Grant a boon to human and canine seniors


Love is in the air for senior dogs and older adults at the Oregon Humane Society, thanks to a recent grant from The Grey Muzzle Organization, a national nonprofit, to help rehome more dogs ages seven and older. Through the grant, adoption fees will be waived for all senior dogs adopted by adults 60 and older during OHS’s Senior Tuesday.

By offering these senior dogs with their adoption fee waived, OHS will be able to transfer in more senior dogs from partner shelters, giving them a second chance at a loving home.

“We are very grateful for this grant from The Grey Muzzle Organization,” says Sharon Harmon, OHS President and CEO. “This will give more senior dogs the chance to find a loving home with an older adult.”

Learn more about OHS’s Senior Tuesday and see adoptable pets at

For the Love of Seniors

Meet beloved older lovebugs shared by a few of Spot's Facebook friends.


I have the world’s most wonderful two Senior Pets around, Bubbas and Oski.

Bubbas came to me in 2006 at 2 years old as a $15 rescue from the San Bernardino Animal Shelter.  When he was picked up, the person told us "he's a lucky boy, we were just prepping the room to put him down as he'd been here for over a week and his time is up." He is the most beautiful and sweetest boy I have ever known.  He wakes up every morning at 5am to go outside and watch the morning sunrise and visit with the birds and squirrels.  He adores chicken jerky, long walks and rides in the car.


Oski was a Craigslist rescue at the age of 10 back in 2012. He is a Chow/German Shepard, and adores rolling around in the grass.  He is my big cuddle muffin shadow man who waits by the door for me until I come home and follows me wherever I go.  He loves babysitting little puppies and is the perfect teacher and nanny: so very patient, loving and calm. Oski's favorite things in life are chicken, pets on the head, and walks in nature.

- Jess Peterson


Our little old man, Jake, is a marvel. Sixteen, two rebuilt knees, spinal surgery that nearly killed him, deaf, losing his sight and what we believe is doggie dementia, and yet there are times he has the eagerness and energy of a youngster. We are his family three, getting him at the age of six, and will be his forever people. Of five other dogs in our lives he is the most memorable and will be the most missed when he leaves us, but until then he makes us laugh every day and shares our great love and affection.

- Patty Hudson


"My name is Miss Lily, and nine years ago I curled up in Mama Laurel's lap because I knew I'd found my furever home. The past nine years have been filled with great joys and deep sorrows. I am a sensitive beast, and show my family expressive, unconditional love no matter what path we walk. My age has not really slowed me down much; I still hike and swim and play and learn new tricks. I'm so grateful Mama and Dad came into the shelter, and I tell and show them every single day."

- LaurelAnn Boone


His name is Guinness and he is 19 years old. He was a pound puppy, so his first year of life is unknown to us, yet evidence like the bb's lodged throughout his small body point to a rough start. So... you can’t blame that he only trusts those he loves. Those chosen few have aided in providing him an amazing life. He is my best friend and I am not satisfied with 19 years, I want him to share my entire life. I understand that's unreasonable. So, instead I will enjoy every moment until I kiss him our last goodbye.

- James Moore & Travis Ayres

Senior Emergencies


Leading causes, and keys to survival

We’ve all been there . . .

You’re walking the pup, and . . . “Is he limping?  I didn’t notice that yesterday.”

Or you’re strutting along and wonder, “She sure is panting a lot. It’s not that hot out. Is that normal?”

Or your cat has been sleeping all day. “I know cats sleep a lot, but he used to be so playful.”

Or, “Wow, she sure has been drinking a lot of water lately.”

Or, you’re snuggling with your lovebug and discover a lump.

Another biggie: they didn’t eat breakfast (or dinner) — a huge concern with a pet who never skips a meal.

These occurrences are all the more worrisome when pets are older.  Any new, little thing brings trepidation and fear.

It’s hard to believe how time flies, and our pawed companions reach their senior years much faster than we do. Aging is an undeniable part of life and, for pets, along with it comes lumps and bumps, limps and gimps.

It’s easy to recognize the outward signs of aging in a pet: stiffening joints, graying muzzle, slowing gait, and once bright eyes growing cloudy.  What can’t be seen but must be remembered is that his or her internal systems are changing too.

So, how can you tell if your senior pet is suffering from a serious health issue or merely presenting signs of age?

Spot spoke with Dr Megan Nyboer, Emergency Director at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center about the most common medical emergencies for pets in their golden years.


Metabolic System Disease

The metabolism makes energy from food and eliminates waste and toxins from the body.  Metabolic function is at the core of good physical health. Disorders include anything that disrupt the process, from disease isolated to an organ such as kidney or liver to a systemic disease affecting the body overall such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism.


Early indications of a metabolic problem include increased thirst/urination and weight loss. More advanced signs include decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting and weakness. “While not curable, metabolic system disease is treatable if caught early,” Nyboer says. The best prevention, she adds, is annual exams and bloodwork for pets six to seven years of age and twice yearly as they get older or as specific health issues arise.


Heart Disease

Dr Nyboer says heart disease is very common in both older dogs and cats, but that it can be managed when detected early.


Signs that trouble is brewing for dogs include a cough lasting more than a couple of weeks, lethargy, and intolerance to exercise. Difficulty and/or heavy breathing, severe coughing, and fluid from the nose are more acute symptoms, signifying a possible emergency that may require oxygen.

As with their canine counterparts, sudden onset of heavy breathing and general lethargy in felines are indicators of heart disease, but Nyboer warns that cats often exhibit no symptoms.  In fact, she says, cats tend to mask signs of illness better than dogs, often delaying detection.

This underscores the importance of yearly physical exams: early detection is key to being able to manage a disease, and hopefully prolong survival. If a murmur is discovered, for example, it can be monitored, and explored further with additional diagnostic tests.



For pets, incidents of cancer increase with age. According to The Veterinary Cancer Society, cancer is the leading cause of death in 47% of dogs (especially over age 10) and 32% of cats. 

With so many different types, cancer follows no iron-clad rule. Symptoms vary, or can be scarce until the disease has become advanced.

The cancer that causes the most life-threatening emergencies — especially in older animals — is Hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive, malignant tumor in blood vessel cells. Because these tumors form in blood vessels, they are frequently filled with blood. When a blood-filled tumor ruptures, it can cause internal bleeding — particularly when the liver or spleen are involved.

“This can happen very quickly and without warning,” says Nyboer. “This an acute, urgent situation where immediate emergency care is needed.”


Because pets may not exhibit symptoms until a problem becomes serious, the doctor urges parents of senior pets to vigilantly watch for listlessness, sudden and unexplained weakness, pale gums, abdominal swelling, difficulty breathing, and collapse.



Regular veterinary examinations and bloodwork establish a baseline for pets, making it easier to detect abnormalities before they become advanced or life-threatening and improving the chances of a longer, healthier life.

You know your pet better than anyone, making you his or her first line of defense. Watch for even small signs that your aging dog or cat is “just not feeling or acting right” and, should they appear, get veterinary care. The sooner you act, the better the chance of a positive outcome for your best friend.

Resource: Cascade Veterinary Referral Center | |  503-684-1800


Vonnie Harris is a freelance writer, and operator of Pet Stop Pit Stop pet sitting services in SW Washington. She resides in Vancouver with Jessie (a yellow Lab), and Pedro & Grey Bird (parrots). Vonnie is “the face of Spot” at many Portland-area pet-related events, and the voice of Spot in social media outlets.

Caring for “gray muzzles” in shelters and at home


When people consider adopting a pet, they often think of puppies or kittens. They’re cute, warm and fuzzy, and their new family gets to watch them grow up from day one.

But it takes a lot of time and effort to make that puppy a part of the family. When you take on the privilege of caring for an older dog or cat, that work is already done. In essence, you can skip right ahead to the golden years. And as many will testify, it’s an extraordinary experience.

Portland resident Lindsey Ferguson adopted a senior dog, Gizmo, while in college. “I knew from volunteering in the shelter that senior dogs had trouble finding homes,” she says. “It was mostly because people didn't like the idea of getting attached and then losing them so quickly. But the truth was that they were the best-behaved dogs in the shelter. When it came time for me to start fostering, I requested an older dog.”

DNA testing showed Gizmo was a purebred Lhasa Apso. The shelter estimated his age at 10, but he lived 10 more years after finding his forever home with Ferguson. 

Many shelter animals are stray or abandoned, with no known medical history. Age is often a guess. Also, what is considered senior can vary by breed, based on average lifespan. While in shelters, senior animals often need unique care that can increase the shelter’s budget. In years past, shelters didn’t try too hard to place senior dogs or cats, but that is changing.

“Where our shelters used to be overcrowded now we’re at a point where some of our shelters are actually seeking out adoptable animals,” says Kim Alboum, Shelter Outreach and Policy Engagement Director at the Humane Society of the United States. “The messaging about spay/neuter and adopt don’t shop and visit your local shelter have worked.”

Along with this evolution has come increased services and resources to help place harder to adopt pets. “People have a special place in their hearts for the seniors,” says Alboum. “Many times we have shelters step right up to take in seniors because they pull at the heartstrings of the community.”

Senior dogs often have joint aches and pains, so they need comfy beds with support. They also need food formulated for their life stage.

“Many times senior dogs at shelters have lost their owners but were previously well-cared for, so we see obesity,” Alboum says. “And with senior animals we see dental issues. Dental care can be very expensive for shelters, so they do expect that their budget is going to be higher when they have more senior animals.”

According to the ASPCA, about 1.5 million animals per year are currently being euthanized in the US. Alboum says there was a time when closer to 14 million animals were euthanized annually. The likelihood of a senior animal being adopted was very slim. “But now far fewer animals are being euthanized, and these animals now have a really good chance of being adopted because they’re housebroken, they’re trained, and they’re just incredible pets,” she says. “These ‘gray muzzles’ as we call them are really special.”

Sasha Elliott, Community Engagement Manager for Greenhill Humane Society in Eugene, says Greenhill offers reduced or fee-waived adoptions for any seniors in their care, including dogs, cats, and small animals such as rabbits. 

“Unlike puppies or kittens who require extensive training and activity, senior pets fit into your life — they’re already great dogs and cats,” Elliott says. “Whether you’re looking for a companion to go on long walks with, or someone to relax with on the couch or porch, a senior pet can be a great fit.”

Tina Aarth and Joe Martinez, adoption coordinators at Animal Aid in Portland, love their senior dogs. “We love being able to help them find their soft landing,” says Martinez. “After a lifetime of human companionship, the isolation of a kennel can be extremely depressing.”

Two key features of Animal Aid’s successful senior placements are in keeping their animals in foster care for as long as it takes to get them adopted — sometimes for several months or even years, along with medical support. 

“Many senior dogs have problems with their kidneys, hearts, joints, teeth, etc.,” Martinez says. “The Animal Aid Cares fund allows us to adopt dogs with ongoing medical needs into loving homes where the cost of vet care might be overwhelming. We do this by paying half of the animal's medical costs for the first year, and sometimes longer.”

Seniors at Animal Aid get more frequent vet check ups and whatever dental procedures or other medical treatment may be needed while waiting for their “furever homes.” At foster homes, seniors can have a more comfortable life while awaiting their new family, and, as in the case of Ferguson and Gizmo, that foster home may become their forever home. 

At home with Gizmo, Ferguson says routine was key. He had health problems that required twice-daily medication, so they kept to a schedule. “That made it easier to identify new problems and to monitor improvements,” she says. 

The extra vet care can be expensive, so Ferguson kept a rainy day fund and worked with her vet to manage her budget. Ferguson says she prefers senior pets because they are easier to care for and don't require the exercise and attention puppies or kittens do.

“There are far fewer unknowns with a senior pet,” Ferguson says. “And for the most part they just want a comfortable spot to nap and a belly rub.”

Animal Aid *

Greenhill Humane Society *

The Humane Society of the United States *


Vanessa Salvia's love for animals began as a child, when stray kittens just seemed to follow her home (who thankfully, her family accommodated). She lives on a sheep farm outside of Eugene OR, surrounded by dogs, cats, horses, chickens and kids.

Fresh food — it’s good for everyone


Heather Macfarlane of WILD Pet Provisions has worked in the pet health and nutrition field for more than 30 years. In that time, she says one of the most frequent questions she’s heard from pet parents is what senior dog/cat food is best.

Macfarlane says nutritional recommendations are based on each dog and cat's individual needs, and senior pets are no exception. “Diets should be tailored to meet each pet's nutritional needs, and not based on age alone,” she says. “Every person I know eats for their needs — why should pets be any different? 

In the natural world, Macfarlane points out, there is no puppy, adult, or senior food for wolves or wild cats, and in fact no packaged food at all. “Their food is their prey —  raw muscle meat with organs, bones, fur, and pre-digested greens, berries, and anything else that’s in the stomach of their prey.”

What did dogs eat before commercial pet food became available a mere hundred years ago? Macfarlane says, “People food. Mostly consisting of the parts of the food we didn't eat — meat scraps, organs, bones, veggies, etc. This was much closer to their natural diet than what we find in the pet food aisle today.” 

Macfarlane goes on to say that while the pet food industry holds that senior dogs and cats should eat differently than adults or young pets, there isn't a consensus for guidelines on such senior formulas. “In reality, senior pet foods on the market vary in content and analysis, including protein, fat, carbohydrates, and calories,” Macfarlane says. “Just because a pet food says it is for "senior dogs/cats" it doesn't mean it's good for all senior pets. A dog the same age as your senior dog may have very different nutritional needs, so feeding them both the same food may not be beneficial to one, or either one for that matter.” 

22-year-old Turtle is one of Macfarlane's four senior felines (and one senior dog)

22-year-old Turtle is one of Macfarlane's four senior felines (and one senior dog)

All dogs and cats should eat according to their individual needs, not just based on their age, Macfarlane says. 

So what to consider when making food choices for your pet? Macfarlane says body condition and underlying disease or imbalances are much more important factors than age when it comes to feeding your senior pet. 

“What I recommend is that all dogs and cats, including seniors, eat fresh, raw food,” Macfarlane says.  “Raw food is in its natural state and the nutrition is readily recognized and utilized in dog and cat bodies. Older pets thrive from food they are designed to eat, which provide moisture, natural joint support, digestive enzymes, and animal-based protein.” 

Where to start? “Some fresh food is better than no fresh food at all,” Macfarlane says. “You probably don't eat salad every single day, but you eat salad, right? Likewise, if you don’t feed your pet a 100% fresh food diet, then incorporate fresh as much as you are able by adding fresh foods to your pet's current meals, feed fresh meals once a day, once a week, twice a week, whatever is feasible for you and your pet.”  Pet nutrition assessments and individualized dietary plans are available through Macfarlane’s business. 

Beneficial foods Macfarlane recommends incorporating into your senior pet's diet include:

  • Green Juju (contains buffalo bone broth, celery, coconut oil, dandelion greens, ginger, kale, lemon, parsley, turmeric, zucchini)
  • Canned sardines (packed in water, not oil)
  • Bone broth
  • Freeze dried food and/or treats (such as Stella & Chewy's, K9 & Feline Naturals, Vital Essentials, Primal)
  • Phytoplankton
  • Eggs
  • Wildcraeft's Heal
  • Turmeric or Golden Paste
  • Green and Blue Lipped Mussel
  • Coconut oil
  • Probiotics
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Boswellia

Learn more and meet the nutrition specialists at WILD Pet Provisions at 2393 NE Fremont, Suite A in Portland, or at

Show seniors some love!

Jake ‘n Max’s Boxes of Love began as a tribute to the unwavering love of two beloved senior dogs. The annual pet supply drive — Jan. 14 – Feb. 14 — accepts donations that sweet oldsters seeking forever homes need and deserve. Rescues devoted to older animals are typically strained by veterinary care costs and rely heavily on donations. Cushy beds, soft chew toys, comfortable walking gear and healthy supplements are just some of the items that can help make the lives of these faithful friends cozier and filled with love.

In its 5th year, Jake ‘n Max’s Boxes of Love partners with local businesses who serve as donation sites, with cheerily-decorated boxes ready to be filled.

This year's beneficiaries are My Way Home Dog Rescue and House of Dreams No-Kill Cat Shelter.

Current donation sites for 2017 include The City of Portland Building, City of Portland Central Precinct (1111 SW Second Ave) and the following locations:

Fang & Feather * 1926 N Kilpatrick, Portland, OR

Meat for Cats & Dogs * 2244 E Burnside, Portland, OR

Salty's Pet Supply * 4039 N Mississippi, #104, Portland, OR

Tails R Waggin' Doggy Day Care * 4925 NW Fruit Valley Rd., Vancouver, WA

Contract Furnishings Mart * 11806 NE 65th St., Vancouver, WA

If your place of business would LOVE to participate, contact

For the ♥ of seniors

Jake ‘n Max’s Boxes of Love began as a tribute to the endless unwavering love of two beloved senior dogs. The annual pet supply drive (mid-January to mid-February) accepts donations that sweet oldsters seeking forever homes need and deserve. Rescues devoted to older animals are typically stretched thin by the cost of veterinary care, and rely heavily on donations. Cushy beds, soft chew toys, comfortable walking gear and healthy supplements are just some of the items that can help make the lives of these faithful friends cozier and filled with love. 

Approaching its 4th year, Jake ‘n Max’s Boxes of Love partners with local businesses who act as donation sites, with cheerily-decorated boxes ready and waiting to be filled. 

This year's beneficiaries are My Way Home Dog Rescue and Animal Aid.

Current donation sites for 2016 include The City of Portland Building and the following locations:

Fang & Feather * 1926 N Kilpatrick, Portland, OR

Meat for Cats & Dogs * 2244 E Burnside, Portland, OR

Salty's Pet Supply * 4039 N Mississippi, #104, Portland, OR

Tails R Waggin' Doggy Day Care * 4925 NW Fruit Valley Rd., Vancouver, WA

The Filling Station Pet Supplies * 10115 SW Nimbus Ave., Suite 100, Tigard, OR

Jenny Craig * 11318 SE 82nd Ave., Portland, OR

Contract Furnishings Mart * 11806 NE 65th St., Vancouver, WA

City of Portland Central Precinct * City of Portland 911 Center

The drive culminates with a Senior Love Adoption event on Sunday, Feb. 14 from noon-3pm at Salty's Pet Supply in Portland, OR.  Get to know the great people of the rescue groups that the Jake 'n Max Boxes of Love helps. You can also meet (and maybe fall in love) with a few of the adoptables from My Way Home Dog Rescue and there are a couple cute raffle baskets chock full of adorable items.  Salty's Pet Supply will be celebrating their 11th anniversary at the event also with goodie bags and treats.  10% of all sales during the event will be donated to the rescues!  As a special bonus, anyone who spends $40 or more will receive a free engraved pet tag while supplies last.  It'll be an afternoon of Love.

If your place of business would LOVE to participate or get involved with next year's Jake 'n Max's Boxes of Love (the 5th Annual!), please email  

Gold Old Dog Project fueled by love

Aging gives us fine wine, and mellow whiskey. It also gives us — and our companion animals — graying hair and an occasional hitch in our get-along. 

Inspired by her Golden-Doodle, Maggie, Portland-based portrait photographer Pauline Zonneveld started taking pet photos about five years ago. Then, thanks to an older dog in her neighborhood, she was inspired to create the Good Old Dog Project, which honors what might be overlooked in the golden years, capturing the beauty of those in later life.          

"On a winter day in 2010 I noticed my neighbor's elderly Australian Shepherd, Kali, struggling to make her daily walk around the yard,” says Zonneveld. “I was immediately drawn to her grey muzzle, uncertain steps, and gentle demeanor. As a photographer, I recognized the potential of a terrific portrait and a way to pay tribute to her courage and perseverance. Before I had a chance to do so, Kali died. I realized I had missed an opportunity and decided to embark on a quest to find aging models and honor them with a beautiful portrait. And The Good Old Dog Project was born!" 

Zonneveld's minimalistic style, inspired by her Dutch roots, holds to simple elegance.  She believes her beautiful subjects shine through even more clearly, with grace and humor. 

And as she is also a poet, some of her photography packages include a custom haiku written specifically for the pet. One fine example is from Duffy, a 13-yr-old greyhound: 

          When you aren't looking

          I nip your wine for dreams of

          winning by a nose

This year even more love was added to the The Good Old Dog Project, as mini portrait sessions now benefit The Pixie Project, a nonprofit pet rescue and adoption center. 

The Pixie Project seeks lifelong matches between adopters and pets, and behind the scenes work to help low-income families get the vet services and surgeries their pets need. In fact, a skilled team of veterinarians and vet techs perform up to 20 surgeries per week. These include emergency services like dental extractions, amputations, mass removals, and other life-saving surgeries, along with routine spays and neuters. 

The Good Old Dog Project operates in an event format as opposed to an ongoing service.  

"First, we will photograph your Good Old Dog in exchange for a $29 signup fee," Zonneveld explains. "One hundred percent of this fee will be donated to The Pixie Project...something you and your Good Old Dog can feel good about!" 

Learn more at

Christy Caballero writes from her soul about animals and their humans. She and hubby Herb have to compete for space on the couch with three big RagaMuffin cats, two retired racing greyhounds and one slightly neurotic foster greyhound -- who never wants to leave. Ever.


Hello! I have been waiting patiently for my family since July 3rd. Could it be you? Don’t let my age fool you, I’m an active gal! I enjoy daily walks and meeting new friends, especially kids! I’m also content cuddling and watching movies! I am crate-trained but also do great home on my own. I get along great with my foster dog brothers. I have some common senior gal things: a limp and some lumps and bumps; the worrisome ones were removed. I'd love to spend the rest of my days in a happy, loving home! I am around 10 and weigh 50 pounds. I am currently in foster care. Please come meet me! I bet we’ll be a perfect match! Contact my foster mom at and let’s make a date!