The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

May 3, 2014

Maleah Stringer: Shelters especially stressful for older pets

Chicory came to us a few months ago with her Beagle buddy Katie. Their owners could no longer care for them. Chicory is seven and Katie is eight.

When they first got to the shelter and were placed on the kennel floor, it seemed as though they were in shock. Neither would eat or wag their tails; they were not adjusting. So we moved them to crates in the lobby where they got lots of attention and became the shelter greeters. They both calmed down; enjoying their food, treats and all the attention. It was a usual sight to see Chicory and Katie together in the play yard as people came into the shelter.

We wanted them to be adopted together, but that was not to be no matter how much we tried. A woman came in and fell in love with Katie, but she could only have one dog. Chicory watched Katie drive away. Chicory was depressed as a single dog. We quickly tried to find a new playmate to replace Katie. We gave her more walks and attention, and it seemed that some of her sadness lifted.

Then one of our volunteers from the golf committee came in and told me she wanted to adopt an older dog. I gave her several options. But one look into Chicory's soulful blue eyes was all it took. Jessica adopted Chicory and now it was Chicory's turn to drive away. Her head was out the window, mouth open in a big smile with her tongue hanging out. I thought I could hear her giggling.

I know I've said this before but animal shelters, even the best of them are very stressful places for most animals — particularly animals who have lived in loving homes and or are older. They often stop eating, lose weight, get sick and become non-responsive. And as the people who care for these poor homeless animals, it is terribly hard to watch them grieve. We do everything we can to give them attention and to get them out of the shelter and into a less stressful environment.

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