For animal lovers who adopt and foster senior dogs and cats, the rewards can be immeasurable. Senior animals often gain a new lease on life and will return the gift of a home with the gift of their hearts.
Across Lee’s Summit and Cass County, the future looks bright for these frequently overlooked animals. Many shelters and rescue groups are shining a light on them, as they raise awareness about the needs and worth of this vulnerable animal population.
“Up until recently, senior and hospice animals have been neglected,” said Rodney Wagner, a manager of Lee’s Summit Animal Control. “The media has brought them to the forefront and there’s a push for finding them homes that I’ve never seen before. People are intentionally looking for seniors.
“We’re finding it easier to get them adopted, and once these animals find their forever homes, it’s amazing.”
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Shawna Walker, chief animal control officer with the Harrisonville Animal Shelter, agrees.
“In all honesty, seniors tend to be the sweetest dog and cats,” Walker said. “You can see the gratitude in them the minute they leave the shelter. They’re happier and all around totally different when they sense they’re going to their forever homes.”
Walker has also seen the joy to be mutual.
“There’s a gratification for those who adopt seniors because they feel like they’re doing something to help the animals,” she said. “People who adopt seniors are also special because they know the animal’s life might be shorter, but they still choose to adopt.”
It takes a special animal caregiver,” he said. “They give so much of themselves and know they’re are helping vulnerable animals that are completely dependent them. It’s a calling to help an animal in the golden time of its life.”
Dogs and cats are defined as “senior” based on several factors, including age, breed and existing health conditions, and there are many circumstances that bring these animals to shelter or rescue groups.
They can come in as stray or abandoned. They may have behavioral or medical issues, and related expenses for which owners do not have resources. Some are surrendered by people relocating to new living situations where animals are not permitted. In other instances, owners have passed away.
“When we get a senior dog, they may have been with their family their whole life,” Walker said. “People on hard times will surrender their animals and leave crying. It’s heartbreaking because we know that animal was true to their heart.
“At Thanksgiving, we had a lady relinquish a senior cat. She came in heartbroken because her landlord changed the pet rules and told her she couldn’t have a cat anymore.”
For senior animals without a home, fostering can be the answer to an unknown future. From short- to long-term hospice needs, area shelter and rescue groups rely on networks of foster families to assist in their care until they find their forever homes. Animals with medical conditions, or those requiring hospice care, make up some of the greatest needs.
Angel’s Furever Foundation, a Lee’s Summit nonprofit, is one of those groups focused on foster needs.
Started in 2017, the foster-based rescue organization relies on volunteers to provide temporary homes until a forever home is found for their senior animals. The group also helps provide access to medical care for homeless and shelter dogs.
“Seniors are not as resilient in shelters as younger dogs,” said Stacie Grobolshek, vice-president of senior rescue.
“Concrete floors and constant noise can wear on them very quickly. When a senior is able to go directly into a foster home and avoid a shelter, they heal much more quickly from the change. Also, a foster be the direct link from the home the dog knows to its forever home and can make the adjustment easier.
“People who foster and adopt seniors are truly saving their lives. Being able to provide a senior with the home it deserves is also appreciated for owners who have to give them up due to their own medical reasons. It’s incredibly difficult for these owners to have to make the decision to let go of their pets. For them to know their pets will be going to another loving home allows them to focus on their own health.”
Samantha Grimes has fostered senior dogs for many years and is one of the passionate caregiver who works with Angel’s Furever.
“I get such joy from seeing the dogs finally let go and fully relax when they get home,” she said.
Senior dogs should live out their lives in loving, caring homes — not in a shelter or alone on the streets. They deserve to have someone holding them and telling them what good dogs they are when their time is up.”
Many Lee’s Summit and Cass County shelters and rescue groups waive or reduce adoption fees for senior animals. In addition, they may also provide free medical care and medication for animals in foster care.
As a government service, the Lee’s Summit Animal Shelter is an open intake shelter, so regardless of the circumstances, no questions are asked and there is no cost for an animal surrendered at the facility.
For more information on adopting fostering senior dogs and cats, contact Lee’s Summit Animal Control, Harrisonville Animal Shelter or the Angel’s Furever Foundation.