescue of San Diego, swooped in and helped to find Peppy a foster home, but this beauty is still looking for her forever. UPDATE: Peppy found a wonderful forever home where she lived with her new family. She was loved and spoiled until the day that she finally crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

Through my research to bring you the best information available on senior dogs and their owners, I came across The Seattle Dog Spot, which is spinning up a new monthly column: The Senior Dog Files. One of the topics writer, Ann Mouldon promises to cover is making the transition from regular to senior dog foods. Given the impact on how a dog looks on the outside is based upon what goes on the inside, I'm excited to see this series unfold.


TurboJRT is the Leader of the Pack

Turbo the Jack Russell Terrier (@TurboJRT for those of you in the Twitterverse) is the winner of Pukka's Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs in our recent contest.

Turbo is an avid reader, loves his mama, and is a senior pooch who was rescued from a South Los Angeles shelter.

We have more contests being planned so keep your eyes, ears, and nose open. You never know when these will happen.


Bark Out Loud - Don't Call It a Comeback Edition

After several weeks with only the occasional article I'm back on the attack, delivering you more posts per week than you can wag your tail at.

This week's Cover Pooch is Tinkerbelle. Tinkerbelle is looking for the perfect forever home for her. 

Speaking of forever homes, my friend Charlie (aka Grizzly Bear) rejoined us at The Dog Squad Rescue. Unfortunately for me, Charlie is not a fan of large dogs, and was none too happy when he met Rusty this past summer. The good news is that he's got his own Facebook Page, Furever Charlie, and he'll be meeting a potential foster dad this weekend. Cross your fingers, toes, and paws that it's a fit.


Book Review: Pukka's Promise - The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs

Pukka's Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs
Pukka's Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs by Ted Kerasote tells the tale of Ted and his new dog Pukka against the backdrop of their cabin at the base of the Teton Mountain Range.

The book starts with Ted's thoughts about his previous dog, Merle, who he adopted as a stray. Merle's legacy is pervasive throughout this work as well as the action that he (Ted) takes in finding a new companion after Merle's passing. Every page of this book is permeated with the love that Ted has for dogs, including those that are his, a local pack of visitors to his cabin, and all canine-kind.

The book is laid out to alternate between Ted and Pukka's adventures and research on a variety of topics related to the health and wellness of dogs.

I was most surprised that Pukka was purchased from a breeder. As someone involved with rescuing homeless animals I was initially taken aback that Ted chose to go this way to find a particular type of dog (a "houndy lab" in his description) rather than adopting one of the many available homeless dogs. That said, his research on breeders and those that are both helping and hurting the breeds that they represent is thorough and very understandable to the lay person. After reading through the entire book, I understand where Ted was coming from in his desire to find a dog that could measure up to his beloved Merle. His experience and research on the topic is just as relevant whether you've adopted a dog or gone the breeder route.

The topic of breeding leads into hereditary diseases that have increased by breed over the years largely due to inbreeding to accentuate particular traits by mating close relatives. I felt like this part of the work tied together a lot of things that I heard anecdotally about breed-specific maladies.

Diet, long-term health concerns, including cancer, and shelters are just a few of the other topics that Ted covers both at home and interviewing a wide variety of professionals including: vets, breeders, manufacturers, and animal behavioralists. I was impressed with the amount of travel and consulting Ted did with throughout the Western Hemisphere to gather his data.

Some of my favorite bits show Ted and Pukka working out how to live together and in harmony in nature. The word training comes to mind here, but it's almost too antiseptic of a word to describe that educational element of their relationship.

This is a quick, fun read that provides a lot of scientific background in a non-threatening way. Regardless of whether you have or dog or not, if you're thinking of getting one in the future, pick up this book.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but have since bought a copy for my Kindle, since that's a format that I'm more accustom. 

Win a Copy of Pukka's Promise

Did someone say contest?

Sure did. All you need to do is share one of SeniorPooch's posts from its Facebook Page, retweet or respond to a tweet from SeniorPooch's Twitter account, or leave a comment anywhere on any time between March 13 and March 17, 2013 and I'll pick out one winner from the lot who will receive the recently released, Pukka's Promise: The Quest for Longer Lived Dogs by Ted Kerasote.

I'm posting a review of the book later this week, but it's a wonderful read covering one man's mission to raise the healthiest, happiest dog possible. Kerasote leaves his heart on the page, as well as leaving no stone unturned on topics including: breeding, diet, training, and general health and wellness.

This is the hardcover version of the book and I'll pick up the shipping. Only folks in the US and Canada are eligible. I received this copy for review, but since I'm reading the Kindle version, I want to pass this pristine copy along to one lucky person.  I'll announce the winner on March 18, 2013.  Good luck. 

The winner of our contest is none other than TurboJRT. Congratulations!

Thanks to all of you who participated.

Check out the link below to to learn more about this interesting book or browse our review on


No Ugly Dogs Here: Senior Pooch Teddy Shows as Most Handsome Male

Teddy, a senior malamute-shepherd mix took third for most handsome male at the 18th annual ugliest dog contest

And one of the top best looking dogs in San Diego is... Teddy!

Our friend, Teddy, pictured here with his room mate, Larry Abgarian came in an impressive third place for Most Handsome Male at this year's Ugliest Dog Contest.

This year the contest was held in Valley Center for the first time in the contest's 18 year history, but that didn't detract from the festivities. The weather was beautiful and fun was had by two and four footed participants alike.

Return to Barking Out Loud

Susie, a senior Labrador Retriever in Downey, California needs your help

Susie, our cover pooch for the week, is here to announce the first Bark Out Loud for the new year. For those of you who haven't seen Bark Out Loud before, 

This new year is off to a great start with Rusty and I talking with folks who will be interviewed for the site.

Speaking of Rusty, he received a couple of letters two weeks back from some of the people who helped rescue him. I'm thankful to them and all the others who touched Rusty in "The Dark Years" (two to be exact) where he made his travel from death row, being kicked out of two adopted homes, rejected from at least one rescue organization, and finally finding his way to me and all of the friends that he's made in my neighborhood.

A dog goes through a lot of challenges mentally, in addition to physically, when they are kenneled or in a shelter for a long period of time. Knowing that Rusty had so many people looking out and being with him during that time is an incredible gift. I'm no longer surprised at how well he kept it all together during that time and I'm extraordinarily grateful to those that are part of his story.

Senior Dogs as Social Mediums

Some of us are more comfortable typing our lives away in front of a computer screen while the world goes on without us outside. Some of us are even satisfied that "social media" is a substitute for getting out there and meeting some real people in the good old outdoors.

Getting out forces you to live life in real time instead of in fits or blurbs of 140 characters at a time like folks do on Twitter.

Walking with your senior dog forces you to slow down and appreciate everything that nature has to offer. Smell the flowers. Sit down and take a break on a park bench or in a quiet place in the shade. The sounds and sights are amazing if you take a moment to capture them.

You also get to meet all sorts of people and their animals. If we just consider the wild animals population (crows, rabbits, and field mice where we live), me and my old dog get plenty of action just watching (and occasionally talking with) our local fauna. For the most part this means watching from a distance, but each of us is respectful of the other and acknowledges our presence.

Of the four legged variety, we've met hundreds of dogs over the last two years. I guess that it's been somewhere over 1,000 in all of the places that we've visited just within a two mile radius. Usually it's the more mature dogs that have the confidence and smarts to greet one of their own in a mutually pleasing way (a quick sniff and some wags). Your mileage may vary, but for me and my pup, we get along with other happy and confident dogs that have been altered. Occasionally we'll come across a puppy that wants to play, which works just as well as long as they're not getting too rowdy and want to wrestle. Rusty doesn't mind a little of that, but is a competitive soul and will get up and try to "win" which can be scary for many other dogs when they have an 80 lb. monster forcing them down.

It's usually the two legged variety that we get to interact most. A large personal trainer who will set his class to task so he can take a break to come and pet Rusty, the occasional kids playing in the park that want to say hi or just get a little closer to see a dog if they don't have one of their own, the jogger who stopped to give Rusty a hug because he misses an old dog like him who is no longer with us, a young lady who wanted to talk about what's going on in the neighborhood and had to juggle her coffee after Rusty leaned in for a quick rub are just some of the folks we meet.

We've also met plenty of folks who recognize and old soul and want to introduce their own senior dog or talk about one that's meant a lot to them. My favorite of all time remains some of my neighbors who came over to introduce their new older shelter dog who they got after seeing me with the Mighty Boo Boo years ago walking in the park.

I'm grateful for all I've learned from all of them. I'd encourage you to get out there and make some memories with your neighbors in real time.

Judging the Best Senior Shelter Dog for You

Senior Chi-Terrier Mix
January is coming to a close. You've walked by so many adoption events in front of pet stores that your resolve is beginning to falter. It's time to give in and get that older dog you've read about here and reap some of the benefits they bring with them.

Whether you are interested in a dog from a rescue or shelter, make sure that you are asking all the right questions:

Does this dog get along with people? Does it like kids?

You'll want to know if your dog has any hang ups around any particular type of people. Maybe they got along especially well with men or women. Maybe they're skittish around children. Even if you don't have any, you'll want to know before you get out there and start to walk them in public.

How does the dog react to other animals?   

Many shelters and rescue will test for animal aggressive behavior. If you have another animal, you're going to want to introduce them before making a long term commitment. Ask your rescue volunteer or shelter staff for the best way to do this. Ask them if they've noticed any food guarding behaviors with your pooch to be. This usually isn't a deal breaker, but if you've never had more than one animal at the same time, learning how to feed them together is something important to research.

What is the dog's behavior like when it is not restricted to its pen or crate? 

Quite often a dog will retreat into itself if locked up for any length of time to cope with the isolation. They're pack animals and the thought of not being social is a scary proposition, however when they're allowed to go out, they are born again.

Does the dog they have any illnesses or physical ailments that you need to be aware?

It's always best to understand this at the beginning of your relationship with your senior dog. Some illnesses are very treatable in an inexpensive way. Others require more time, attention, and yes: funds to address effectively. My advice: Don't over commit.
Next, get out there and meet you prospective new room mate. Call up your rescue or shelter to make an appointment to come by and meet the dog, or even a few dogs that might be a fit. Let them know who will be responsible for the dog should you decide to adopt and if you have other animals that you have. Before adopting, you're going to want to make sure that you're introducing them in a controlled manner first

Listen to the rescue team when meeting your new older pup. They'll likely have some insight to help you make the best first impression possible. Most important: be yourself. Be the person you want your new dog to love and obey.

Photo Credit: rikkis_refuge
Licensed under Creative Commons

Resolve to Make a Difference in One Dog's Life This Year

A senior pug out and about at a local contest
Right about now many of us are figuring out ways to avoid going to the gym, eat that extra piece of cake, and work even more television into our already busy schedules.

Now is the time to make a New Year's Resolution to improve the life of one homeless senior dog

It's inevitable, don't try to fight it.

Whew, that was close.

Now, with all that extra spare time on your hands I want you to resolve to make a difference in the life of just one senior dog this year. There are many low cost/low calorie days to take this on which aren't going to cause you one quarter of the conflict that figuring out how you're going to explain to your significant other that you now need to dismantle the clothes rack/exercise machine that you assembled a week ago:

Post Holiday Rescue Opportunities

Some people get the holiday blues due to all of the stress that comes from the preparations, work, and dealing with relatives that they only see once a year. Right about now all of the presents and decorations have been put away and folks are throwing out the last of the fruit cake so they can return to their regularly scheduled lives. For most, this week is a return to normalcy.

For rescue professionals, this week is a call to action.

Despite best efforts to get folks to people to recognize that they should provide the same  loyalty to their old dogs as they have shown to them, there are more older dogs being dumped in shelters than ever before. Some of the excuses, include:

  • We just got a new puppy and they don't get along.
  • He sleeps a lot.
  • She is having more accidents on the rug.
  • Hes' old.

Let's explore each of these:

  • The puppy excuse - Anyone who doesn't put in the effort to get this to work has no business owning one door, never mind two. 
  • More sleep than usual - Be grateful that you don't need to expend as much effort exercising your dog. Stress and more exercise added over a short period of time will contribute to your dog playing catch up with the Zzzzs.
  • Accidents - As dogs get older, weakened muscle mass contributes to loss of bladder control.  Check with your vet. Taking them out more often or training them to use pee pads is the way to go, not sending them to death row.
  • He's old. - Not an excuse. Your dog may be old, but you're the one who has forgotten a lifetime of love that they've given you.
If you're in the market for a dog now that the holidays have finished or are a with a rescue, I'd like to ask you not go with the easy choice and adopt (or heaven forbid, buy) a younger dog. There are plenty of folks who will will go with that safe choice. This year choose to be unpredictable and get that senior dog who doesn't understand why their family dumped them.

Be a maverick. Take a chance. Save a life.

Happy Tails of Old Friends

Old Friends: Great Dogs on the Good Life is a masterfully designed book sharing the longevity secrets of senior dogs through photographs.

Author/photographer, Mark J. Asher, captured 45 amazing images of the subjects in the senior stage of their lives. The pictures alone tell stories of road-tested wisdom through their thoughtful glances.

Even if you never owned an older dog, I can guarantee that there are 45 different ways to bring a smile to your face in this book.

Each picture is accompanied by one or more longevity secrets. Some show their mischievous sides, like Chica who credits "helping houseguests finish their hors d'oeuvers", loyalty - as is told by a patient Duelley as he waits for one of his famous "long truck drives", and Jackie whose "nap often, snore loudly, and twitch with wild abandon" speaks of how he enjoys his time these days while never forgetting the adventures that led him here.