Nonprofit finds old dogs permanent homes

Jenny Sullivan, Foster Home Coordinator, (middle) of the Senior Dog Rescue of Oregon with Lady (left) and Molly (right) at her home in Philomath.

Tristan Bailey, Practicum Contributor

Senior Dog Rescue of Oregon works to foster, save older-aged dogs

Over 3.2 million dogs enter shelters in the United States annually, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

For 20 years, the Senior Dog Rescue of Oregon has worked to provide aging dogs with loving homes. Jenny Sullivan has worked with SDRO for over a decade and is now the organization’s Foster and Adoption Coordinator.

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 “We are a nonprofit, all-volunteer rescue group whose focus is on rehoming older dogs, mostly in the Willamette Valley area of Oregon,” Sullivan said. “We don’t have a shelter; rather, all of our dogs stay in foster homes or in their original homes until adopted.”

 Dogs come to SDRO for a variety of reasons. Sullivan estimates that well over 1,000 dogs have been rehomed by the group since its creation.

 “They come to us in many ways. Sometimes they’re in shelters having been given up by their owners. Sometimes maybe a dog is ill, and the owner just can’t afford to take care of it anymore,” Sullivan said. “Some (dogs) are abused and neglected. They end up being the most loving; they just want to please you.”

Before a dog can be adopted, several things must first occur, said Sullivan. Potential adoptees are required to fill out an application and pay a small fee, after which a home visit is conducted.  If approved, the dog can undergo a two-week trial period, during which any veterinary needs are taken care of. After the trial, SDRO does the final paperwork, and the dog has its “forever home.” 

Robin Donaldson is a Corvallis resident who has adopted two dogs through SDRO, most recently in February. 

“The first (adoption) took a couple of weeks,” Donaldson said. “Jenny came out and visited my house to ensure that it was a safe environment for a dog. Afterwards, she was able to connect me with a family that was moving to Connecticut and couldn’t find housing that accepted their animal, so I adopted their 12-and-a-half-year-old dog named Lucy. Jenny really played matchmaker during that process.”

For Donaldson, the decision to adopt a dog was easy.

“I just wanted to give a good life to a sweet, old dog that had lost its home. Also, an older dog may need more attention than a young puppy, and as a retired person I have the luxury of time,” Donaldson said. “I could promise that I could be with the dog and not be going off to work. Given that the dog is older, its energy needs would be a little more in line with mine; I guess I just liked that I could have a slowed-down companion.”

Donaldson said that it was an emotional experience to adopt a dog in its later years, knowing that it may not have much time left.

“It is (emotional). But it’s worth it to me, especially as I age, to provide as many dogs as I can with a wonderful life and a loving home,” Donaldson said. “You just have to kind of live in the moment with them, and I think that is what dogs teach us best: that you only have right now.”

As dogs wait to find more permanent homes, fosters are entrusted with their care. Sylvia Chiang is a veterinary medicine graduate student at OSU and has fostered three dogs through SDRO.

“I started fostering once I moved out of my parents’ house,” Chiang said in an email. “There are background checks just as with adoptees, so you fill out a form and they come inspect your house.”  

Chiang said fostering can be a very positive experience for OSU students.

“I would 100 percent recommend (becoming a foster with SDRO) to students who are responsible,” Chiang said in an email. “Student life can be stressful and lonely at times, and these dogs can help you through that.”

SDRO regularly hosts fundraising and adoption events in the Corvallis

area, said Sullivan.

“Every first Saturday of the month at Petco we have an event where people can come and meet the dogs,” Sullivan said. “Pet Day is another event we do in May, which is at the same time that (the university does) Mother’s Weekend. It’s at the university, that’s a fun one.” 

Sullivan stressed that older dogs are equally as deserving and in need of love and care as young puppies are.

“Just because a dog is old, doesn’t mean they don’t have healthy good years left. They may not be as quick, but they’re still wanting to please,” Sullivan said.  “They still want to be loved, and they can be a good friend.”

Sullivan added that if anyone is interested in fostering, they can go to the SDRO website and fill out a foster application. Everything is paid for by SDRO to care for the dog while it

is being fostered.