BY: JOANN ALLEN
Did you ever think about what happened to senior dogs whose family could no longer afford their medical care or who were abandoned because they were old?
While Julie Dudley volunteered for Old Dog Haven in the Seattle area, a network of private homes that foster senior dogs with nowhere else to go, she witnessed high numbers of abandoned senior dogs. Dudley says, “You wouldn’t believe how many people drop off their old dog at a shelter and go home with a brand-new puppy.”
This tragedy inspired Dudley to take action and breathe life into her vision: to create a world where no old dog dies alone or afraid. To make this dream come true, she left her corporate job and founded The Grey Muzzle Organization, a non-profit that raises money to fund grants for existing animal welfare groups across the country. These animal shelters, rescues, sanctuaries, and other nonprofit organizations use Grey Muzzle grant money to improve the lives of homeless, at-risk senior dogs in their areas.
For example, the East Coast Corgi Rescue received funding from Grey Muzzle and it changed one woman’s life—and her dog’s. After her beloved 16-year-old Corgi mix dog passed away recently, Sammi Burke, a native and resident of Silver Spring, MD, says, “I missed the companionship but didn’t
want to adopt a puppy because of the time commitment and I work full-time.”
Burke came across the East Coast Corgi Rescue and applied to foster a senior dog. “They said they have a dog who’s turning 13, is diabetic, on insulin twice daily and has to be in a no dog household, and I said, ‘Yes, that’s perfect!’”
And it’s been a love match ever since. “Scrappy is a really cute dog. He has one kind of crinkly ear, my favorite thing about him; and I like that he takes his neighborhood watchman role very seriously. He’s 100 percent personality and he is a drama queen. He likes to wear his dog sweaters and he growls when I take them off.
“Scrappy is a very likable, ridiculous dog,” says Burke, “He has a scream, not a bark or a yelp. He used to scream when getting his insulin shots so I figured it out. Now I give him chicken jerky while he gets his shots. There is no more screaming and this has drastically reduced my stress in the morning.”
The Grey Muzzle Organization’s grant to the East Coast Corgi Rescue provides medical care for some of their long-term senior dogs for the rest of their lives. “That grant is what covers Scrappy’s medical bills,” says Burke.
“Without them, I wouldn’t have gotten him. They send his insulin and syringes to me. He goes once a month to a veterinarian that the rescue works with. He’s doing very well, his diabetes is under control, and he could live another two years. I went in knowing it will be difficult when his time is up, but he has a home and is enjoying his life right now.”
Burke says, “A lot of people want puppies; the advantage of fostering a senior dog is they tend to be housebroken and great for people who work. Fostering a senior dog is rewarding because you can give them the best couple of years of their life. I’m lucky to have Scrappy; he’s a great dog.”
Bette Brown, president of the Frederick Friends of Our County Animal Shelter, a non-profit that supports the local County-run shelter, Frederick County Animal Control says, “The County only pays for basic pet care. The animals that are older, sick, or injured need community support. One of the
categories that needs help is senior dogs so we applied for a grant from The Grey Muzzle Organization to cover those costs. This is our first year getting a grant from them, and they’ve been wonderful.”
Brown says, “One day a stray pit bull mix, about eight years old, came into the shelter. Our staff was in a Disney mood that day and named her Tala after the grandmother in the movie Moana. She passed the assessment with flying colors and was put on the adoption floor at the shelter. It became apparent that she found confinement in a kennel to be very stressful. She broke three canine teeth trying to escape, so the staff kept her in various offices to keep her safe while they searched for a foster home for Tala.
“Tala has been living on a farm and she gets along great with horses, cats, puppies, and children. They probably would keep her except they have goats, which Tala thinks are food. The family loves her and are providing a wonderful temporary home while she waits for her forever home.
“She needed medical care and the Grey Muzzle Organization made it
possible to cover her expenses for dental care to pull out the teeth she broke, remove a tumor, and treat a minor eye condition. Now she just
needs a loving home.”
Denise Fleck, president of The Grey Muzzle Organization, says, “We are not a shelter ourselves; we have no physical location. We give grants to non-profit organizations around the country for senior dogs. “With a senior dog, you get what you see; he’s grown into his paws and personality. Senior dogs are amazing; they’re just happy to be your companion and sit by your side. I feel a dog knows when he’s been rescued. You can see it in his eyes, he knows that you saved him,” says Fleck.
Different shelters use the grant for different programs around the country. “The way the Ashville Humane Society uses the Grey Muzzle grant is dogs come through a 24-hour hotline. Thanks to the grant, the dog can get a voucher to get the medical care he needs at the local vet. That way the dog gets what he needs and can keep his family and stay in the home he’s comfortable in.”
Fleck sites another way Grey Muzzle helps the community. “Knox Paws in Knoxville, TN matches senior dogs with senior people. Their Grey Muzzle grant goes to getting dogs healthy before they are adopted and pays for their medical care for life.” And according to Fleck, the benefits of seniors fostering a senior dog are endless. “It helps elderly people get exercise, become more social, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and helps you recover from surgery. It’s such a win-win; you’re helping an older dog and it
sure makes your heart smile too.”
Fleck says, “If you know a shelter that helps older dogs, tell them to apply for a grant to Grey Muzzle in February so they too can have a heartwarming success story to sell.”
Lisa Lunghofer, Executive Director of The Grey Muzzle Organization says, “I love the fact that we are making a difference to senior dogs who need a second chance, and we are working hard to get the word out to non-profits. We are supported solely by donations from the public. In 2018 alone we awarded almost $390,000 to 66 animal welfare organizations around the
country. In the past 10 years, we have awarded 1.5 million dollars.”
If you would like to make a donation to the Grey Muzzle Organization, go to