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THESIS: Old Dog, New Life

By Sunny Elmore

In this thesis, Sunny Elmore explores the positive impacts fostering/adopting a senior dog has on the dog and the fosterer/adopter.

Below is the introduction to the thesis, and the entire paper is available for download in PDF format here:

Sunny Elmore Thesis. Old Dog, New Life
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Old black dog with grey muzzle looking away



While enjoying an evening walk with a friend, I shared a story about my latest senior foster our rescue had pulled from a shelter, one that does tremendous work in the rescue community, all on a shoe-string budget. Like most who enjoy nature, I find that walks and hikes alone or with others often stimulates deep thinking and intelligent conversations, and lucky me because this particular evening would result in the formation of my thesis. After I had shared my rescue story, we began discussing whether fostering a senior dog takes the place of a younger dog in a home. “Wouldn’t the energy be better spent on a dog with many years left, rather than an old dog with poor health and a greater likelihood of passing sooner, as a result?” This is where my rumination on fostering/adopting senior dogs as opposed to younger dogs began. It had always occurred to me that senior dogs were not for everyone, just as not all breeds or sizes belong in every home. But this got me thinking; why do most people choose younger dogs over an elderly “second-hand dog”? Is it because they aren’t aware of the higher risk for euthanasia? Or are they concerned about the medical costs that are believed to accompany old age? Or is it the lack of experience in the simultaneous impact a rescuer can have on an elderly dog and that dog can have on her (or him)? I had never considered being a part of a senior dog rescue until I experienced a life with my own senior, whom I had raised from a puppy to the ripe-old age of 15. A few years before his passing, I knew I had the knowledge and the ability to care for ill and elderly dogs, and it almost seemed selfish not to put this experience to good use. He was what drew me to senior rescue. When I finally took the plunge, I expected to simply open my home to an old dying dog and let her live out the rest of her days in peace. What I was not prepared for was the impact it would have on the both of us, an impact that would give her a few more months of life and would ultimately change the course of my life forever.


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