For the Love of Seniors

Meet beloved older lovebugs shared by a few of Spot's Facebook friends.


I have the world’s most wonderful two Senior Pets around, Bubbas and Oski.

Bubbas came to me in 2006 at 2 years old as a $15 rescue from the San Bernardino Animal Shelter.  When he was picked up, the person told us "he's a lucky boy, we were just prepping the room to put him down as he'd been here for over a week and his time is up." He is the most beautiful and sweetest boy I have ever known.  He wakes up every morning at 5am to go outside and watch the morning sunrise and visit with the birds and squirrels.  He adores chicken jerky, long walks and rides in the car.


Oski was a Craigslist rescue at the age of 10 back in 2012. He is a Chow/German Shepard, and adores rolling around in the grass.  He is my big cuddle muffin shadow man who waits by the door for me until I come home and follows me wherever I go.  He loves babysitting little puppies and is the perfect teacher and nanny: so very patient, loving and calm. Oski's favorite things in life are chicken, pets on the head, and walks in nature.

- Jess Peterson


Our little old man, Jake, is a marvel. Sixteen, two rebuilt knees, spinal surgery that nearly killed him, deaf, losing his sight and what we believe is doggie dementia, and yet there are times he has the eagerness and energy of a youngster. We are his family three, getting him at the age of six, and will be his forever people. Of five other dogs in our lives he is the most memorable and will be the most missed when he leaves us, but until then he makes us laugh every day and shares our great love and affection.

- Patty Hudson


"My name is Miss Lily, and nine years ago I curled up in Mama Laurel's lap because I knew I'd found my furever home. The past nine years have been filled with great joys and deep sorrows. I am a sensitive beast, and show my family expressive, unconditional love no matter what path we walk. My age has not really slowed me down much; I still hike and swim and play and learn new tricks. I'm so grateful Mama and Dad came into the shelter, and I tell and show them every single day."

- LaurelAnn Boone


His name is Guinness and he is 19 years old. He was a pound puppy, so his first year of life is unknown to us, yet evidence like the bb's lodged throughout his small body point to a rough start. So... you can’t blame that he only trusts those he loves. Those chosen few have aided in providing him an amazing life. He is my best friend and I am not satisfied with 19 years, I want him to share my entire life. I understand that's unreasonable. So, instead I will enjoy every moment until I kiss him our last goodbye.

- James Moore & Travis Ayres

Curb Your Enthusiasm

It’s our job to prevent overexertion          


Traci Delos loved watching her little dog play in the sprinklers. He’d bite at the water and chase it around the lawn, bright-eyed and wiggling, happy as could be. It’s the kind of all-out playing pet parents love to see, and a perfect way for pups to burn energy while staying cool on a warm day. 

The day he came in from playing and collapsed, Delos became a sudden expert in something she hadn’t known existed: water toxicity.

“He drank too much water, and that upsets the electrolyte balance enough that it can actually kill them,” she says. The dog was nearly unresponsive when she rushed him to the veterinary clinic. Thankfully, he survived. Since that day, Delos has been passionate about warning people that dogs who swim or play in water — or even who gulp buckets during rough play — are at risk for this uncommon but potentially fatal condition. “Especially for Retrievers and other breeds that tend to overdo it, this is something to watch for. It can cause swelling of the brain and they can die.”

Delos was surprised that she’d never heard of the condition. She’s worked with animals all her life, first as a groomer and sitter, then in veterinary client care and practice management. Today she is hospital administrator at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center in Tigard, OR. 

“It’s something I wasn’t aware of,” she says, even after years of experience in emergency clinics and specialty practices. But she’s not alone among well-informed pet guardians who hadn’t heard of some of the deadliest illnesses until their own pet experienced an emergency.

We’re all wary of common maladies like sore muscles and arthritic joints in our weekend warriors. The deadlier dangers though, while rare, are so horrifying that they warrant conversation.

The good news is, simple precautions can lower the risk of sudden deadly conditions. And pets who experience the more common ones, such as exertion injuries, are fortunate to live in the Northwest. 


“There aren’t a lot of things I see in human medicine that aren’t available in animal medicine,” says Delos, pointing to treatments such as veterinary acupuncture, massage, cold laser, stem cell and injection therapies, underwater treadmills, and therapy pools. 

Stem-cell therapy involves drawing the animal’s own fat cells, harvesting the stem cells, and injecting them back into the patient. “Tissues can regenerate,” Delos says. “Laser therapy and acupuncture are incredible. When I think back to when I was growing up, and what we were able to do for them and what we can do now, it’s just amazing.”

That, along with new anti-inflammatory medications with fewer risks and side effects than those available even just a few years ago, make it a pretty good time to be an aging dog or cat with creaky joints, bulging discs, or torn ligaments. 

As with humans, pets typically experience some age-related joint or soft-tissue pain. Some are more vulnerable due to their breed, genetics, or lifestyle. The part we can impact —lifestyle — can be challenging for those who have playful acrobatic cats or intensely ball-crazy dogs with a go-go-go approach to life.

Humans are likely to slow down when in pain, but our furry athletes are often loathe to leave the field. As Delos points out, it’s up to us to watch for signs of trouble and make them rest before overdoing it. Signs can include excessive panting, trembling, being unusually vocal or restless, or frequently re-positioning while lounging or sleeping. Symptoms might not always be obvious, which is another reason to see the doc anytime a pet’s behavior changes. 

Delos recalls a woman who felt she had to give up her Retriever who had started showing signs of aggression. “I had to email her and say, ‘Hey, that’s how animals often react to pain, so it’s important to have the vet check that out.’”


Guarding against overexertion can be a daily job for people with highly-driven breeds or working dogs, but simple steps can help prevent wear-and-tear injuries and even more dangerous conditions. Depending on your pet’s age, breed, snout length, and general fitness level, his exercise limits might be a short leash walk or an hour-long game of fetch. Whatever his limit, it’s worth heeding. Especially in extreme heat or cold, and in older animals, the risk is far greater than a potential knee injury. 

“A seven- or eight-year old dog can be like an 80-year-old person,” says Delos. Risks can include sudden death from “breathing problems, heart problems, heart attacks — pretty much anything that can happen to an older person from overexertion.” 

Thanks to advancing medical care, pets and humans alike are living active lifestyles well beyond middle age, healing from injuries, managing arthritis, and staying in the game. In the end, that means we get to enjoy our furry adventure buddies for more years. 

“We’re their guardians,” says Delos, “and it’s important for us to make sure their quality of life is the best it can be.”


Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.

Can you hear me now? Vision and hearing loss in elderly pets.


One morning, shelter staff arrived for work to find a gray-faced black Lab wandering the parking lot. She was stiff-kneed and seemingly confused, but happy to see them. She put a slight bounce in her step as the humans slapped their legs to call her to them. Animals were usually surrendered at the front desk during business hours, and staff were able to get the pet’s history. All they knew about this old girl was what they could see: she was probably about 10, a bit arthritic, and sweet as they come.

Days passed while staff waited through the old dog’s mandatory stray time, doubting anyone would come looking for claim her. She wasn’t lost; she’d been dumped there. In her kennel, she bounced and wiggled when caretakers opened the kennel door, but she rarely lifted her head to make eye contact with people walking by making friendly, encouraging sounds. Maybe she was a bit withdrawn, they thought. Poor old love had been abandoned, after all.

When her stray hold was up staff called me, the first person who always came to mind when elderly black dogs were in the adoption kennels. Big, old, and black (BOB): the well-known trinity of bad luck for dogs in crowded shelters. In those days — the early 2000s — the shelters were always full. For some reason, potential adopters overlooked BOB dogs. And this one, with the way she stared at the walls rather than visitors, it was unlikely she would be adopted anytime soon.

The dog happily got in my car for the short drive home. I showed her to a new dog bed in the living room, and she plopped her old bones down. Never a sound, or a demand, or a nudge from a wet nose: the old girl just kept to herself. She didn’t seem distressed; in fact, she walked into my house and claimed the bed without a hint of surprise — as if she knew she’d be coming to a house like this and a bed like that.

I settled in and picked up the book I was reading. Maybe just sitting quietly nearby would help the old girl come out of her shell.  I realized I needed to call her something other than “Old Girl.” She needed a name. From my spot on the couch, I started calling out names of female characters in my book. “Chelsea?” No response. “Gretchen?” Zilch. “Becky?” Nothing. “Maya?” Hey! She lifted her head and looked right at me. “You like the name Maya?” Her floppy ears perked up, making wrinkles just above her silver brows. “That’s your name then, Maya. Okay? Maya?” Nothing. Her head dropped back down on the dog bed.

By the time Maya had her first medical checkup two days later, I was starting to wonder if maybe she was deaf. The vet said she’d do a quick exam to find out.

“Maya. Hey! Maya!” the doctor called from four feet away. Maya’s ears didn’t move. Her head didn’t rise off the tile floor.


“Yep. She’s deaf,” the doctor said. “Can you believe I have twelve years of college to do this job?” she laughed. Maya was otherwise in generally good health, and there was no way to know whether she’d always been deaf or had lost her hearing with age.

And suddenly, I had a big, sweet, lumbering, deaf buddy. Pretty soon, though, I could easily forget she was deaf. Because Maya settled in and adapted to the household the way any dog would.

None of this surprises Susan Licari, founder of St. Martin’s Animal Rescue in Sheridan, OR. “Having a deaf or blind dog is never any more trouble,” she says. “And that includes finding adoptable homes for them. They always get adopted and they always do well in their homes.”

Licari has rescued elderly and special-needs dogs for much of her adult life. When she founded her rescue in 2012, she became a refuge for many elderly dogs with hearing and vision loss. Animals find their way to Licari when families can’t keep caring for them or when out-of-state shelters with high euthanasia rates can’t devote the resources to help them find ideal homes.

According to Licari, though, the necessary time and energy are almost inconsequential. That’s largely because of dogs’ and cats’ sharp senses. “If they can’t see anymore, their sense of smell and hearing just become more pronounced. Same with deaf dogs: their sight and smell just get stronger.”

For many of us, acquiring a deaf or blind pet is a gradual process. That is, our dog or cat will undergo this loss with age. While some breeds are more prone to vision and hearing loss, all animals (like humans) experience some changes with age. Animals whose faculties diminish over time have the advantage of being familiar with their surroundings. In later years, the dog might get bumped by an opening door because he didn’t hear us approaching, or the cat reaches a paw to feel for a ledge before jumping because she’s learning not to trust her depth perception. Such small things are often the sum of their changes. Once they adjust to their new sight or hearing levels, they carry on as usual.

“It’s good to keep furniture where it is,” says Licari. For her, such practices are a given, and she’s happy to coach new adopters through the steps. By definition, a rescue organization places animals in new, unfamiliar homes. For deaf and blind pets, that transition requires just a bit more attention, but the accommodations are simple.


Licari sometimes outfits animals with halo-type bumpers while they learn the layout of a new home. This allows them to explore without bumping their heads or noses against walls and table legs because the halo bumps first and gives them a warning. Soon, they don’t need the halo.

Licari also uses pets’ sense of smell to help guide them to different zones of the house. She’ll place different essential oils in each zone, such as citrus near the door where the dog will learn to go out to potty, and a comforting fragrance near the cat’s new bed.

Aside from these temporary fixes, Licari says these pets only need a bit of understanding. “Try not to startle them. A lot of times they’ll feel the vibration of the floor as we walk toward them,” she says, adding that can still be easily startled.

At my house, Maya sometimes didn’t hear footsteps in time to move away from a swinging door. I learned to open them slowly. At the dog park, she’d put her wiggly gray nose to the ground to follow a scent, lost in her own fragrant world. I’d only need to catch up and tap my finger near her shoulder, and she’d look up, always surprised. “Oh, hey! You’re at the park, too. Isn’t it great?!?”

Resources: * St. Martin's Animal Rescue on Facebook


Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.



Testing the Bond: Incontinence and your senior


There’s no doubt that dealing with chronic incontinence can challenge even the most patient and dedicated pet owner. The smell you can’t quite get rid of, the endless shampooing, the squish of stepping into a puddle or pile you didn’t see.

Just like humans, aging dogs and cats often suffer physical and sometimes cognitive changes that can weaken bladders, bowels and the systems that control their function. Incontinence can be so trying that it plays a role in why many pets find themselves homeless in their golden years.

“I don’t have statistics, but in my experience it’s quite often that dogs are surrendered because of incontinence issues,” says Susan Brugato, founder of St. Martin’s Animal Rescue. Established in 2012, the foster-based rescue’s mission is to save senior dogs from high-kill shelters.

Sadly, some of those dogs might have been able to stay in their homes had owners known that many incontinence issues can be treated — or at least managed.

“The biggest mistake people make regarding incontinence is assuming it’s behavioral and not taking the dog to the vet,” says Brugato.

Diagnose before you decide

Incontinence can happen at any time and for many reasons. However, some pets are more prone to these types of problems.

“We tend to see incontinence much more in females than males, and much more in dogs than cats,” says Dr. Alicia Zambelli of Murrayhill Animal Hospital.

The most common urinary incontinence is seen in older spayed female dogs, which can be remedied with medication or hormone supplements. Still, the issue may not be age-related.

“Anytime you see the dog is leaking, the first thing you want to check is that they don’t have a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, or other medical problem,” advises Zambelli. Most of those issues can be treated effectively.

Fecal incontinence can be much harder to manage. In older dogs, cognitive dysfunction can be a cause, but other reasons not related to age such as spinal injuries and disease may be addressed with acupuncture and medication.

Luckily for cat owners, true incontinence of any kind is much less common. In senior felines, constipation and kidney disease are more common, and both can have the same root cause.

“Kidneys are the Achilles heel of cats,” says Zambelli. “Over time if kidney function deteriorates — renal insufficiency — in order to compensate they drink more and urinate more. Sometimes that expands into urinating inappropriately.”

This lack of fluid can also create poor bowel function, and if your cat has an unusually poop-free litterbox, you should note that.

There may be another less direct cause if your kitty starts to have accidents. “One thing that’s easy to miss in older cats is arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and pain,” Zambelli says. “They no longer want to jump up into the cat box, so they start peeing on the floor. It’s a solvable problem if we troubleshoot and put a real low pan down, like a baking sheet, and improve accessibility and address pain.”


Oops! I did it again

Taking care of an incontinent senior takes effort, but there are many ways to make this labor of love manageable.

“First of all, no carpet!” laughs Brugato. “Also, make any bedding easy to clean. I take the filling or pad from dog beds, put it inside a plastic garbage bag, tape it up, then put the cover over that. You only have to wash the cover and the filling stays fresh and dry.”

Barrier pads, such as belly bands for incontinent male dogs, work well. With any method, however, pets need to be kept clean so that secondary issues don’t arise. 

“It’s important to make sure there’s no perineal scald [skin burns from urine], skin irritation, or dampness that can lead to secondary itch, infection, and discomfort,” says Zambelli. “Animals can suffer silently and don’t always tell us when they’re uncomfortable.”

But sometimes they do. Constant licking can be the first sign of a problem. “Some dogs just get moist and there aren’t puddles around the house,” says the doctor. “That can be emerging incontinence. It’s probably not just a habit.”

As for clean-up, Brugato says there are many great solutions on the market, including the one she uses with the superhero-worthy name: Airx Rx 101 All-Purpose Odor Counteractant Cleaner. You can also opt for something simpler that’s nearly as effective: hydrogen peroxide mixed with baking soda and vinegar.

“You have to really soak the carpet or fabric and rub,” she says. “Just spraying with a spray bottle does nothing.”

For pet owners, the hardest part of dealing with incontinence may be the realization that your loved one is aging and that your time with them is growing shorter. But Zambelli says it doesn’t need to be a sad time for you or your pet.

 “There’s so much I think we can do for older cats and dogs.” 


Michele Coppola is a veteran Portland radio personality, copywriter and freelance writer who shares couch space with her dogs Ginny and Bailey, Roxy the a cat, as well as Bryon, the stray man she married eight years ago.

Senior Emergencies


Leading causes, and keys to survival

We’ve all been there . . .

You’re walking the pup, and . . . “Is he limping?  I didn’t notice that yesterday.”

Or you’re strutting along and wonder, “She sure is panting a lot. It’s not that hot out. Is that normal?”

Or your cat has been sleeping all day. “I know cats sleep a lot, but he used to be so playful.”

Or, “Wow, she sure has been drinking a lot of water lately.”

Or, you’re snuggling with your lovebug and discover a lump.

Another biggie: they didn’t eat breakfast (or dinner) — a huge concern with a pet who never skips a meal.

These occurrences are all the more worrisome when pets are older.  Any new, little thing brings trepidation and fear.

It’s hard to believe how time flies, and our pawed companions reach their senior years much faster than we do. Aging is an undeniable part of life and, for pets, along with it comes lumps and bumps, limps and gimps.

It’s easy to recognize the outward signs of aging in a pet: stiffening joints, graying muzzle, slowing gait, and once bright eyes growing cloudy.  What can’t be seen but must be remembered is that his or her internal systems are changing too.

So, how can you tell if your senior pet is suffering from a serious health issue or merely presenting signs of age?

Spot spoke with Dr Megan Nyboer, Emergency Director at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center about the most common medical emergencies for pets in their golden years.


Metabolic System Disease

The metabolism makes energy from food and eliminates waste and toxins from the body.  Metabolic function is at the core of good physical health. Disorders include anything that disrupt the process, from disease isolated to an organ such as kidney or liver to a systemic disease affecting the body overall such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism.


Early indications of a metabolic problem include increased thirst/urination and weight loss. More advanced signs include decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting and weakness. “While not curable, metabolic system disease is treatable if caught early,” Nyboer says. The best prevention, she adds, is annual exams and bloodwork for pets six to seven years of age and twice yearly as they get older or as specific health issues arise.


Heart Disease

Dr Nyboer says heart disease is very common in both older dogs and cats, but that it can be managed when detected early.


Signs that trouble is brewing for dogs include a cough lasting more than a couple of weeks, lethargy, and intolerance to exercise. Difficulty and/or heavy breathing, severe coughing, and fluid from the nose are more acute symptoms, signifying a possible emergency that may require oxygen.

As with their canine counterparts, sudden onset of heavy breathing and general lethargy in felines are indicators of heart disease, but Nyboer warns that cats often exhibit no symptoms.  In fact, she says, cats tend to mask signs of illness better than dogs, often delaying detection.

This underscores the importance of yearly physical exams: early detection is key to being able to manage a disease, and hopefully prolong survival. If a murmur is discovered, for example, it can be monitored, and explored further with additional diagnostic tests.



For pets, incidents of cancer increase with age. According to The Veterinary Cancer Society, cancer is the leading cause of death in 47% of dogs (especially over age 10) and 32% of cats. 

With so many different types, cancer follows no iron-clad rule. Symptoms vary, or can be scarce until the disease has become advanced.

The cancer that causes the most life-threatening emergencies — especially in older animals — is Hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive, malignant tumor in blood vessel cells. Because these tumors form in blood vessels, they are frequently filled with blood. When a blood-filled tumor ruptures, it can cause internal bleeding — particularly when the liver or spleen are involved.

“This can happen very quickly and without warning,” says Nyboer. “This an acute, urgent situation where immediate emergency care is needed.”


Because pets may not exhibit symptoms until a problem becomes serious, the doctor urges parents of senior pets to vigilantly watch for listlessness, sudden and unexplained weakness, pale gums, abdominal swelling, difficulty breathing, and collapse.



Regular veterinary examinations and bloodwork establish a baseline for pets, making it easier to detect abnormalities before they become advanced or life-threatening and improving the chances of a longer, healthier life.

You know your pet better than anyone, making you his or her first line of defense. Watch for even small signs that your aging dog or cat is “just not feeling or acting right” and, should they appear, get veterinary care. The sooner you act, the better the chance of a positive outcome for your best friend.

Resource: Cascade Veterinary Referral Center | |  503-684-1800


Vonnie Harris is a freelance writer, and operator of Pet Stop Pit Stop pet sitting services in SW Washington. She resides in Vancouver with Jessie (a yellow Lab), and Pedro & Grey Bird (parrots). Vonnie is “the face of Spot” at many Portland-area pet-related events, and the voice of Spot in social media outlets.

Caring for “gray muzzles” in shelters and at home


When people consider adopting a pet, they often think of puppies or kittens. They’re cute, warm and fuzzy, and their new family gets to watch them grow up from day one.

But it takes a lot of time and effort to make that puppy a part of the family. When you take on the privilege of caring for an older dog or cat, that work is already done. In essence, you can skip right ahead to the golden years. And as many will testify, it’s an extraordinary experience.

Portland resident Lindsey Ferguson adopted a senior dog, Gizmo, while in college. “I knew from volunteering in the shelter that senior dogs had trouble finding homes,” she says. “It was mostly because people didn't like the idea of getting attached and then losing them so quickly. But the truth was that they were the best-behaved dogs in the shelter. When it came time for me to start fostering, I requested an older dog.”

DNA testing showed Gizmo was a purebred Lhasa Apso. The shelter estimated his age at 10, but he lived 10 more years after finding his forever home with Ferguson. 

Many shelter animals are stray or abandoned, with no known medical history. Age is often a guess. Also, what is considered senior can vary by breed, based on average lifespan. While in shelters, senior animals often need unique care that can increase the shelter’s budget. In years past, shelters didn’t try too hard to place senior dogs or cats, but that is changing.

“Where our shelters used to be overcrowded now we’re at a point where some of our shelters are actually seeking out adoptable animals,” says Kim Alboum, Shelter Outreach and Policy Engagement Director at the Humane Society of the United States. “The messaging about spay/neuter and adopt don’t shop and visit your local shelter have worked.”

Along with this evolution has come increased services and resources to help place harder to adopt pets. “People have a special place in their hearts for the seniors,” says Alboum. “Many times we have shelters step right up to take in seniors because they pull at the heartstrings of the community.”

Senior dogs often have joint aches and pains, so they need comfy beds with support. They also need food formulated for their life stage.

“Many times senior dogs at shelters have lost their owners but were previously well-cared for, so we see obesity,” Alboum says. “And with senior animals we see dental issues. Dental care can be very expensive for shelters, so they do expect that their budget is going to be higher when they have more senior animals.”

According to the ASPCA, about 1.5 million animals per year are currently being euthanized in the US. Alboum says there was a time when closer to 14 million animals were euthanized annually. The likelihood of a senior animal being adopted was very slim. “But now far fewer animals are being euthanized, and these animals now have a really good chance of being adopted because they’re housebroken, they’re trained, and they’re just incredible pets,” she says. “These ‘gray muzzles’ as we call them are really special.”

Sasha Elliott, Community Engagement Manager for Greenhill Humane Society in Eugene, says Greenhill offers reduced or fee-waived adoptions for any seniors in their care, including dogs, cats, and small animals such as rabbits. 

“Unlike puppies or kittens who require extensive training and activity, senior pets fit into your life — they’re already great dogs and cats,” Elliott says. “Whether you’re looking for a companion to go on long walks with, or someone to relax with on the couch or porch, a senior pet can be a great fit.”

Tina Aarth and Joe Martinez, adoption coordinators at Animal Aid in Portland, love their senior dogs. “We love being able to help them find their soft landing,” says Martinez. “After a lifetime of human companionship, the isolation of a kennel can be extremely depressing.”

Two key features of Animal Aid’s successful senior placements are in keeping their animals in foster care for as long as it takes to get them adopted — sometimes for several months or even years, along with medical support. 

“Many senior dogs have problems with their kidneys, hearts, joints, teeth, etc.,” Martinez says. “The Animal Aid Cares fund allows us to adopt dogs with ongoing medical needs into loving homes where the cost of vet care might be overwhelming. We do this by paying half of the animal's medical costs for the first year, and sometimes longer.”

Seniors at Animal Aid get more frequent vet check ups and whatever dental procedures or other medical treatment may be needed while waiting for their “furever homes.” At foster homes, seniors can have a more comfortable life while awaiting their new family, and, as in the case of Ferguson and Gizmo, that foster home may become their forever home. 

At home with Gizmo, Ferguson says routine was key. He had health problems that required twice-daily medication, so they kept to a schedule. “That made it easier to identify new problems and to monitor improvements,” she says. 

The extra vet care can be expensive, so Ferguson kept a rainy day fund and worked with her vet to manage her budget. Ferguson says she prefers senior pets because they are easier to care for and don't require the exercise and attention puppies or kittens do.

“There are far fewer unknowns with a senior pet,” Ferguson says. “And for the most part they just want a comfortable spot to nap and a belly rub.”

Animal Aid *

Greenhill Humane Society *

The Humane Society of the United States *


Vanessa Salvia's love for animals began as a child, when stray kittens just seemed to follow her home (who thankfully, her family accommodated). She lives on a sheep farm outside of Eugene OR, surrounded by dogs, cats, horses, chickens and kids.

Fresh food — it’s good for everyone


Heather Macfarlane of WILD Pet Provisions has worked in the pet health and nutrition field for more than 30 years. In that time, she says one of the most frequent questions she’s heard from pet parents is what senior dog/cat food is best.

Macfarlane says nutritional recommendations are based on each dog and cat's individual needs, and senior pets are no exception. “Diets should be tailored to meet each pet's nutritional needs, and not based on age alone,” she says. “Every person I know eats for their needs — why should pets be any different? 

In the natural world, Macfarlane points out, there is no puppy, adult, or senior food for wolves or wild cats, and in fact no packaged food at all. “Their food is their prey —  raw muscle meat with organs, bones, fur, and pre-digested greens, berries, and anything else that’s in the stomach of their prey.”

What did dogs eat before commercial pet food became available a mere hundred years ago? Macfarlane says, “People food. Mostly consisting of the parts of the food we didn't eat — meat scraps, organs, bones, veggies, etc. This was much closer to their natural diet than what we find in the pet food aisle today.” 

Macfarlane goes on to say that while the pet food industry holds that senior dogs and cats should eat differently than adults or young pets, there isn't a consensus for guidelines on such senior formulas. “In reality, senior pet foods on the market vary in content and analysis, including protein, fat, carbohydrates, and calories,” Macfarlane says. “Just because a pet food says it is for "senior dogs/cats" it doesn't mean it's good for all senior pets. A dog the same age as your senior dog may have very different nutritional needs, so feeding them both the same food may not be beneficial to one, or either one for that matter.” 

22-year-old Turtle is one of Macfarlane's four senior felines (and one senior dog)

22-year-old Turtle is one of Macfarlane's four senior felines (and one senior dog)

All dogs and cats should eat according to their individual needs, not just based on their age, Macfarlane says. 

So what to consider when making food choices for your pet? Macfarlane says body condition and underlying disease or imbalances are much more important factors than age when it comes to feeding your senior pet. 

“What I recommend is that all dogs and cats, including seniors, eat fresh, raw food,” Macfarlane says.  “Raw food is in its natural state and the nutrition is readily recognized and utilized in dog and cat bodies. Older pets thrive from food they are designed to eat, which provide moisture, natural joint support, digestive enzymes, and animal-based protein.” 

Where to start? “Some fresh food is better than no fresh food at all,” Macfarlane says. “You probably don't eat salad every single day, but you eat salad, right? Likewise, if you don’t feed your pet a 100% fresh food diet, then incorporate fresh as much as you are able by adding fresh foods to your pet's current meals, feed fresh meals once a day, once a week, twice a week, whatever is feasible for you and your pet.”  Pet nutrition assessments and individualized dietary plans are available through Macfarlane’s business. 

Beneficial foods Macfarlane recommends incorporating into your senior pet's diet include:

  • Green Juju (contains buffalo bone broth, celery, coconut oil, dandelion greens, ginger, kale, lemon, parsley, turmeric, zucchini)
  • Canned sardines (packed in water, not oil)
  • Bone broth
  • Freeze dried food and/or treats (such as Stella & Chewy's, K9 & Feline Naturals, Vital Essentials, Primal)
  • Phytoplankton
  • Eggs
  • Wildcraeft's Heal
  • Turmeric or Golden Paste
  • Green and Blue Lipped Mussel
  • Coconut oil
  • Probiotics
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Boswellia

Learn more and meet the nutrition specialists at WILD Pet Provisions at 2393 NE Fremont, Suite A in Portland, or at


What do we do when our loving pets face the last leg of the race? We do all we can to help them finish well, of course. We take time to read the unspoken needs of the friend we've come to know so well. We give the simple reassurance of a loving touch when the old boy seems confused for no reason.

We groom them faithfully, but more gently, as age brings muscle wasting, and the arthritic bones aren't so well padded. We learn to slow down for their sake, as they enjoy the scent of the wind, or track a visitor’s trail across their yard. We expect to be inconvenienced and aren't angry when it happens.

We watch for pain and treat it, watch for changes in vision and hearing and do what we can to help preserve those precious senses for as long as possible.

We take care of their teeth and make sure their food is a manageable texture for them. We remind them of the need for a potty walk when they seem to forget.

We remember the little rewards. We scratch the graying ears and tummy, and go for car rides together.

When the pet we love has an unexplained need for comfort, we give it freely. When infirmities bring a sense of vulnerability, we become our old guardian's protector.

We watch their deepest slumbers, when dreams take them running across long-forgotten fields, and we remember those fields too.

When they cannot stand alone, we lift them. When their steps are uncertain, we steady them. And if their health fails, it falls to us to make the choice that will gently put them to rest.

Until that time comes, we pause to let the autumn sun warm our old friend's bones. And we realize, autumn is not a bad time of year at all. Old age is not a disease or a reason to give up. It is a stage of life that brings its own changes. Autumn can be a beautiful time of harvest.

And, sometimes, the harvest is love.

~Christy Caballero

Endless Love

Spot invited (through Facebook) pet-loving friends and pet parents to share photos and tidbits about the beloved seniors in their lives.

As the stories and pictures came in, the Spot team paused many times to feel the power, share the tears, and appreciate the phenomenal love that radiated from every single one.

Thanks to everyone who participated for sharing their beloveds with all of us!

Enjoy ♥



NAME:  Shasta

AGE/BREED:  Tri-color Australian Shepherd.

PACK:  Shasta travels and lives with me in the van as we explore America. She is looking forward to being out of the van and spending the holidays in a real house with real people. We'll be in Texas with family for December.

LOVES:  Shasta loves me and her big Kong squeaky tennis-type balls. I probably come in second to the ball. Shasta was out playing ball the day I picked her up at OHS and my hope is that her last day will include ball time.


SPECIAL NOTES ABOUT KATIE:  In the last year and a half Shasta has travelled over 30,000 miles in the western half of the US. She has seen mighty rivers, herds of buffalo and listened with me as the coyotes howl around us at night.

— Marty Davis, Shasta’s mom 


Neptune was dumped in an anonymous overnight drop box in at LA animal control.  He was skinny, fearful, matted hair, and (worst of all for adoption) old — 12-13 was the guess. His two remaining teeth had to be removed.  Years of neglect had taken its toll. The shelter's groomer estimated he had not been trimmed in years — a Maltese, possibly purebred, his hair grows all the time —he actually lost a pound or two after being shaved. He wasn't cute or young, and he would have been euthanized if My Way Home Dog Rescue in Sandy, OR hadn’t agreed to take him into foster care.
Seeing him, you’d never know all that. He's perky and playful and pounces into laps for cuddle time. He loves to scamper with his adoptive brothers. Like many seniors in rescue, Neptune likely had people at one time, as he adapted quickly to home life. Unlike many younger dogs, he was housetrained and just needed to learn the new home rules and routine. As a senior, he's restful — he loves cuddling for naps and dozing outside in the sunshine, and he’s thankful for a little peace. While we know we won't have him as long as we'd like, we are blessed to be able to give him a safe and secure time in his golden years. He is a joy — reminding us to appreciate the important things in life — a warm lap, a sunny day, and (of course!) treats.

     Lisa and Rachel Turley-Bertoni


You may recognize Bo (short for Bocanacht, or Bocan) — he was Spot’s 2010 winning Cover Model! He stills loves walks, chasing the ball, and the beach. He is now 12 years old.

Bo and I became a registered animal therapy team 2012. Oh my, the fun opportunities to meet new friends, especially at college stress relief visits! In 2014 we started volunteering with Signature Hospice. Once a week Bo and I visit a local facility. The staff greet him by name, and enjoy his visits as much as the patients. 

Bo's appeal has no generational boundaries. Headed out from a recent patient visit, we stopped at a nurses’ station. Two VERY young-looking aides loved his attention, petting and hugging him, while he made his trademark squeaky joyful noises. One declared that he's way cuter than a baby. The other, "He's adorbs!”

—     Ann Martin, Portland, O


Hi Spot Magazine staff,

I'd like to introduce my best friend and constant companion, Finn — aka Mr. Finn or Finnster. I found Finn, a found stray, in 2013 at Multnomah County Animal Shelter. He was covered in fleas, had a terrible skin infection and severe hair loss from fleas and skin disease. I am a surgery tech at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center, and saw a post about Finn on CVRC's FB page. I kept checking the shelter's website to see if he was still there — something about his sweet senior face drew me. I couldn't imagine a 12-year-old dog being stuck at the shelter and knew he was not likely to be adopted over the younger dogs. I visited him and it was all over. I was not leaving without him. I had no idea of his condition as the posts just showed a head shot. When I saw him the first time, I was shocked. He was underweight and his skin was terrible and malodorous. I feel so lucky I found him. His skin was treated, and he began to gain weight.

We have been through a lot in a short few years, good and bad. We've taken many trips to the beach where Finn's grandpa lives. Also a road trip to visit family in California, hiking, geocaching, window shopping. Finn loves restaurants where he can join mom outdoors. He goes to work with me every day, and my life is planned so he can accompany me wherever I go.

I've never had a dog so many people were drawn to — he’s been called magical. He’s a happy boy who loves everyone.

Finn has been through a lot this past year, dealing with tumors and even a mini stroke. He's got a lot of spirit though, and continues to go on daily walks and weekly physical therapy to maintain his mobility and strength.

I cherish every day I have with this boy. Of course, I am a proud dog mom Here are some of my favorite pictures, which I hope show that even though a dog is senior, they can still enjoy a lot of activities. We're so excited you're doing a frosted face edition because seniors are simply the best! I couldn't imagine him living out his final years in a shelter. We have shared so many great times and adventures.

—     Angie Dutcher, Finn’s mom


This my 11 year old Boxer, Jake. We adopted him at age 5. He is full of love and cuddles. He enjoys drinking from the hose, sitting in front of the fire, and going to grandma and grandpa's farm. This photo was taken on his 11th birthday, right before he got his big special birthday treat!

— Elizabeth OeDell


14-year-old HANK, aka”The English Cream Doxie” (because his Grandma always wanted one), lives with 5 Doxies, Grandma Virginia, and Cousin Travis on their Cedar Flats AIR BNB spread, along with 24 chickens, 3 ducks, and neighbor horses, goats and rabbits. He looks forward to seeing his mom soon, who is coming to visit him from Lebanon (Middle East) this month.


My Old Girl Lily

This sweetest face makes me cry every time I look at this picture. It took me years before I could replace it as the background on my phone. Lily was mama’s girl. She was perfect in every way that a dog can be perfect. She grew up with our kids, kept them safe when we weren’t home, cuddled, loved, belonged. We miss her. L

—Ginger Rapport, Beaverton


Chewie is a beautiful Tortie we got 15 years ago from the SW WA Humane when she walked right up to us and begged to go home through the cage bars. She was ours! Later, she returned from her spay with the worst URI ever! I had to nurse her for almost 2 weeks while she recovered. She loves to cuddle in my arms like a baby, the way I had to hold her to force feed her. She lays in my arms and reaches a paw to tap my cheek or wrap around my neck while staring at my face. Her next favorite place is right over my shoulder, and when I worked from home, perched on the back of my chair with her front paws on my shoulder. Even now her favorite place is right next to me, with a paw on my arm or leg. Her favorite position to lie in is with her back leg tucked under her chin or wrapped in her front paws. She has some arthritis now, but that doesn't stop her from assuming odd and awesome sleeping positions!

When she was younger, she let us know she didn't have enough toys by catching garage mice and bringing them in the house to chase. That taught us!!!

Chewie would rather be an only kitty, but that has never been an option. Still, she doesn't take guff from the other 3 cats, and will even smack our German Shepherd around if he’s in her space. She totally has "Tortie 'Tude"! We call her our curmudgeon, but she is so full of love for me. She gazes into my eyes, then ducks her head and butts my face/arm/leg/whatever she can reach. I can't make a move without her.

—Tena Abbey, Vancouver, WA


Riley has been the best dog I’ve ever had. He’s been by my side whenever I needed him. He listens to me, he is my ‘support group' — he has my heart. He is now 11 years and 3 months old and I bless each day he is alive. <3. He is a Beauceron, if anyone was wondering :) I took these pictures at a park to spend time with him. He can't walk very far anymore so to parks and coffee shops we go.

—Shelli Rasmussen


This is my 8-year-old Golden ANNABELLE.  She is a sweet loving girl who just loves to be near her mommy (me)! She loves looking out the window watching birds, squirrels, and an occasional cat!

—Mary Lou Robison

Miss Beatrice!

We adopted Miss Bea about a year ago. Her previous family gave her up due to her age, which is their loss because she is the absolute best. Even at age 12, she can keep up with her five-year-old sister, romping on the beach or at the dog park. She loves going to doggie daycare and mixing it up with all the other pups. She's also a big fan of sprawling on the couch and watching sports on TV.  She says she could do without the cat that tries to sit on her face, but we think she secretly likes it. We are so lucky to have found her, and are hugely thankful to My Way Home Dog Rescue for bringing her up from a California shelter, taking good care of her, and then matching us up. We love her!

—Anna Joyce and Tami Parr


I do intake for My Way Home Dog Rescue and I saw Harold was at San Bernardino Animal control. His body was so small from starvation his head looked huge. My Way Home decided to help him. He came into my foster home, and fit right into our pack. While I loved him (and he came on my Birthday) I found him a home. 

It was the home of an auto racer. Come to find out, our Harold got very nervous being alone when they went to work. He spent his time learning how to open the door to the race car room and, well, he marked everywhere. 

When he came back I decided he really was meant for me and the rest is history. As with all separation anxiety, he has mellowed. He is a big goofball and loves our life, no matter what twists it takes!

—Cheryl Yoshioka

Snickerdoodle, The Love of My Life

Snickerdoodle and I found each other in April of 2008. My 10+ year-old Black Labrador Max had just passed from cancer, and I was in search of my next best friend. When I came across Snickerdoodle at the Oregon Humane Society, he did not even look like a Labrador, he was so withdrawn and sad. He was 3 years old and his family had just surrendered him to OHS. They were moving and could not take him. As soon as he was let out of the cage, he became a happy boy and I knew he needed to come home with me. 

Snickerdoodle is starting to slow down a bit, but he is still a happy-go-lucky dog. He still loves to play ball, go to the river and swim, and play with his cousins (my Sister lives next door and has 2 Shepherds).  I know my time with this wonderful dog will be up sooner than I would like it to be, but that is just life. My job now is to keep him comfortable, watch over him, and just love him for however long we both have.

—Bobbie Bacoccini


KT is a 9-year-old Boxer/Lab mix (Boxador). She’s been grey since age 2, but gets more so as she matures. KT loves to find squirrels (fuzzys). She loves to cuddle and go for hikes on Powell Butte. She loves going on the boat with her friends and run on the beach. She is big momma! We love her so much and can't imagine the day when she isn't here. If she is quiet for a few minutes I start freaking out — Where are you? What are you doing? Love this girl to pieces.

—Misty Wagner


2015. He began life as a show dog and quickly rose thru the show world to Westminster in NYC. Sadly reaching such heights of success would lead him to the depths of hell when he was sold as a stud dog to a lady who turned out to be a hoarder. Max became one of 98 dogs in an 1100 sq ft home where he had to fight for food, fresh air, etc. The officer who rescued him said it was one of the worse hoardingsituations he’d ever seen and looked forward to seeing us each year at Doggie dash as he used Max as an example of a rescue success story. Debarked and down to 15 lbs, Max was nursed him back to health. Still, he had a lost look when he was brought into OHS. I got him a few months after he became healthy, shortly after losing my first Beagle, Sonny. The night I brought Max home he attacked my female Daisycher over food (even though they had met before). I wondered if he had too many issues to keep him, but I’m so glad I did. He earned Pet Partners therapy dog certification so he could come to work with me as a Pediatric Occupational therapist. The kids would "do it for Max" when they wouldn’t for Miss Jayne! He was known as the real-life Snoopy as he was a rare all-white Beagle. He was such a lover and I know he is my guardian angel waiting for me on the bridge.

—Jayne Bailey