In just three days, it will officially be a brand new year! January 1st is also my birthday. Since it will be my first birthday in 16 years without Leary ("Bubby"), I have just one wish this year. I'd like to help other old dogs in Leary's honor and memory.
There is something incomparable about owning an old dog. Old dogs are incredibly special, with distinct characteristics that I absolutely adore. (I even outlined some of my favorites in an illustration I did last year). Caring for old dogs is bittersweet. The bond between you grows exponentially as they require more from you, yet you are surrounded with a constant awareness of the fact that your time together is growing short. For now, I won't get into the long list of changes that had to be made to my life in order to keep Leary happy and healthy as he grew old, but I won't sugarcoat - it was a huge commitment. And the commitment wasn't easy, but it was beautiful and something for which I will always be grateful. When I said goodbye to him last week, I was overcome with the realization that I had never been closer to anyone or anything in my life. That special period of time that I spent with him in his senior years multiplied our mutual devotion and taught me a new kind of love.
Sadly, many old dogs have much different experiences than Leary did. In fact, many are abandoned. They can't play with the same zest they did in their youth. They require medications and special food and more frequent vet visits. Their fur turns gray and their eyes become cloudy. They might have accidents on the floor. They may require hospice care. And unfortunately, some people find this so undesirable or so much work that they give these dogs up. I can't even imagine abandoning an animal during a time when it needed me the most, but it happens all the time. Old dogs are often dumped at shelters, or even left behind when owners move. Other times, they are neglected in their own homes, confined to areas with little to no human companionship. Senior dogs are the least adopted in shelters. These sweet, unconditionally loving animals who spent their entire lives only aiming to please are left alone, instead of being given the extra love and commitment that they deserve as they approach the end of their lives.
Thankfully, there are some organizations who work to help them. One is the Grey Muzzle Organization, who raises funds that are distributed via annual grants each year to animal welfare and rescue groups with commitments to senior dogs. The funds are then used by these groups to improve their ability to provide care, comfort, and loving homes for old dogs. Another is Young At Heart, a Chicago area not-for-profit, volunteer-based organization dedicated to the rescue and rehoming of mature and senior dogs and cats. 100% of their adoptable pets are rescued from open-admission shelters where their age makes them first in line for euthanasia.
Later today, it will officially be one week since we had to say goodbye to our Leary boy. I miss caring for him in his old age. I miss his sweet whitened muzzle and cloudy eyes and sleepy old man snore and special food and medication and supplements and frequent bathroom trips and arthritis massages and the loving, grateful look he gave us in return. He is no longer here to receive the old doggy care we so loved giving to him, but through money raised in his memory, other old dogs can. So for my birthday this year, my wish is for friends and family to make donations to either of these wonderful organizations in memory of Leary. Although it breaks my heart that I can't celebrate my birthday with him this year for the first time, knowing that other old dogs could get the care that they need in Leary's honor makes me feel like I am still doing something for him. To me, there could be no greater gift than that.
If you are interested in making a donation in Bubby's memory, click on either of the buttons below for more info. No amount is too small, and every little bit helps with giving old dogs in need the security, care, and happiness they deserve in the final phases of their lives.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I appreciate every one of you doing so very much. And if you're able to make a donation, thank you a million times. It will the best birthday present ever to know that Bubby's memory and legacy can live on in such a special way!
P.S. Since we're talking about birthdays and all, I thought I'd repost the short photo/video tribute I made Leary for his 15th birthday last March. If nothing else, forward to the last 15 seconds or so to the video portion where he opens his gifts. It's the sweetest thing EVER, I promise. :)