Column: “Smart Paws” on Claycord – Senior Dogs Surrendered at the Shelter

August 1, 2014 7:00 am · 44 comments

Hi Pet Loving Claycordians!

The shelter is still overflowing. That is the bad news. What’s even worse is that many of those dogs are surrendered, or found as strays. I have to ask, why so many strays?? Why aren’t people looking for their lost dogs?

My topic today is a big sore spot with me and that is SENIOR dogs. Seniors, elderly, older, whatever you want to call them. People who surrender their animals and pay a fee are able to leave behind some paperwork, “surrender paperwork” as I’ll call it today. If you have to surrender, at the very least share what you know. This surrender paperwork allows the owner of that animal to describe their pet; its habits, likes, dislikes and personality.

They can share if the dog gets along with other pets, kids, people or if it’s housetrained, obedience trained, etc. But guess what? Your dog still has to pass shelter temperament tests! Some older dogs are so afraid at the shelter that they shut down. If they don’t pass their test, they are NEVER put up for general adoption. Yah, you guess what happens next there if a nice rescue doesn’t come in and help.

The shelter has implemented a “timid dog program,” but with the shelter already being overcrowded, they can only help so many. Would your dog pass a temperament test in an unfamiliar, scary, noisy shelter filled with strangers and strange dogs?

But what gets me most is why these OLDER animals are in the shelter in the first place. There could probably be a contest of the worst reasons to surrender a dog, but accidents on the carpet, lack of training, got a younger dog, too much work and going on vacation must be some the worst I’ve seen.

People seem to have more warm fuzzies of a piece of furniture they’d owned for 12 years, but their older dog starts having issues, or a new younger puppy doesn’t like it, and who goes? The old dog. It is heartbreaking to see how confused and scared these dogs are in the shelter. And for what? I’m not talking about tragedy, owners dying or some other catastrophic event. I’m talking about the person/people who can literally surrender their dog as it shivers in terror as their owner walks away and a stranger leads them to a noisy, strange, wire kennel, or the people too cheap to even pay a surrender fee and proclaim they just “found” the dog with no history and no notes.

Obviously I feel a dog is a lifelong commitment and I sure wish everyone felt that way. If you hit a temporary hard spot, reach out for help – it’s out there. Personally, I adopted a 12 year old pup from the Martinez shelter. Her paperwork stated that they had new carpet and she had accidents. Unbelievable.

So in an effort to help the senior dogs (5+ yrs old) in the shelter RIGHT NOW and up for general adoption I thought I’d offer this food for thought and this collage of available dogs and the information for each below.  Search PetHarbor for their ID number or just scroll through because if not one of these, there are DOZENS of others, of all ages, who need your help.

Large Photo:
Gabby 5 yrs old (A768495)

Clockwise starting top right smaller photos:
Harper 5 yrs old (A768294), Carmella 6 yrs old (A588226), Khali 8 yrs old (A768685), Hercules (A768345) and Zeus (A768346) both 10 yrs old and finally Patty 5 yrs old (A767491).

Each of these dogs have a story. A couple we don’t know, some we do. One was left tied at the shelter overnight. Two were surrendered after officers approached owner about a report of them living in “inhumane” conditions. One was surrendered because she was “too much work.”

They all have a story and through it all they’ve passed their temperament tests and have captured the hearts of volunteers and staff. They have all lived “somewhere” and are now at the shelter in hopes of finding a better life and second chance. Check our Facebook page for more.


If you go to the Smart Paws FACEBOOK page, like us and look for this same collage, we will have the link to each of these pup’s profile. You can also search for all animals available at the local shelters. If you are currently looking for a new furry friend, we frequently post available animals from shelters and from some local rescues.

The shelter has extended their promotion for August: FREE spay/neuter for all adopted pit bulls and pit bull mixes

You can adopt dogs at either shelter (Martinez or Pinole). You’ll find cats at the shelters and at Pet Food Express in Walnut Creek, Petsmart in Concord and Rodies in Clayton. The Martinez shelter is located at 4800 Imhoff Place. You can call them at (925) 335-8300. Shelter hours are Tuesday – Saturday 10am-5pm, Wednesday 10am-7pm and Sunday 12pm-3pm. If you are interested in a dog or cat you see online, please don’t wait. If you can’t go down right away, call them and let them know you are interested in a particular dog as they can add a note to the file. There are no guarantees of a happy outcome for pets at the shelter, but with your help, we can do more! We can share this information. We can adopt. We can foster. We can save lives and make a difference.

1 ChampagneKitty August 1, 2014 at 7:12 AM

Hello, what’s this? Why, it’s a new column! :-)

2 Irene August 1, 2014 at 7:51 AM

I hope these dogs get adopted. It is sad to see some of the reasons why these dogs are surrendered. I have a 14 year old lab that we adopted when she was 5. I and the vet are fighting hard and exhausting all options to manage her pain (which I know one day we will lose). I can’t imagine ever just taking her to the shelter.

3 Chester E. Kitty August 1, 2014 at 7:51 AM

Gabby is adorable! Thank you for bringing this to everyone’s attention.

4 VikingPrincess August 1, 2014 at 8:36 AM

Thank you to all involved in creating and posting this serious issue effecting not just dogs, but pets in general. I think the only exception to the rule of forgoing a pet is when they become violent or dangerously aggressive and they attack with little provocation, such as a bite (especially if you have children). If they have behavioral changes not associated with a medical condition and it is not treatable.
This is the sad truth when people bought Dalmatians because of 101 Dalmatian movie or bunnies for Easter. Take all pet adoption seriously or don’t adopt.

Honestly don’t know the parameters but too bad they cannot t help.

Never the less, the owner is the solution to the problem. If they are accountable, this problem will be solved.

5 Anonymous August 1, 2014 at 8:47 AM

I wish I wasn’t in an apartment. I wish I was in a house with a big yard so I could rescue/foster some of these older animals and help them find permanent homes.

6 Ancient Mariner August 1, 2014 at 8:58 AM

This is sad.
I like old dogs – they’re like old friends.
No matter how old they are, they still remember how to wag their tail.

7 LocalGirl August 1, 2014 at 9:09 AM

Suggestion — share this article on Facebook and ask your friends to do the same. Let’s get some forever homes for these forgotten, neglected pets … it’s heartbreaking. If you can’t make the commitment, DON’T ADOPT A PET. I hope this article (and sharing it) will help!!

8 Elle August 1, 2014 at 9:45 AM

It’s no wonder some people like animals more than humans. There are a lot of aholes out there. I knew someone who rescued a dog because its previous owner said it barked at the ceiling fan. Came across this saying at a recent adoptathon: “I’m a forever dog. Not an until dog. I’m not an until you get bored with me dog. Until you find a girlfriend dog. Until you have a baby dog. Until you have to move dog. Until you have no time dog. Until I get old dog. Until you get a new puppy dog. I’m a forever dog. If you can’t give me forever, I’m not your dog”.

9 Tom August 1, 2014 at 10:00 AM

This is sad. Not just dogs, but animals in general are so vulnerable. This is a very serious issue, and it’s heartbreaking to animal lovers.

The good news is, I believe responsible animal lovers with their heart in the right place are the ones adopting. Perhaps a positive outcome after all.

Thank you to ALL who adopt.

10 Whatever August 1, 2014 at 10:06 AM

How incredibly sad. My dog is almost 11, and I’ve had him since he was 9 werks old. He has gotten more anxious in his old age and needs more reasurance in his moving around.

People should realize that when you adoot a pet, it is a lifetime commintment. I really feel bad for these older animals who have been abandoned by their owners. It is one thing if the owner passed away, and a family member absolutely could not take the pet, or if the old pet became aggressive with a new baby/child. But it is disgusting and selfish to just cast aside an older pet because you want something newer or no longer want the responsiblity. I cannot imagine the confusion and loneliness these older animals feel when surrender. I wish I could take some of these older dogs….but I do not have room for more animals at the time.

11 Craig Cannon August 1, 2014 at 10:21 AM

We Took in a Dog Left Behind a Few Months Ago. Even Though, we already have a Family Dog. This Particular Dog, with Others, was left to die when His Owners Moved, Left Him and His Brothers In the Vacated House. He Has Become a Part of The Family. It’s Amazing The Love you find, from Dogs that are Close to Loosing Everything. He is Very Mindful of Our House, and Looking at Burglary Statistics, the Best Alarm Ever! If Everyone That is Able, just take in one Dog or Cat in Need, this Crisis Will End! They Give So Much Back in Appreciation! Truly Amazing..

12 VikingPrincess August 1, 2014 at 10:36 AM

Here, here!

13 Sandy August 1, 2014 at 10:36 AM

Thank you for a great column.

14 YOU'RE KILLING ME WITH THIS COLUMN!!! August 1, 2014 at 11:08 AM

I have four dogs, all a big nightmare with the exception of one, but I love them and would never part with them. Dang it, I would adopt Gabby in a heartbeat.

Dang it, if you fence my 13 acres outside of Red Bluff, I’ll take them all!!!

15 Dorothy August 1, 2014 at 11:13 AM

Sorry to say I am allergic to dogs (and cats and birds). It is said that a dog is the only love money can buy and it is true. Age doesn’t count when it comes to the love a dog gives.

16 Nancy Klein August 1, 2014 at 11:24 AM

This story need to be on the FRONT Page of every newspaper in the country – both in print & online!!!! Thank you for your words, which sadly are true & far too many in the public have no idea about.

17 Suzanne August 1, 2014 at 11:35 AM

Craig, what a wonderful heart you have to do such a thing. A dog on it’s end will give up everything, and such a sad state for it to be in. I pray these poor animals Will find someone with a heart such as yours. And yes, those poor animals will give up everything in return.

18 Allyn Lee August 1, 2014 at 11:35 AM

Great article – true AND caring. I volunteer with Contra Costa Animal Services at the Martinez Shelter. The number of wonderful dogs that come into the shelter as strays or surrenders is staggering and heartbreaking. Volunteers walk, socialize, and LOVE the dogs…that helps us find homes for them because more insight into the dog’s personality helps us be matchmakers! We offer our personal observations, take photos and sweet videos so people can see what WE see as we interact/LOVE the dogs. We need more volunteer “walkers” – we need people who are not weak of heart – this takes determination, courage, and LOVE to help dogs that might not make it out alive. People should know that up front – but we also need volunteers in supporting roles, folks who can greet the public, help them find the needed resources, help with lost and found AND most importantly with “marketing” our animals so the public feels a connection and develops interest in meeting them! The ultimate reward – whether contributing to the adoption of a great pet, or just knowing that a dog was loved during their stay at the shelter – PRICELESS.

19 Silva August 1, 2014 at 11:46 AM

Hard to hear. Thank for sharing though. Probably somebody will find one of life’s true blessings with the unending love of a pet. The ones who have known abandonment are the most appreciative of all.

20 Anon August 1, 2014 at 11:53 AM

Thank you for taking time to help these dogs who need homes.

21 Michelle(original) August 1, 2014 at 12:05 PM

Plain and simple, if you cannot take care of animals yoy don’t need them. They can be rewarding especially when they get on their hind legs and beg for something. That is a very sad situation.

22 Marissa August 1, 2014 at 12:15 PM

I have several dogs who only answer when properly called. I would never dream of giving them up.

23 Anon August 1, 2014 at 12:27 PM

I agree with everyone else’s comments. If you can’t commit to the 10-12 years of owning a pet, don’t get one. I have one who is 2 years old and still not potty trained. Does it drive me insane, of course. Do I need new carpet, absolutely. Would I get rid of her, NO. My dogs are with me until the very end and then i’ll be with them so they are not alone. Breaks my heart to see seniors especially dumped at the shelter. They don’t understand why they are there. People are so selfish. I hope this article helps get every dog adopted. If I didn’t have 6 already, I would get a senior.

24 Antler August 1, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Thank you for this column, Mayor!

Elle at #8…. That quotation is beautiful, and deserves to be put in all of our Facebook status entries….will Googlesearch the words first to see whether the author is known, but thank you!

#14….. Jtkatec, is that you? Because I know your heart really IS that big!

Allyn Lee at #18 ….. You make a wonderful appeal. Are there any volunteer positions which you think Senior Citizens could fill? Thinking of work which does not require bending or heavy lifting….

Another Antler long-winded MEMORY….followed by a question for all of you:
Perhaps 20 years ago, I was waiting at our dogs’ and cats’ vet’s front desk while a staff member went into the back room to get a long-standing Rx for Cheerio cat, who had hyperthyroidism. (Either that or else he was faking it because he loved salmon Pill Pockets so much!)

The door from the parking lot opened, and an elderly woman ….tears streaming down her face….. held the door open for a young man lugging a very old Golden Labrador Retriever in his arms. The dog’s eyes were glazed and every agonizing breath had a slight whine on the exhale. The woman asked, “Oh, please, would you just make him stop hurting now?”

An assistant was called and came immediately, took one look and said, “Yes, it is time. I must tell you that the lowest fee for euthanization and disposal is $45.” (…which at that time was VERY high and would have hit any grieving pet owner at a truly bad time).

The woman sobbed, “Oh, PLEASE help. But I do not have that much money.” I heard my own voice quietly saying aside to the secretary, “Add it to my bill, please.” And the assistant immediately told the woman that she should not worry. That was just before I became a tearful mess, having said the final farewell to so many of our Brittanys over the years. My cat’s Rx came; secretary clunked my card through the manual-lever imprint; I signed and fled.

It is all too easy to pontificate about how people should not have pets unless they can afford their feeding and care, but sometimes people’s circumstances change or the animal’s health/behavior changes…the ways are endless…and they simply cannot continue the responsibility.

Now the question for you:
Does your own veterinarian have a Care Fund set up to receive donations for covering such circumstances as I described above?
Please, would you contact your own vet to find out the answer to that question and then post the information in a comment on this column? (Give vet’s name, office location, etc..) Thank you!

25 Michelle(original) August 1, 2014 at 1:23 PM

Antler, that was an absolutely beautiful account, and you are most kind hearted…I really mean this. Not many people would do this even for their own kin or loved ones. The pain and suffering of the poor dog’s family must have been and probably still is tremendous. Let’s hope there is some solace for the family’ s painful ordeal. We know there will always be a pain there, but some comfort from a very good hearted and generous woman.

26 jtkatec @ Antler 24 August 1, 2014 at 1:34 PM

Antler, NOW you’re kiling me with that story. Dang it!

27 SmartPaws August 1, 2014 at 1:35 PM

Thank you all so much for your wonderful stories, your support and your kind words. Antler, I’m sure Allyn will chime back in, but there is a volunteer training coming up at the Martinez shelter. Saturday, August 16th. I’ll post more information about this on my next column. They need help working all facets of the shelter, lost and found, education, dog walking, cat socializing, mobile adoptions, etc. So much you can do at your own pace. Please consider attention. I believe past times have been in the 11am-1pm range for the orientation.

Please share the story, like the facebook page and share to not only get more attention for these particular dogs but also raise awareness of the shelter so people will go there FIRST before buying a dog, supporting a back yard breeder or going on craigslist. These shelter dogs will love you and thank you in more ways than you can ever imagine.

28 SmartPaws August 1, 2014 at 1:36 PM

oops, Please consider attending – not attention. Darn typos! :) Anyway, I LOVE all you pet loving Claycordians, now we just need to spread the love! :)

29 SmartPaws August 1, 2014 at 1:45 PM

ALERT ALERT!!! Best news today!!

GABBY WAS JUST ADOPTED! She’s left the building and on to her new life!!! Check the Smart Paws Facebook page for her happy face with her new mommy! I can’t tell you how happy this makes me!

GO GABBY! Happy trails!

30 Pleasant Hill Resident I August 1, 2014 at 1:51 PM

This post breaks my heart. I hate hearing these stories because I want so much to make a difference for these dogs, but unfortunately cannot at this time. I know I could never work or volunteer at the shelters because 1. I would end up with about sixteen dogs (joking!) and 2. I would likely get in big trouble for being unable to contain my feelings toward the irresponsible owners/surrenders who show up.

Our dog has been an expensive, heart break dog from the very get-go and we have always found a way to make it work – as her owners, we took on that responsibility the second we brought her into our lives. I do understand that extenuating circumstances occur and “things happen,” but I feel that far too many people take their responsibilities as pet owners too lightly. Pets generally give you nothing but their love, trust and attention and our job as their owners is to return their generosity.

I love the awareness this post helps to create – hopefully many of those seniors will have new Forever Homes shortly! Thank you for posting.

31 Pleasant Hill Resident I August 1, 2014 at 1:57 PM

I should clarify that by “irresponsible,” I mean the jerks mentioned in the article who bring dogs in because they bought new flooring, they ‘traded’ their old dog for a puppy or maybe even their previously beloved dog for a better opportunity, etc. There are plenty of understandable situations for having to surrender a pet but, to me, the ones that are entirely avoidable are unforgivable.

32 Pleasant Hill Resident I August 1, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Ooh, yay I just saw on Facebook that Gabby was adopted :) Happy Tails, Gabby!

33 Lori R August 1, 2014 at 3:05 PM

I love dogs so much it kills me when I hear about abuse. Hopefully this story helps at least one dog from the horrible fate.

34 valiii August 1, 2014 at 4:45 PM

Thank you so much for posting this article! Also, there are so many beautiful comments posted, nice to know our area still has many kind-hearted folks. As for those people who surrender an animal just because it is older, it sure makes me wonder… How do they treat their elderly human family members? ? ?

35 Good heart August 1, 2014 at 6:12 PM

This needs to go on Facebook! I agree! Dogs are a luxury ! A living, breathing, feeling member of life. Should be part of ones family and treated as such. They are so unconditional in there love and devotion, it breaks my heart to see what people do because there unconvinced ! Boo hoo! Except for extreme circumstances such as death in family or a chronic illness, then one should help find a foster not dump at shelters. This seems to be epidemic lately with lost and found dogs, never picked up! Dogs could teach humans a lot in how to treat others. SAD! SAD! SAD!

36 Ancient Mariner August 1, 2014 at 8:38 PM

Antler stands tall !

37 Brittany lover August 2, 2014 at 8:21 AM

I adopted an 11 year old brittany with health issues 2 years ago and has become the nicest sweetest old gent. Never does anything wrong. Just a real nice old guy that we are glad we gave him a good home. Try it!

38 Valerie Crowell August 2, 2014 at 8:24 AM

Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention Mr. Mayor. I’ve been taking dumped seniors for about the last 10 years. I always think they have a couple of weeks left in them and they end up being so grateful that they live for another year or so. There is nothing like the love of a senior dog. If you have room in your heart and your home, it is the best.

39 Marianne August 2, 2014 at 8:57 AM

Senior dogs are the most courageous, smart and loyal dogs you could ever have. This is because they are experienced just like people get experience with age and they are very loving. My dogs are not very young and I would give them the world (at least the neighborhood) as their playground.

40 VikingPrincess August 2, 2014 at 7:45 PM

There were at least four booths at the Martinez Peddlers faire addressing this issue. Especially the no kill concept. Hope all you supporters were there and stopped by at least one.

I really like this column and hope the next one will mention successfully adopted animals listed in Claycord in one fashion or another.

We are tapped out at our home, but know we have two rescue kitties that are well cared for and loved. One was seperated at birth and needed bottle feeding as part of a rescue program just two days old. The other I personally took a stand and rescued. Refused to leave without the crying neglected kitten in someone’s freezing cold backyard for three days.

We do are part. If I know of any that might be good parents to animals listed I will speak up.

41 VikingPrincess August 2, 2014 at 7:49 PM

Antler, reading your story just brought a rear to my eye. That is rare for me ;)
I cannot think of anything more kindhearted. Bet you are a great and honorable friend too.

42 VikingPrincess August 2, 2014 at 7:50 PM

Oh dear…I meant a tear to my eye.
That was a wonderful spell incorrect.

43 Antler August 2, 2014 at 9:53 PM

Smart Paws at #27. …. Thank you for information, and I’m especially pleased to hear that Gabby has a new home!

To all of you who have responded so kindly to my story, please know that the reason I shared it was because I KNOW so very many of you would have responded exactly the same way…..had you just happened to have been standing there in my place! Before that day, it never had crossed my mind that there are so many loving people who suddenly simply cannot pay a vet bill…… CANNOT….. or possibly are exhausted with anxiety and fear from keeping an aggressive animal separated from children, or….. just SO many things really can go wrong even when an owner’s heart is in the right place.

Our vet back then was on Clayton Road out more toward Ayers Rd., but he retired…and that animal hospital itself might be closed now? But I will try to contact our current place…Adobe Animal Hospital on Clayton Road not too far from El Monte Center… on Monday to ask whether there is a Trust Fund for charity euthanization. Please, would others of you contact your own vets and let the rest of us know what they say? Thank you in advance for caring!

VikingPrincess, I never even noticed that typo until you pointed it out, and it is hilarious…..careful not to sprain anythng!

44 Antler August 2, 2014 at 10:29 PM

Still me…..
Faulty memory correction:

My memory WAS set in Adobe Hospital waiting room! I was thrown off because of suddenly thinking that doctors Judy and Kate were definitely NOT there yet; there was a male vet. It also hit me that I would have been picking up thyroid Rx for “Priscilla Panther” back then (and she was the one who would “kill” a little ball of cheese with the pill hidden it… I.e. before the fabulous Pill Pockets were even on the market, or at least before I knew about them).

Just needed to get that on the record for myself. Thanks for seeing me through it! Sweet dreams, all.

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