As people around the country begin to sit and stay during the coronavirus pandemic, many now find themselves home alone. That’s why Erin Stanton, founder of Susie’s Senior Dogs, is trying to help others provide a little bark to their lives. Through her non-profit, she’s offering to help with the cost and fees for those willing to foster older dogs while they’re self-isolating.
“We are all being affected by this, humans and animals. People are going to be in their homes a lot more and it can be depressing,” said Stanton, who operates out of New York. “Fostering can be something to do, something distracting. It doesn’t have to be as depressing. It can be a win-win. Animals bring so much joy to people.”
In a social media post on March 16, Stanton said Susie’s Senior Dogs will help cover the cost of any food, supplies, spay and neutering fees and medications for however long people are able to foster. The dogs must be 6 years or older and come from a 501c3 rescue or shelter.
Throwing others a bone
Katelyn O’Brien is “immensely grateful” for the help. O’Brien works in the automobile industry. Her hours have been cut, and it’s now harder for her to make ends meet. She rescued an 8-year-old boxer named Boz in late January. Susie’s Senior Dogs recently sent her $300 worth of dog food.
“It was a weight off my shoulders,” said O’Brien, who’d adopted another senior dog, Lucy, in December.
O’Brien admitted it’s frustrating to be cooped up, but having a furry friend around is helping with her mental health.
“It’s so easy to just scroll on my phone constantly consuming information about the virus. But the dogs will wiggle their way on to my lap, or bring me their toy to play. I sat outside with them for about an hour today and it was so nice to just be in the sun with them.”
Trauma therapist Shari Botwin also said having a pet around is a great way to manage stress.
“They provide us with comfort. People talk about how their blood pressure will go down when they’re with their pets. Pets are calm,” she said.
Stanton’s offer comes at a time when animal shelters across the country are trying to find homes for as many animals as possible before the coronavirus pandemic forces many to close their doors. She said the immediate need is to get dogs out of shelters and into homes because volunteers aren’t going to the shelters anymore.
“People are getting laid off or don’t know if they will be laid off,” she said. “Fostering can add up. If that’s the only thing, financial uncertainty, that would be hindering them from fostering - that’s where I now want to step in.”
The idea for the non-profit started when Stanton and her (future) husband took in their first senior dog, Susie, in 2011.
“When people learned that Susie was brought home as a senior dog, the response was always the same: shock, surprise and curiosity.”
She did some digging and found there were a lot of older dogs up for adoption, but they usually “get lost among the cute puppies and younger dogs.” Susie’s Senior Dogs was a way to highlight the older dogs in rescues and kennels. Since 2014, they’ve helped find homes for over 2,500 senior dogs.
“Not a lot of people are interested in adopting older dogs. Of course, they are not going to live as long and health issues might come up sooner, but older dogs tend to be mellow couch potatoes. Most are trained. The biggest benefit is knowing you are providing a home for an animal that has probably gotten passed over hundreds of times. Giving them a home just feels good.”
People are lapping up the offer for help. Since the program’s beginning on March 16, at least 100 people have written to Stanton.
“If you have a dog to feed and take on a potty break, figure out what it needs. It can make the next couple of weeks or months or whatever a little better,” said Stanton. “[The current situation] is a very daunting feeling and anxiety-inducing, but for people that have the time and want to, it can be a great way to take your mind off it and make the best of the situation – for the dog and for them.”