Last week I sent out an appeal --urging someone to adopt SMOKEY, the dog that has lived at the Elmsford Animal Shelter (now run by Pets Alive) since 1997. The following story appears in todays issue of rivertownspatch.com about the woman who adopted Smokey. Pet's Alive has other legacy dogs. We need more living saints!
Giving Old Dogs New Homes, New Lives
Karen Palchanes is known as 'the Hospice Lady' for dogs.
"I adopt senior citizen dogs from shelters because I can't imagine letting a dog die in a concrete jungle behind a metal fence; it's just not right."
This week, Palchanes adopted Smokey, a 15-year-old dog, who lived at Pets Alive (formerly the Elmsford Animal Shelter) since 1997—almost his entire life.
"I went to the shelter and said, 'I want the oldest, sickest dog you have,'" she said. "Regardless of whether the dog lives for one day or five more years, I know that I've given him or her a new chance at life—a happy ending, I guess."
Marcy Rydd, Community Relations Director for Pets Alive Westchester, disagrees with Palchanes. "Karen [Palchanes] is a beautiful human being. She looks at these dogs and thinks, 'I have the space. They should spend their last days with me.'"
As soon as Palchanes said she would adopt Smokey, Rydd drove an hour and a half to Palchanes' small farm in Pittstown, New Jersey. "Smokey was immediately at home there. She romped with Karen's other two dogs; it was like she was a new dog," Rydd.
Palchanes added: "Smokey spent his first night sleeping on my reclining chair. He actually figured out how to work it and was rocking it back and forth. It was amazing."
The same goes for Lucinda, a "declining senior citizen dog, who would barely walk when she adopted her. She had nodules on her side."
With a little medication and a lot of space and love, Lucinda is now thriving. "She walks, runs, plays. They told me she wouldn't live for one month."
Pets Alive is unique in that they're an entirely no-kill shelter. That means that no matter how old a dog is, they will care for it until it's either in extreme pain or dies naturally.
Most people think intuitively about losing a loved pet and immediately decide that it would be too hard to adopt a dog that might not live that much longer.
"But when you adopt senior—or what we call 'legacy' dogs—it's not about you; it's about you," Rydd said. "It's about the animal. You give a dog a life it never dreamt possible."
Of course dogs remember having lived in confinement, without individual attention. Think of how your dog runs every time you open the dishwasher, after the door fell on him once. Or how he avoids fires years after backing into a campfire when she was six months old.
"So having a home, having a new life, is so wonderful for these dogs," Rydd said.
Palchanes first heard about senior citizen dogs dying in shelters through a facebook post and acted immediately, adopting a dog with stage-four cancer. That dog lived for three and a half months.
Next, she adopted Shelly, "a pitiful-looking Labrador mix. She lived one year before we had to put her down."
Palchanes even moved from her apartment to a larger space—a retired horse and chicken farm—to be able to adopt more dogs.
A nanny by day, Palchanes hosts pony parties on the weekends and babysits at night "to make a little extra money for treats for the dogs," she said.
Palchanes and Rydd emphasized that anyone has the capacity to adopt an older dog from a shelter.
"They tend to be arthritic. They don't bark at the mailman," Palchanes said. "They're also grateful and loving. You can see it in their eyes."
Now, Palchanes has 'Frackles,'—a dog she flew over from a kill shelter in Oklahoma—Lucinda and Smokey.
"Of course I cry my eyes out when one passes on," she said. "But I'm human, and I understand that I can grieve, and mend, and move on. I'll never stop adopting older dogs. The pain of losing one is worth the gratifying experience of saving a life. I would never give that up."
Pets Alive currently has Shottie, a Staffordshire Terrier Mix, who is 10 years old, and has lived there since 1994. He has beautiful dark, marble fur. He's strong-willed, but loving. And once out, he never has it in him to go back behind a fence. Do you have it in you to adopt him?
Pets Alive also has a fostering program, which allows anyone who will open their home to an animal, to take it without having to pay for any of the veterinary bills. Pets Alive will pay everything.
All dogs come spayed/neutered, up-to-date on injections and micro-chipped.
Find out more about Pets Alive Westchester here.
Related Topics: Pets Alive Westchester, Senior Citizen Dogs, and no-kill shelters