Milagro Blog

Milagro Interview: Why Senior Animals Make Great Pets…

Jeannie Fisher of Milagro Senior Pet Refuge on Why Senior Animals Make Great Pets and Need Loving Homes Too.

April 24, 2014 | furtheloveofpets

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Photos courtesy of Milagro Senior Pet Refuge
By Darryle Royal

Adopting a senior pet can be a great idea for some families or individuals, as they tend to require far less time and training, and for people looking to avoid the puppy or kitten phase where you lose sleep (just like with infants) and can’t turn your back without something being destroyed, senior pets are the perfect match.

Many times people are so intent on adopting puppies and kittens, not necessarily realizing all that is in store for them once they bring the pet home. Puppies under two or sometimes even older require a lot of time, energy, and training. Not everybody has the time for that, which is perfectly understandable.

But many pets who have done nothing wrong, besides grow up, find themselves the losing end of getting someone to adopt them. Senior pets are just as loving and loyal, and offer pet owners many benefits.
Although it’s true that as pets age they may require more patience and health care, the benefit you will receive from adopting one will far outweigh the potential work or burden.

Fur the Love of Pets spoke with Jeannie Fisher, the founder and CEO of Phoenix-based Milagro Senior Pet Refuge, who echoed the aforementioned sentiment, and offers her tips and advice on what you should know if you’re looking to adopt or possibly considering surrendering your senior pet.

Fur the Love of Pets: What are the biggest obstacles senior animals face in finding adopters?
Jeannie Fisher: I would say first the competition ― who can resist a little puppy or kitten? They’re just so much more fun, right? And a very close second place no doubt is the higher cost of care for senior pets. Now that their bodies are aging, senior pets need more care and veterinary attention; and that can translate into a significant investment of time and money that pet owners don’t always look ahead and foresee. The pet also will need more of your understanding and patience, which not everyone feels able and/or willing to give. So people tend to pass over the seniors at shelters, which is very sad, because seniors really are not much more work than adolescent pets. Seniors are already leash-trained, house-trained, litterbox trained, spayed/neutered, they’re out of the destructive chewing stage, and they make very few demands on you compared to adolescent pets. Most times they’re happy with just a soft bed and to know you’re close by keeping watch.

FLP: What are the main reasons senior pets find themselves in shelters?
JF: Again, the aging process brings changes in pets that oftentimes owners didn’t anticipate and just aren’t willing or able to accommodate. Understandably, cleaning up messes when a senior pet becomes incontinent isn’t any fun. But remember ― this is a labor of love. You committed to this pet the day you adopted him. You don’t discard him when it’s no longer convenient or as much fun for you ― any more than you would discard an aging parent or disabled adult child. The real test of a pet owner’s love and devotion comes when you are asked to step up and give more of yourself to ensure your pet’s wellbeing and continue to keep him safe and sound at home with you ― where he knows he’s safe, and surrounded by the people he loves and trusts. This is the circle of life ― we all help each other along the way. But many people opt instead to walk away, which is horribly tragic.

FLP: What are the pros and cons of adopting a senior pet?
JF: I can tell you without hesitation that adopting a senior pet will change you from the inside out. Your heart will never be the same. The downside, obviously, is in knowing that this wonderful new relationship will be limited by time, and you will feel robbed for awhile when you do eventually lose the pet to old age. But the peace you will get from knowing that you reached outside yourself and gave comfort and kindness to a poor lost old soul ― when it needed you most ― will be profound and you will carry that with you forever. This is God’s greatest gift, that we share a part of ourselves to lift up, to encourage, to protect, and to care for a life less fortunate than our own.

FLP: What tips or advice would you give to someone considering adopting a senior pet?
JF: Plan ahead. Be sure to commit the time and finances to be able to give a senior the best possible life he could hope to find. To adopt a senior and then not give him good food, good veterinary care, or the simple gift of your time and affection, would do him more harm than good. Do some research ― look online at various pet rescues for advice. Some may subsidize your costs for fostering a senior under their organization. Others will afford you an annual tax deduction for your out-of-pocket costs. I invite you to read “The Power Of Life And Love” on Milagro’s blog.This will encourage you as you consider adopting a senior pet.

FLP: What would your advise be to someone considering surrendering their senior pet?
JF: Take a moment to remind yourself why you chose this pet way back in the beginning, when the pet was young. He is still that same pet today, and together you have a loving history. That’s not something to be discarded. Remember that you are the person this pet looks to for love and safekeeping. You are the one he knows and trusts – you are the one who holds his heart. To walk away from your pet at this point in his life when he needs you most would be the end of his world. His body is failing him, and he’s trying to figure out how to live with blindness, or deafness, or arthritis, etc., and is most likely already a little fearful because of it. He would never be able to understand if you were to walk away from him now. Again, do some research. Some veterinarians will defer some of their costs to folks with senior pets ― it only takes a few phone calls to find one. And, as I mentioned above, some rescue organizations may subsidize the costs for care and food for a senior if you foster under their organization. Others will afford you an annual tax deduction for your out-of-pocket costs.

FLP: Is there anything else you’d like to mention regarding senior pet issues?
JF: If you’re considering rescuing a senior pet, definitely go into it with your heart and mind on board for a “labor of love.” You will come out on the other side a much better person. Never begrudge your little one when you find yourself cleaning up messes more frequently, or when he can’t keep up anymore on your daily walks, or if he wakes you in the night because he’s confused and can’t find his way to the dog door. The infinite reward will be in the gift you give to this precious animal in his most vulnerable time. There are many online resources that can give you guidance and support to help you make your pet’s twilight years full of happiness, peace, and love … for you and him both.

For more information on Milagro, please visit Milagro’s website. If you are unable to adopt, you can still make a difference. Donations are tax-deductible and gratefully accepted, no matter the amount.  Donate at our website:

All photos are courtesy of Jeannie Fisher/Milagro Senior Pet Refuge, and feature pets for whom Fisher has found forever homes.

* A Message From The Folks At Milagro

pancetta & siffinaPeople are giving up their pets more than ever these days.  Sadly, those pets usually end up losing their lives because of it.  Shelters are euthanizing (killing) precious pets more than ever – just because they’re out of space.  And your pet’s chances in a shelter or on the streets are nearly zero, no matter how healthy or young or cute he may be.  Doubtful you want your senior pet’s last days to be spent frightened and alone in a cold hard shelter, dying at the hands of a stranger, wondering what he did wrong that made you leave him there.  Rescue organizations are also filled to capacity.  It’s taking longer to get animals adopted because so many people are having personal challenges and fewer are adopting these days.  Against all odds, we keep doing all we can to keep up with the masses of homeless pets and the never-ending phone calls asking us to take them off your hands.  But, for many of us in rescue, including Milagro, our limits have been reached. You must know that people in pet rescue have already made great personal sacrifice for the cause, and we feel deeply and desperately for every single animal that comes to us for help, including yours.  Even so, with all the guilt in the world weighing down on our shoulders, if we’re full – we’re full.  It has come to the point where we need to ask in turn now for your help. We are asking you to please reconsider your decision to abandon your pet.

We are very familiar with the many reasons folks give for surrendering your pets.  The top three reasons we hear every day are:  1) you’re moving and the new place doesn’t allow pets;  2) you have a toddler or new baby and don’t want a pet around them or feel you cannot care for a child and a pet both; and 3) you are “deathly” allergic to the pet.  Do you know that these obstacles could be overcome so that you don’t have to think about sending your pet away?  Even though we’re full and not able to take your pet from you right now, you can still ask us (or any pet rescue organization) for ideas and avenues of support.  We’re still here to help, and we want the best for you and your pets – together.

We encourage you to remember your original commitment to your pet when you first brought him home – to love him like family, as he has loved you.  Rightfully, he is no more disposable than your child or an elderly parent.  So, please, take your time to search your heart and find the resolve to keep your pet with you.  Let us help you to do right by this family member you love – to think outside the box, with an open mind, and explore simple solutions that would help you keep him right there at home with you – in the home where he is safe, with the family he loves and trusts.  As his owner and protector, you owe him that, and your renewed commitment may be the greatest gift you ever give him.  It may literally be the gift of life for him.

Warmest Wishes,

The Milagro Team


* The Power Of Life And Love

This Is The Triumphant Story Of Little Jonah … Grab A Kleenex.
A shelter in southern Arizona called Milagro and said this poor little fellow had been dumped by his owners after a lifetime of horrible neglect.  Mac and I made the 5-hour drive to the shelter to rescue him.  We were not at all prepared for what we saw.  The shelter called him Kit and Kit was truly at death’s door – just skin and bones, and barely any sign of life or even a desire to go on.  The pads of his little feet were burned away and the fur on his little bottom was also burned away, probably from spending his days sitting outside, unprotected, on concrete scorched by the Arizona sun.  His eyes were so dry and scarred from years of neglect that he was blind, and he couldn’t even blink.  The ligaments in both of his rear legs were torn so he couldn’t walk or stand – he could only lie there.  His poor little body was covered in big open sores from mange that was never treated. The owners had soaked him in motor oil because they thought it would kill the mange, so his whole body was toxic – unbelievable! What little fur he had left was so tangled and matted that it had to be carefully shaved away, and underneath we found a dirty old collar that had become tangled around one of his front legs and dislocated it at the shoulder.  His toenails were so overgrown that they had curled around and grown right into the flesh of his feet.  Dear God in Heaven, any of these things by itself would have been torture enough, but Kit had endured all of them at once … for years on end!  Poor little Kit had suffered all he could and had finally given up … just given up on life.  And then the final hurtful insult … dumped at the shelter and forgotten.
jonah before
The anger I felt was immense.  I had to fight really hard to stay focused on Kit and what I could do to help him.  The veterinarian at the shelter tried to discourage us from taking Kit … she said he probably had only two weeks at best to live, and it would be more humane to euthanize him.  I remember responding “Then we’ve got two weeks to try to make up for his past and all the suffering that he never deserved.”  We paid the $75.00 adoption fee and started the long drive back to Phoenix.  It was a long and quiet drive … we both were terribly troubled that someone could allow such horrible suffering on this poor little fellow.  Mac held Kit in his arms while I drove.  He sat just staring down at the broken little body in his lap.  After a really long silence, Mac looked up at me and said “You just paid $75.00 for a dead dog.”  At that moment, I figured Mac was probably right.  But all I could say was “By God, he’s going to know his life matters to someone. If he’s really going to die this week, at least it’s going to be in the arms of someone who cares.”  I had no idea if we could make any difference for Kit at this point … but I knew we needed to try. I named him Jonah … after Jonah in the Old Testament who was swallowed by the whale, then miraculously saved … against all odds.  And so began Jonah’s new life. The next few weeks were pretty care-intensive.  Jonah was a little trooper as he underwent treatments by his veterinarian, ophthalmologist, orthopedic surgeon, dermatologist, and groomers.  He had antibiotic injections, poking and prodding, xrays, ultra-sounds, and on and on.  After 3 to 4 months of aggressive non-surgical treatment on Jonah’s eyes, the eye specialist was able to restore most of his vision.  Jonah could see his world again.  He looked up at me and wiggled his butt, and I cried like a baby.  Jonah was finding happiness again.  We fed him a very good diet and he started gaining weight right away, and his fur started to grow back in, all lush and shiny.  It was so awesome to see, and he was even looking like a show dog!  A very generous donor offered to pay for the surgery to rebuild Jonah’s rear legs.  So once we got him stabilized and gaining some strength, he had the surgery.  It was a huge success!  Then, after 10 days of post-surgical care, it was time to see if Jonah could walk again.  My heart still races when I remember how he took a few wobbly steps, and then, totally unexpectedly, began to run!  And he ran every day after that … just like Forrest Gump.
jonah after 3Sweet Jonah lived almost two years after being pulled from the shelter that day.  Two years of pure joy.  Of course, Jonah is our most triumphant success story so far.  No other senior that we’ve taken in has been in such horrific condition.  But many of them need some level of rehabilitation in order to enjoy any comfort and peace.  And that’s why Milagro exists ~ to make up for whatever the past was for these little angels, and to let them know that their lives do matter.  Jonah was 17 years old when he crossed his Rainbow Bridge.

jonah blowup

So … just in case you still think those pathetic-looking old cats and dogs at the shelter are at death’s door and not worth saving … Think Again.

Here’s to the Power of Life and Love ~