A Kokomo dog lover is ensuring senior dogs don’t spend the end of their lives in shelters.
For the last several years Julie Howard been adopting older dogs – the ones that typically are hard to find owners for due to age and health issues – and giving them a loving home. With a little TLC, Howard said the once hopeless-seeming dogs thrive.
“These dogs can thrive. Just give them some love and attention, and they are so grateful and appreciative. You can tell, and they give a lot of love back,” said Howard, a retired registered nurse.
Currently, Howard has five senior dogs, and the remains of the ones she has lost sit across the mantle of her fireplace in tiny urns.
By adopting older dogs, Howard knows she won’t get a lot of time with some of them. However, many of the older ones still have several good years to live out.
The very first senior dog Howard adopted was a 14-year-old Chihuahua named Chica that had been surrendered to a Hamilton County shelter after its owner died. Chica lived for three-and-a-half more years. Up until the very end, Howard said she was an energetic, spry dog that would jump over her baby gates to get outside to play.
Another dog Howard adopted was a special needs Yorkie named Gracie. She was blind, had seizures, and a litany of other health issues. Howard had a year-and-a-half with her until she died recently.
“It broke my little heart. But she had a great life, and she went on her own terms,” said Howard.
Howard’s most recently-adopted dogs are Dezzie and Missy. She adopted the 11-year-old pair from the Kokomo Humane Society after they had been surrendered. The dogs, she said, are flourishing in their new home.
The dogs join a Pomeranian named Tera, a Chihuahua named Gia, and a mixed breed dog named Princess.
Princess came into Howard’s possession after Karen Wolfe, the executive director of the Kokomo Humane Society, called her and offered her the “hospice” dog in January, knowing that Howard had an affinity for senior dogs and that Princess’ chance of getting adopted on her own was slim to none. The dog required serious medical care, and her future wasn’t looking bright at that time.
However, Howard took her in, and Princess didn’t turn out to be a hospice dog at all. She’s doing well, despite having trouble seeing.
“Princess is thriving. She is not a hospice dog. She’s living her best life,” she said, adding that Princess even loves to play fetch despite her vision issues.
Having retired from healthcare, Howard said caring for dogs in their senior years is her way of continuing to help those in need.
“So many people trade in old dogs so they can get a puppy, and we do that to our own human seniors. They’re forgotten,” she said. “We don’t have respect for our elders, and it’s the same for the animals who are still very much wanting to be loved and cared for and can still be worthwhile to a family.”
Wolfe hopes more people will realize the joy even aging dogs can bring to a home.
Years ago, Wolfe said if a 14-year-old dog was brought to the shelter, it wouldn’t be put up for adoption, but today that’s not the case. These dogs aren’t being euthanized, requiring more people to be open to adopting older dogs.
“Eleven years old for a small dog is not ancient,” Wolfe said. “They could live 16 to 18 years, but people look at an 11-year-old dog and think, ‘Oh, I couldn’t. I can’t go through that.’ But when are you going to go through it? Five years? Six years? They’re all going to get old. Nothing is forever, and so to give a dog a month or six months or five years is just really great.”
While the humane society won’t cover the cost for medical issues for seniors dogs after they are adopted, Wolfe said, when the times comes, the owners can bring in their pet to have it humanely put down at no cost.