Senior dogs run a higher risk of being euthanized in shelters and are typically difficult to rehome for obvious reasons: the disabilities, diseases and deterioration that are a part of the natural aging process. Then there's the myth that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" and all those eye-catching irresistible puppies that mother nature provides with the ultimate marketing ploy: unabashed cuteness. How's a senior dog supposed to compete?
As the good folks at Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary (OFSDS) know, mature dogs should be celebrated – and considered when adopting – for their loving and laid-back demeanor and the fact that so many are already trained to some degree. All of this makes them perfect companions for low-key humans, a major selling point the OFSDS staff emphasizes to perspective adopters.
Taking these important points to this nation's people during an election year is Mildred the Pug – the "Geezer Party" candidate from OFSDS who has thrown her hat... well, bone... into the 2016 presidential race. Around the time of the first debate in the summer of 2015, the patriotic pug was featured in a few photos on OFSDS's Facebook feed. One follower who believed that now is the time to "put a pug in the White House" thought Mildred would make a stand-up candidate to fight for the rights of elder dogs. Before long she was drafted. The American people had spoken, and Mildred listened with her finely tuned doggy ears.
Headlines and Global News' Pets Happy Zone caught up with Zina Goodin, a co-founder of the Tennessee-based sanctuary that houses about 20 senior pups at any given time, and even scored an exclusive on Mildred the Pug's presidential bid!
PHZ: Tell us about Mildred and what makes her the right choice for the next president of the United States?
ZINA GOODIN: Mildred is the perfect choice for a presidential campaign due to her confident, in-control attitude, wisdom and ability to spread the word that senior dogs rule. Mildred shows that even the "saddest" dog in the shelter can be a star and be a wonderful member of a family.
Mildred has integrity. Mildred is not a career politician and has lots of experience in the real world. Mildred is a strong leader who expects the most from her staff. She is not afraid of anyone. Mildred has tackled hardships such as being left at a shelter in bad health to rebound and come out stronger on the other side. Mildred's campaign slogan is "a completely new direction."
How did you meet Mildred?
Mildred was surrendered to a local animal control with another, younger pug. The other pug was picked up by another rescue, but Mildred was left behind because of her age and medical problems. She had a useless, painful eye that was removed once she entered our program; (she) needed dental work, had skin issues, had mobility problems and was underweight. She was not unusual for dogs coming to OFSDS.
Besides putting a pug in the White House, what does Mildred's campaign hope to accomplish?
It is a fundraiser for OFSDS and gives us great opportunities for selling campaign gear. All of the proceeds go to helping senior dogs both at our sanctuary and in forever foster homes. It also gives us a fun way to share our mission and spread the message that senior dogs, who are often overlooked in shelters, are great companions who are fun to be with and can profoundly enhance the lives of the families they live with.
How can the American people support her campaign?
Mildred gear is available in our online store including mugs, bumper stickers, yard signs and buttons. We also run periodic shirt campaigns. ... We expect things to heat up as the election grows nearer. Mildred will be solidifying her platform in the coming months and will soon be announcing the rest of the Old Friends on her ticket.
Has Mildred chosen a running mate yet? Can we get an exclusive scoop?
While we haven't officially announced yet, we will tell you that her running mate was chosen because of his military background and ability to get the job done. Yes, it's Captain Ron! You can definitely have the exclusive on this.
How about her cabinet members? Will there be any cronyism?
She is tossing around the idea of an all-pug cabinet. We are working on her positions on the issues and may ask for help from some of our Facebook supporters.
A lot of the current presidential-hopefuls, like Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio, have appeared on televised debates and haven't been very afraid to open their mouths and say what they think. Sometimes, that boldness gets them in trouble. What does Mildred think of her competition?
Mildred will be running a positive campaign and will be expressing her own positions on her issues. She won't be telling anyone what is wrong with the other candidates, just what is right about her. She's not worried about the other contenders since she feels that she has the strongest platform. It won't be "politics as usual" for Mildred.
Mildred is clearly a star - any dog that has her own merch is big-time - but are there other social media stars or starlets?
The favorites on social media are, of course, Mildred, also, Leo, the OFSDS rock star, Captain Ron, Spumoni, Lolly, Toby and Clumber. Almost all of our Old Friends do have a following of fans.
Why seniors? How did senior dog rescue become your mission?
This story starts with a little background. We have been "rescuing" dogs for about 16 years, since I picked up a 6-pound Charlotte (who grew to eventually be 75 pounds) in the middle of Charlotte Avenue in Nashville in 2000.
We became officially involved in rescue six years ago when we adopted 18-month-old Gracie from Middle Tennessee Golden Retriever Rescue (MTGRR) to be a friend for Ginger, an 8-month-old among seniors. It was at a time in our lives when we were beginning to have more time to volunteer. We had been working 40 to 60 hours a week and were involved with our son's activities as he went through grade school and high school. As we were coming on to our more senior years, we finally had some "spare" time and wanted to put it to good use.
In spring of 2010, MTGRR had an urgent plea for someone to foster a very senior golden Pyrenees mix named Bandit. He was disoriented and had some problems getting around. They had nowhere to place him other than at a vet's office and that was no place for him to spend his final days. Although he only lived with us for less than a month before passing to the Rainbow Bridge, we started to see a need for what was being called at that time a "long-term" foster for senior dogs. It didn't take us long to discover how extreme the need was as we continued to volunteer heavily with MTGRR. We were beginning to find our calling.
Was there a moment that kind of made it all click?
A very rewarding moment was when we placed a chocolate lab named Betsy in a Forever Foster home with a woman in an assisted living facility. Betsy had been picked up on the side of the highway were she had been abandoned. From the moment that Betsy met the woman, they were bonded and weren't even aware of everyone else in the room.
Who was the first dog that started it all?
Lucy-Lu. You see her face everywhere. She is and always will be the "face" of OFSDS. ... She was with us for almost four years.
How about the Pug Nation? At one point, did you deliberately focus on pugs?
Our first pug, who joined us in December 2012, was a 13-year-old named Mushy. Mushy was with us for about 18 months. A few months after Mushy came, we brought in a blind, diabetic pug named Furby. We realized once Furby joined our group that pugs know pugs, and we vowed that we would strive to never keep a solitary pug again.
When Mushy passed, Jake and Jeff, a pair of senior, eyeless pugs with a very strong bond joined Furby. After a couple of weeks, Furby spent a lot of time with Jeff and Jake until she passed. Jeff and Jake are still with us.
Mildred joined us in early 2012 and immediately took over. She spent some time with Jeff and Jake, but she found them a bit low-key for her taste. When Smiley (who is bonded quite tightly with Harley, a golden retriever) joined us in late August when her owner became very ill, she and Mildred became quick friends. Smiley is twice Mildred's size but has a very outgoing personality, which fit well with Mildred.
Dudley joined our group after one of our foster families found him wandering the neighborhood after his owner was incarcerated, and Frankie was surrendered to a local shelter when his owner passed away. It is just by chance that we have so many pugs at this moment. Pugs do have a special place in our hearts as well.
What benefits are there to adopting a senior vs. a puppy?
With a senior dog, what you see is what you get. They are who they are going to be. A senior dog is much calmer than a youngster. They are not driven by hormones to be the alpha or in charge. Most of all, a senior needs you more. Puppies will be adopted quickly while a senior will often stay a long time - or "too long" - in the shelter waiting for a home.
Are there certain types of owners or households that are more suitable for senior dogs?
While we find Forever Fosters in all age groups, family situations and walks of life, many of our Forever Foster families are themselves retired, which is great for our Old Friends because these families tend to be at home more, are calmer and can relate to the problems of getting older.
Do you have any tips for senior dog care?
Patience, patience, patience. They don't do things as quickly as we'd sometimes like, but they can't help it. Live in the moment. Enjoy the now. The goal is to make the dog as comfortable as we can for as long as possible. We do not advocate expensive surgeries that have long healing times for our Old Friends. We want to minimize stress as well as pain for their final time.
Not all people want to get attached to an older dog that won't live as long. How do you deal with that?
Our credo is: We do not concern ourselves with the quantity of time that they have left, rather the quality of the life that we can provide them for that time.
So many people ask how we can do it. How can we deal with the loss over and over again? There is no doubt that we are saddened by the passing of any of our Old Friends. We will miss each and every one of them. Isn't that a small price to pay for having given these seniors a comfortable retirement, be it days, weeks, months or years? What would the alternative have been? Isn't this a much better outcome?
We celebrate senior dogs, focusing on the life that they have between their rescue and passing. They relax, they smile, they live their life to the fullest extent of their ability. They are happy for that time. Dogs do not dwell on their previous lives and handicaps as long as they are comfortable, loved and well-cared for. We aim to provide that for as long as we can. It is in the knowledge that we were able to give contentment to these senior dogs that we find peace in their passing. When they are no longer enjoying a good quality of life and have no reasonable chance to return to a good quality of life, it is time to let them go.
What have your Old Friends taught you?
We learn from our Old Friends to live in the moment. Appreciate what you have now. Don't dwell on the past or worry about the future. Value the present.
Reporting by Tracy Hughey and Kimberly M. Aquilina