Senior pets are among those most overlooked at shelters. But one old dog is living proof that mature pets can breathe new life into their adopted homes.
Coastie for life
In 1970 Chuck enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. His original military occupational specialty was engine man, and later machinery technician. These professionals are responsible to maintain and repair a wide range of a ship’s vital systems, including hydraulics, engines, and ventilation.
After his tour of duty Chuck separated from service to return to civilian life. He made good use of benefits available to him as an honorably discharged military veteran.
“I did my four years and got out,” he says, “and used my GI Bill to get an associates degree in business administration.”
However, you can take the man out of the military, but not the military out of the man.
Nearly a decade later Chuck enlisted in the Coast Guard Reserve. In 2008, after 20 years as a reservist, he separated from service – for good – with the rank of chief petty officer.
Chuck enjoys recalling some brushes with fame during his long military career.
“I got to meet Robin Williams when I was stationed in Detroit before he was famous,” he shares, “and Shirley Temple when I was in London, England for a Reserve exercise at the United States embassy.”
Take a chance on me
Chuck knows a few things about the love of an old dog.
In 2012 the veteran and his wife lost the Golden Retriever mix they had for 17 years. While the couple had long thought about adopting another pet, life just got in the way.
However, despite the passage of time Chuck would still reflect on the years they had with their beloved pup.
“We since have moved to a different house in a different town with a nice fenced-in backyard,” he says.
“We kept thinking our old dog would have loved our fenced-in backyard.”
Chuck still reminisces about life with his previous dog, but in time felt more ready to adopt again.
A quick glance at a local animal shelter’s website changed everything, not only for the Coast Guard veteran, but for a big, senior dog named Wayne.
“Just by chance I looked at the Fairfield County Ohio Animal Shelter website and saw Wayne. He was an older dog and they are hard to adopt out.”
Sadly, senior dogs and cats are the most overlooked for adoption at animal shelters. Some people are concerned about the potential for big veterinary bills as pets age further; others cannot face the prospect of having just a few months or years with a pet.
Giving new life to an older animal is a rewarding experience. They often return the favor by investing their new homes with energy that belies their advanced years.
Pooch smooch “sealed the deal”
In 2019 Fairfield County Dog Adoption and Shelter joined our shelter partner network. They have since made dozens of adoptions through our partnership and waive adoption fees for veterans approved into our program.
It was April 2023 when Wayne caught Chuck’s interest. The then 10 year-old dog, a brindle Mastiff mix, was in the shelter through no fault of his own. His adoption prospects were dim not only on account of his age, but his size as well.
Over the course of a couple of weeks Chuck and his wife visited with Wayne at the shelter.
“We went and looked at him twice in a two week period,” Chuck shares.
“He put a paw on each shoulder and gave me a big kiss, which sealed the deal!”
Shelter staff told the Coast Guard veteran about our companion pet adoption program for military veterans upon his initial visit.
Chuck learned more about the many benefits we offer to help make adopting pets for life more affordable.
“Any time someone wants to help with the cost of pet adoption, I am there,” he says.
New life for an old dog
It did not take long for Wayne to make himself at home. It is almost as though the old dog had lived there his entire life.
“He is such a character,” Chuck says. “He allows us to live in the house as long as we feed him. He loves to sleep in the bed with us at night. He walks real good on a leash and loves to shake hands. He loves to ride in the car and loves to play tug, and runs like a deer in the backyard.”
Shortly after their adoption Chuck took Wayne for a checkup at Creature Comforts Veterinary Care.
The practice offers veterans who adopt through our program 20 percent off fees. Having seen Wayne during his stay at Fairfield County Dog and Adoption Center they were reasonably familiar with his health and needs.
Despite being a little underweight Wayne was given a clean bill of health. Many animals who lose weight in a shelter environment due to stress will return to a healthier weight once settled into their new homes.
This old dog was no exception. Wayne gained about 13 pounds after his adoption, and continues to defy common expectations of a dog his age.
“They say he is 10 years [old],” Chuck shares, “but sometimes he acts like he is 10 months!”
“…If I could only roll in those dead fish”
Wayne is testament to the vitality of many senior pets.
The old dog has a tremendous zest for life and joins his new family on their various adventures. And by doing so he is investing their shared household with newfound energy.
“We have a place on Lake Erie in Marblehead, Ohio. We have taken him up there twice now and he likes the water,” Chuck says. “He saw some dead fish floating at our dock and he gave them a good sniff. I know he was thinking, ‘If I could only roll in those dead fish.'”
And like many more mature pets, Wayne has his basic manners down pat. Chuck shares that the big, old dog is excellent on leash – never pulls – and knows how to shake paws.
Old pets rule
It is a reflection of this Coast Guard veteran’s character that he adopted an old dog after losing his previous pup 12 years ago. It would be understandable that he would want a dog who, in all likelihood, would be with him for many years. And it is commendable that he chose instead to save a senior dog.
However, every day with a loving pet is a gift. No matter how young or old they are when they enter our lives we never know how long that gift will last.
While Wayne had the misfortune of becoming homeless late in life, he is among the lucky few older pets who actually find new homes.
We encourage more people to open their minds, hearts, and homes to the joys of more mature pets since they are no less deserving of our devotion.
For his part, Chuck is enjoying the unique joy that a companion pet brings to his home.
Wayne is proving to be an affectionate, loyal friend, and a great protector of his new pack.
“He loves to give kisses and snuggle at night,” Chuck shares, “and he is a great watch dog!”