ATLANTA — Jolie Gallagher and her husband were not looking to expand their pack when they spotted the black dog on an animal welfare organization's Instagram page in March.
The friendly Australian Shepherd mix, later renamed Cricket, was found as a stray and brought to the shelter.
Because of her age, 8 years old, Cricket would most likely not land at the top of many people's list for adoption.
Rescue groups and shelters say older cats and dogs are usually the hardest to place because most people want younger pets. Older pets may be a bit grayer or not romp as much, but they can still add a lot to their owner's life.
"When I found out she was a senior, there was no way I could leave her at the shelter," said Gallagher, a pharmacist. Cricket was later diagnosed with arthritis, but is doing well on medication. "The biggest thing I love about her is she is so calm and doesn't require as much attention and training as a puppy. She was a ready-to-go dog. Senior dogs are so easy to incorporate into your lives, and you are giving them a safe place in their older years to be comfortable."
Karen Hirsch, public relations director for LifeLine Animal Project, said people who open their homes to older pets "just have a special place in their hearts."
Sometimes the older pets come in as strays. Perhaps they escaped, the owners felt they were too big, or they were dumped by their owners because of the expense of keeping them. Some are dropped off at the shelter because the owner has died or the owner has to move to a nursing home or assisted living facility that doesn't allow animals.
"You have to look at it as a mission that you're giving that dog a home and a second chance," said Becky Cross, director of Atlanta Lab Rescue. The rescue takes in 450 to 500 dogs annually, of which 10% to 15% would be considered seniors.
ALR reduces the $375 adoption fee by $125 for a dog at least 7 years old and waives the fee for dogs 10 and older. If there's a significant medical condition at the time of an adoption, the nonprofit will consider the dog a permanent foster and continue to pay its medical bills, said Cross.
Charlie Kleman, a retired corporate executive, is chairman of ALR's board and a volunteer who often logs hundreds of miles a day ferrying homeless dogs to the vet, kennels and foster or forever homes.