Buttercup is a yellow labrador mix, about five years old, and she recently was taken to a Sonora nonprofit rescue because the family she lived with was trying to escape an abusive domestic situation in Calaveras County.
“She’s been abused, same as the family she was with,” Cam Mainguth, a volunteer with Friends of the Animal Community, said Monday at the program’s headquarters and care facility off Mono Way.
“Since we got her July 6, she reacts to different kinds of touch,” Mainguth said. “She flinches when you touch her rib cage on both sides. Like she’s been used a punching bag, or people have been kicking her.”
Friends of the Animal Community, a nonprofit formed in 2001, have helped find new homes for 2,500 to 3,000 animals. Darlene Mathews, president and founder of FOAC, and her staff emphasize they help a lot of older dogs and cats, as well as special-needs pets like Buttercup.
Mathews said Monday that Friends of the Animal Community is the only rescue group in Tuolumne County that helps dogs and cats over the age of five. Dogs that are age six or seven years are entering their senior years.
And they are committed to finding homes for them and every other dog they take in.
“We’re not a dog sanctuary,” Mathews said. “We don’t bring dogs in to keep them for life until the die of old age.”
Mathews said there’s no special method of finding homes for senior dogs. They use Facebook and adoption events to tell the dogs’ stories.
On Monday at the FOAC care facility, manager Amy Hamm introduced four dogs that are older, special-needs, or both.
Pappy, a six-year-old male papillon spaniel breed mix, arrived at Friends of the Animal Community on Monday. Pappy was skittish and he was trying to escape from his enclosure. He had some hair loss and weighed somewhere under 15 pounds.
“The owner, she lives in Sonora, has Alzheimer’s, she’s moving to a care facility. She can no longer care for Pappy. Somebody who knows the owner dropped Poppy off here today, before noon,” Hamm said.
Pappy ran back and forth for a time, seemingly afraid of a human visitor in his enclosure. Later he held his face close to bars of a gate inside the FOAC building, and he whined and cried a bit in high-pitched squeaks and squeals that sounded plaintive and sad.
Carolyn Brooks, a FOAC volunteer, picked Pappy up and held him close to her face to try to soothe and relax him. Pappy seemed a bit more content for the moment.
Further back in another part of the FOAC facility, Hamm introduced Rocky, an unfixed male boxer, eight or nine years old. He weighs about 50 pounds and he appears to walk with a limp.
Rocky has a back injury, neurological issues, and a tumor on one of his back legs. He’s no longer young enough or healthy enough for surgery, Hamm said. To have Rocky neutered at this point would be a health risk.
Rocky has been with Friends of the Animal Community since Aug. 22.
“His previous owners, a couple, were getting a divorce,” Hamm said. “They couldn’t find a place for their dogs. Both dogs got dropped off here. Cali, a nine-year-old chihuahua, has been adopted.”
Rocky wasn’t shy. He was anxious to meet a stranger and to greet Hamm.
Brooks helped introduce Tequila, a six-year-old male chihuahua that is considered special-needs because he doesn’t like men.
“He’s afraid of men,” Hamm said. “He’s a one-person dog.”
Tequila’s previous owners were a man and a woman with seven dogs.
“The man died and the woman had to down-size and move to a smaller place where she couldn’t keep all her dogs,” Hamm said. “We ended up with five of their dogs.”
The other four dogs have been adopted. Tequila has been with Friends of the Animal Community since May 29.
Buttercup weighs around 65 pounds. When she came to Friends of the Animal Community, it was because her former family found a safe place to go. But they couldn’t take Buttercup or any other dogs with them where they went, Hamm said.
In many cases of domestic violence, often staff and volunteers at FOAC find that individuals or family groups who are trying to get away from domestic violence or domestic abuse, they are not allowed to take dogs with them to domestic shelters and other nonprofit safe places for victims of domestic abuse, Hamm said.
Friends of the Animal Community help dogs and cats of all ages, and FOAC staff and volunteers know from experience it’s challenging to find people who want to adopt older pets and special-needs pets.
“Senior dogs often have health issues,” Hamm said. “We do a lot of fundraisers in the community to take care of medical issues for animals. Sometimes there’s a very limited amount we can do for animals like Rocky. He’s not healthy enough for surgeries any more.”
Another thing about older pets and special-needs pets is often people do not want to take on a senior dog because they don’t want to see the dog die of old age or aging issues and then have to say goodbye again so soon, Hamm said.
“Sometimes it’s health issues, sometimes it’s the dog’s quirks,” Hamm said. “Like right now we have two dogs that are afraid of men. Sometimes the dogs aren’t good with cats. Sometimes they’re not good with other dogs.”
Training can help with some dog behaviors. When they’re young sometimes you can train them to adjust negative behaviors, but when they’re senior dogs they’re older and more difficult to train, Hamm said. It’s much harder to modify dog behaviors when they’re older.
There’s no consensus on exactly when a dog is considered a senior in human years. In most cases, some pet specialists says, dogs can be considered senior between 5 and 10 years old. Others say most dogs enter their senior years around 7 years old, a bit sooner for larger dogs. Many veterinarians consider a dog of 7 or 8 years and older to be a senior.
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.