Every dog deserves a home, and senior ones are no exception. That’s the mentality behind Muttville, a San Francisco-based canine rescue operation that focuses their efforts on pairing abandoned older dogs with loving families.
After volunteering at local animal shelters for many years, Sherri Franklin came to a realization.
“There was a hole in the rescue world. Senior dogs were dying in the shelters,” she said. “They were considered unadoptable and were routinely euthanized. It was truly eye opening and heartbreaking and something needed to change.”
To combat this, she founded Muttville in 2007. Since then, Franklin and her team have successfully rescued 4,000 senior dogs, and they aren’t planning on slowing down anytime soon.
According to Franklin, the rescue receives about 500 weekly requests to take in dogs from private surrenders, area animal shelters and from families of someone who has passed away. They rescue as many as they can, as long as they meet one set of criteria: that they are seven years of age or older.
“I decided that seven years and older was the age that dogs really became overlooked in the shelter, so I chose that age,” says Franklin. “Though to me a seven-year-old dog is still young!”
In addition to rehabbing dogs, Muttville offers a variety of services, one of which is their very successful “Senior for Seniors” program. “We match senior dogs with their human counterpoints. We also send all seniors home with a welcome home kit full of the things they will need for their new companion,” says Franklin.
Another focus point for the organization is its Fospice Program (the word fospice is a combination of foster and hospice). “Muttville stays committed to the dogs that come to us. Sometimes dogs come with life threatening or terminal illness,” Foster said. “We find fospice homes for them and we cover the cost of palliative care for all dogs in this program. That way, the dog gets a great last chapter and is euthanized only when they lack a good quality of life.”
The organization also strives to inform the public on the many reasons why senior dogs can make great pets. “One major concern of people adopting an older dog is whether the dog has ‘luggage,’ [like] emotional issues, health problems and things that might have caused the previous owner to abandon him,” says Franklin. “But that isn’t always the case. When a dog come to Muttville, it gets a wellness exam to make sure we can uncover any outstanding health issues.” And in some cases, a senior dog can be healthy and live out a life as easily as a younger dog.
“Many senior dogs have ended up in a shelter through no fault of their own [be it] a death [or] a change in living situations,” she said. “What you see is what you get with these more mature doggies. They come with life experience, socialization and a deep gratitude to their new family. They have so much love to give.”
Franklin notes that Muttville’s adopters often come back to express how much their new dog has impacted their lives. “We started nine years ago and hear over and over what a rewarding experience it is for the whole family to give these older dogs a second chance to love. And the dogs give so much back.” Many of Muttville’s clients have been so pleased with their adoption experience that they have returned to the organization to adopt a second dog.
We spoke to some pet parents who adopted dogs from Muttville, and here’s what they had to say:
Janet and Buster Cooper
“Buster Cooper melted my heart from the day I brought him home. Since he was already mostly crate and potty trained, it was nice to be able to focus on all the positive aspects of doggy ownership: cuddling, walks in the park, and of course happy licks!
He is so easy going and lovable — friends, family, and strangers on the street all stop to adore him. Nobody can believe he’s 12 years old — he still has a puppy face and that pep in his walk!” – Janet Zhou
Arlene and Royal
“Losing a cherished pet is never easy. In March of this year, my 10-year-old Pomeranian, Josette passed away suddenly from congestive heart failure. My heart was broken in a million pieces. My golden retriever, Fiona, Josette’s constant companion, was devastated too. Fiona was barely eating and she kept Josette’s favorite flannel ‘blankie’ and all her dog toys in her bed. One evening, while surfing the Internet, I discovered Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. As I read the bios for the pups, Royal’s photo came up. That face!
I completed an online adoption application and as I pushed the send button, I told Fiona, ‘Cross your paws. Let’s see what happens.’ The very next morning, I received a response and 48 hours later, I was on the road to Muttville.
I knew as soon as I met Royal and his foster mom, we were a perfect match. When I brought Royal home, he and Fiona immediately bonded. The pitter-patter of his tiny Pom-Pom feet brought joy back into our home. He is a sweet, healthy, happy, funny little guy.
They say dogs rescue us as much as we rescue them. From the moment Royal came home, he has helped me heal just like I have helped him. I discovered after I adopted Royal that he was surrendered the same day Josette died. Somehow, I just know, she helped us find Royal. We will be forever grateful to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. Not only did we bring Royal into our lives, we discovered a community of loving, wonderful people who share the joy of adopting a senior pup.” – Arlene Allan
Suzanne, Dudley and Missy
“I have adopted two dogs from Muttville within the last three months, first Dudley and then Honey Bee (now Missy). They are both senior dogs. Dudley is deaf and Missy is blind. They have brought so much joy into my life.
Missy was in very bad shape when she was brought into Muttville. She was very shy and frightened, having been found as a stray, but it took only a couple of days for her to feel right at home with me and to bond with Dudley. They are so cute together. They sleep on my bed together and each morning greet each other before going outdoors.
You would never know that Missy is blind. She trots around the house and neighborhood just like she was a sighted dog. My granddaughter and her girl friends carry her around like a stuffed animal and Missy loves it. She is the sweetest dog I have ever had.” – Suzanne Hanrahan
Jackie, Nick and Bear
“We decided that we wanted to open our hearts and home to a senior dog that may not find a home. Any issues were fine with us. A friend mentioned Muttville in San Francisco and I went to their website the same day. Honestly, the minute I saw Bear, I knew he was the one for us. I didn’t know all of his issues, but that didn’t matter at all. All I had to do was look in his eyes, he was ours.
We were blessed to have Bear in our home for only a few months, but he was a true joy, made us laugh and cry, broke our hearts when we had to say goodbye, and left a huge hole in our family that can never be filled. No matter about that, we would not have changed anything, we will love him forever.
Muttville was so amazing with all of the help and advice they gave us along the way. Bear was on a lot of medication and had to make many trips to the vet. Muttville staff as always available to talk to us, lend an ear, offer suggestions. The foster family that had Bear before us was also just as supportive and they truly loved Bear too. Everyone even offered to make a trip to our home to help!
This was our first experience with a fospice dog. It was so much harder than we ever imagined. The hardest part is the heartache you feel almost every day. It has been a few months and the pain is still with us, but we would definitely do this again!
Muttville, thank you so much for allowing us to care for Bear and for all you do for the senior dogs, many just thrown away like trash.” – Jackie and Nick Biggi
Nicole Pajer is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, energetic Doberman, and rat terrier.