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Love is Ageless – By Lori Fusaro

[caption id="attachment_8505" align="alignleft" width="300"]loveisageless Sunny and her sister Gabby[/caption] I’m a professional pet photographer and have been photographing pampered pets for over a decade. I am blessed to have a job that allows me to combine my two passions—animals and photography. But part of me felt like I could be giving more to the homeless pets that languish in the shelter. I decided I needed to find a way to use my talent to give back. And so I started photographing shelter animals to help them get adopted. Sometimes a photo on the Internet is the first link to finding a dog or cat a home. After doing some research I was dismayed at the quality of the photographs used to network those animals in need. It was then I decided to donate my time to take professional photographs that would speak through the computer screen and hopefully make that person want to meet the animal. I go to the shelter early Sunday mornings to photograph the adoptables. It’s one of the hardest things I have ever done—and one of the most rewarding. The Los Angeles shelter system is hardcore. The sheer numbers of homeless pets breaks my heart. I meet these dogs and cats, play with them and take their photos, knowing that many will not make it out. And that is why it’s so important to me that I continue, even through the sadness. Every animal is important and deserves a loving home, but there is a special group that has become a passion for me. Seniors animals. What happens to them when they wind up in an animal shelter? How will they get adopted when the shelter is full of other younger homeless dogs, cats, puppies and kittens, all searching for a home to call their own? [caption id="attachment_8510" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Senior Lab Jake the retired device dog[/caption] Most people want a puppy or a young dog they can train. They are wary of medical expenses that can come with an older pet. They are afraid of opening their heart and losing them far too soon. And that last reason was at the top of my list as to why I could never adopt an old animal. I felt my heart couldn’t handle it. [caption id="attachment_8517" align="alignleft" width="199"]Senior on stairs Mabel lived her last 2 months with a loving foster in Oakland[/caption] But then I began to think about the animals. And I began to think about all the other people in the world that had those same feelings. That’s when a tiny seed was planted in my head. It stayed there, mostly quiet, but a nagging thought that just wouldn’t leave. And then Sunny entered my life. Sunny loves to play with her rope toy. She will do anything for food. Sunny loves to stick her head out the window and feel the wind in her face. She loves to go on walks and cuddle on the couch. Sunny is 17. My life changed the day I saw that gray face laying on a blanket in the shelter. I knew she probably wouldn’t make it out of the shelter alive. She was just…too old. I hesitated for only a second and then I did the only thing I could do. I adopted her and took her home. Little did I know that this one act would change me to the very core. It sounds dramatic, I know, but it’s true. Sunny was the catalyst that made that tiny nagging thought explode into action. [caption id="attachment_8516" align="alignright" width="199"]Senior - white mask Fiona (15) was saved from the East Valley shelter last Thanksgiving.[/caption] So many of these older animals are turned into the shelter through no fault of their own. Many times by people that love them. Families who have no other options but to bring their beloved pet to the pound. One in particular still haunts me. The dog’s name was Snoopy. He was a happy boy with a face almost completely white and an old man’s walk. His owner lost her job, her home and had nowhere to go. She brought him to the shelter with hopes he would find a family that could take care of him. I will never forget her face. Red, swollen, tear-stained and full of such a deep agony. Her breathing was labored through the sobs that she couldn’t control. She stayed there with her Snoopy for 3 hours, dreading the last goodbye. There have been many others that have crossed my path. Hazel, the 12-year-old Alf look-a-like. She was so shut down, confused and so sad. She cowered in the back of the kennel. On her last day she was saved and now lives like a princess with a mama that cherishes her. Rocco, a handsome chow, Poochie and Spot the sister retrievers, Sioux the gorgeous white shepherd, Jake, Sassy, Corndog, Princess, Merlin, Fiona, Leo...the list unfortunately goes on. It’s these faces that are the inspiration behind Silver Hearts, a project I created to bring awareness to senior animals that need adopting. [caption id="attachment_8512" align="alignleft" width="199"]17 year old Sunny - sassier than ever! 17 year old Sunny - sassier than ever![/caption] I’m often asked what have the challenges been since bringing Sunny home. The main issue is veterinary costs. However I was surprised that it wasn’t as much as I had initially anticipated. Her medication is mostly for her arthritis and is very manageable. Many vets will give discounts once they know the situation. And there are low cost options online as well. Even Costco carries pet meds. And many nonprofit organizations have programs that assist with these types of costs. There are little things that help keep these seniors more comfortable. I use a harness for walking Sunny. She sometimes is wobbly on her feet and with a harness I am able to keep her more stable. She also has an orthopedic bed. Stairs can be an issue for some seniors so this might be something to consider before you bring one home. If you do decide to open your home to an elderly pet there are many organizations that specialize. A quick Internet search will show you the ones in your area. You can also ask about foster programs with the rescue. Many have programs for seniors. It’s a wonderful way to help the animal with a rescue to back the financial obligations. And if you are new to this, they can help with support.     At the end of the day, adopting a senior will probably be one of the hardest and one of the best things you will ever do. Love doesn’t keep track of years. It just grows wiser, softer and more forgiving. Maybe a little bit slower, but still valuable and capable of joy. sunny and gabby   Lori Fusaro is a guest blogger for Petco, and a long time advocate senior pet adoption. Be sure to check our her work: www.FusaroPhotography.com Find out more about Silver Hearts: https://www.facebook.com/SilverHeartsProject Also seen on: NBC Nightly News Today Show Pets