Why I adopted a Senior

i Aug 18th 3 Comments by

Submitted by Sarah McKillip

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Sarah and Big Lou.  Photo by Susan L. Angstatdt

March 14th, 2014 was a heartbreaking day in the McKillip household. I lost my “soul man”, my 17 year old dog Keller. Old age was his enemy and it finally caught up with him. I adopted Keller when he was 15-I knew when I adopted him time wasn’t on our side, but I didn’t care. I loved that dog. He was awesome. Keller’s passing left a huge hole in my heart and even though I share my home with 2 other dogs, Elvis and Priscilla, there was a definite emptiness in my house.

I wasn’t looking to adopt right away, but in a conversation with Marcy Tocker (the ARL’s Foster Coordinator) and after poring over the ARL’s website, I saw Louie. Louie was the oldest dog in program-14 years young. His first mama passed away and a family friend brought him to the ARL’s Grey Muzzle Program, after being turned down by other rescues due to his age.

I’d set up an appointment on April 24th, 2014 to meet Louie’s foster mom and Louie. All day long I drove my co-worker nuts, I was so excited. I referred to it all week as “Louie Thursday.”  On Tuesday I asked my boyfriend Adam if he knew what was happening on Thursday and I’d respond, “It’s Louie Thursday!” I did that on Wednesday and of course on actual “Louie Thursday”.  It was like Christmas in April.

On that special day, Adam, Elvis, Priscilla and I went to the ARL for our meet and greet and I couldn’t sign the adoption papers fast enough. It was official – he became Louis Vernon McKillip also known as Big Lou and LV.  .

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Lou enjoying some outdoor time. Photo by Susan L. Angstatdt

“Louie Thursday” was a very special day, not just because I am now blessed to have Louie Vern, but for two other reasons. I was able to witness the Grey Muzzle program in action for the first time and I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting Louie’s fantastic foster mom Kyra. LV was her first foster baby. She was so sad to see Louie go, (which I understand, he’s pretty awesome!) but was happy for him at the same time. When we were walking out of the ARL to take Louie home, I turned around and saw his foster mom crying and hugging Marcy.

A few months after adopting Louie and following the Grey Muzzle Foster Family page on Facebook, I knew I wanted to help more dogs like Big Lou. I’ve always loved senior dogs, so fostering seemed like a great thing to do, however,  I’ve always promised myself I’d keep my dog population in my home to three, but foster dogs temporarily living in my home technically don’t go against that, right!?!


Lou with his teeny tiny foster sister, Lisa Marie

So, I brought home my first foster dog, a 9 year old stray Chihuahua, she had no name, so she became Lisa Marie. I only fostered her for a short time before she was adopted. The day she was adopted, I held it together and didn’t cry until she was out the doors of the ARL. I knew I would miss her, but was so happy she finally had a real home. At that moment, I thought of Kyra and that just a few months ago, she was standing in that same lobby saying goodbye to Louie.

And now here I was, crying and hugging Marcy.

People always say, “Oh I could never foster-it would break my heart to give them up”, or “I could NEVER adopt a senior dog, they’d die too soon and it would be devastating.”…I remind those people of a fabulous quote from a very wise cartoon bear, Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Tuesdays are now known as “Foster Tuesdays”, and they are a great day in my home!

Update: Sarah took home a new foster last week – Cashew Rose, who is now available for adoption.


  1. Mudge Welch
    August 18, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    This story brought me to tears. My girlfriend and I are fostering our third dog. Everytime one gets adopted, no matter what I tell myself, it is the same reaction.

  2. steve wilson
    August 19, 2014 at 3:31 am

    We are on our fourth rescue dog,all seniors.
    We pick the senior dogs,for they tend to get picked last.
    Our recent six yr old was the exception. Just had a feeling
    about that one.
    Losing a senior dog has a thing about it only senior caretakers
    can know.
    I feel for you and see that youve managed to figure it out with the
    help of good folks.
    I admire your devotion and honor your loss.
    Thanks,for all you do in the rescue world.
    My Best,

  3. LoyaltyOfDogs
    August 20, 2014 at 12:32 am

    Thank you for sharing this story! Someone once observed that in our “disposable” society, a dog only survives to age 5 by learning behaviors that please people. That explains why senior dogs make especially wonderful companions: They’ve spent their whole lives learning good “people skills.” Continued best wishes to Sarah and Louie, Elvis, Priscilla and all their senior foster siblings!


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