There are plenty of reasons to adopt a senior dog or cat at your local animal shelter. They’re potty-trained, easygoing and low maintenance. They’re perfect for first-time owners. They’re wiser and sweeter. They appreciate the little things, like warm Floridian weather. Plus, they come with no surprises in store because you already know them in terms of medical history and personal background.
But, what’s the biggest perk of all? According to Nancy O’Malley and Chrissy Sedgley of the Alachua County Humane Society, adopting a senior animal may just be one of the most rewarding decisions of your life.
Seeing the Value of Older Pets: Senior Adoptions at Alachua County Humane Society
O’Malley, a self-proclaimed snowbird who splits her time between the Berkshires and volunteering part-time at the Alachua County Humane Society, has had several experiences with senior pets. Her latest addition is 13-year-old Gigi, a one-eyed Chihuahua that moonlights as a therapy dog at the Alachua Public Library on Wednesday afternoons.
“She wasn’t supposed to last very long, but I took her home and now she’s making a name for herself as a little therapy dog diva down here,” O’Malley said. “When I watch tiny Gigi in the reading circle, she lets 2-year-olds pick her up and fawn over her. At my house, she’s friendly but she wouldn’t allow that to happen, so I think she has a sense of purpose.”
Sedgley, the director of operations at the Alachua County Humane Society, had a similar experience with a senior cat at the shelter whose presence was cherished even more because of his age.
“We knew that the time would be short, and so we were able to treasure him while we had him,” she said. “When he passed on, it was a huge lasting legacy; we still love him and his memory…It’s a pretty special experience.”
While Sedgley has seen people come in asking specifically for the dog or cat that has been at the shelter the longest, she noted that some older animals captivate future owners out of the blue. This was the case for Gypsy, a funny senior dog adopted last year.
“We’ll have some people come in thinking they’d love to see a puppy or kitten and then they walk by those older animals that have so much personality and a sense of who they are when you meet them,” Sedgley said. “A lot of times, their mind is changed because they meet that older animal along the way while they’re here.”
“What I’ve seen with my work with senior dogs and cats is that those animals can bond with you as soon as you make a connection,” O’Malley added. “With puppies, you’re going to get people to laugh, but something about these older dogs makes people smile. And that’s not a small thing in this world today.”
Rescue Pets on a Mission: The Danny Boy Adoption Fund
When Nancy O’Malley first met Danny Boy up in the Berkshires, it was love at first sight. The old stray pug shared her home for 14 months before passing away, sparking in her a lifelong bond with senior animals — and a philanthropic mission.
With the help of three friends, O’Malley started a charity in Danny Boy’s name that is dedicated to helping older animals at shelters in Massachusetts and Northern Florida find their “forever homes.”
Five years later, O’Malley, president and founder of the Danny Boy Adoption Fund, still tears up when reminiscing about the pug that started it all.
“I can’t imagine what life would have been to have missed out on Danny Boy,” she said. “My life was changed by him. Now, I’m able to help out a little here because of what he did for me.”
According to O’Malley, the organization waives medical and adoption costs for senior shelter animals, raising funds through donations, craft fairs and revenue from O’Malley’s nonfiction books “Danny Boy to the Rescue” and “Gigi’s Journey.”
“Every adopted senior pet is an ambassador for the value of what an older cat or dog can do,” O’Malley said.
Through their success stories, which can be found on the Facebook group “Danny Boy Adoption Fund,” she believes that Danny Boy’s legacy is able to live on.
Pet Adoption Resources:
Looking to bring a new furry family member into your life? Go to one of Greater Gainesville’s many adoption centers and support local animal rescues.
Alachua County Animal Services
3400 NE 53rd Ave., Gainesville, FL, 32609
Alachua County Animal Services rescues cats and dogs that have been neglected and abandoned in the Alachua County area and provides a home for them. All animals under the care of Alachua County Animal Services are available for adoption, and volunteers are always welcome.
Alachua County Humane Society
4205 NW 6th St., Gainesville, FL, 32609
352-373-5855 | alachuahumane.org
The Alachua County Humane Society is a nonprofit dedicated to helping dogs and cats. It offers adoption services and affordable spay/neuter services on site.
Earth Pets of Gainesville
404 NW 10th Ave., Gainesville, FL, 32601
352-377-1100 | earthpetsorganic.com
Earth Pets of Gainesville is a locally-owned pet store that offers a wide variety of organic and nutritious pet food for cats and dogs. Earth Pets also rescues kittens and cats found throughout Gainesville and temporarily shelters them until they can be adopted permanently.
Gainesville Pet Rescue
5403 SW Archer Road, Gainesville, FL, 32608
352-692-4773 | gainesvillepetrescue.org
Gainesville Pet Rescue is a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding homes for cats and dogs. Its goal is to end the practice of euthanizing healthy animals and to provide medical care for animals in need.
Haile’s Angels Pet Rescue
5231 SW 91st Drive, Gainesville, FL, 32608
352-505-0302 | hailesangels.org
Haile’s Angels is a privately-owned pet adoption center that takes in cats and dogs from various animal services in Alachua County. Their animals are available for adoption every Saturday at PetSmart and the Haile Farmers Market.
Helping Hands Pet Rescue takes cats and dogs that are in danger of being euthanized at other shelters and works to provide them with loving homes. The goal of the organization is to eliminate shelters that euthanize animals and instead work to rehome abandoned pets.
Maddie’s Pet Rescue Project of Alachua County
2029 NW 6th St., Gainesville, FL, 32609
352-373-5855 x15 | maddiespetrescueofalachua.org
Maddie’s Pet Rescue Project of Alachua County partners with various shelters and animal services in the Alachua County area. Maddie’s Pet Rescue hopes to provide every neglected animal in Alachua County with a permanent and loving home. The organization also aims to promote no-kill shelters and provide funding for no-kill shelters in Gainesville.
Plenty of Pit Bulls
P.O. Box 12319, Gainesville, FL, 32604
352-405-1696 | popb.org
Plenty of Pit Bulls rescues pit bulls from all over Florida that have been abandoned and abused. They also take pit bulls from shelters that are facing overcrowding. Plenty of Pit Bulls hopes to change the public’s perspective on pit bulls and show families that they are loving, caring pets.
Puppy Hill Farm
8714 SR 21, Melrose, Florida, 32666
352-478-1444 | puppyhillfarm.com
Puppy Hill Farm rescues cats and dogs of all sizes and ages and provides vaccinations and heartworm medication to homeless animals in need. Puppy Hill Farm animals are available for adoption at the Gainesville PetSmart on Saturdays and Sundays or at the Melrose location by appointment.
S.T.A.R (Saving Terrific Animals Rescue)
Gainesville, FL, 32605
352-494-8959 | awos.petfinder.com/shelters/FL664.html
S.T.A.R is a nonprofit organization that saves homeless kittens and cats in an effort to give each neglected pet a new life and a caring family. The animals housed by S.T.A.R are available for adoption at the Ocala PetSmart on Sundays and by application. A full list of all the pets S.T.A.R has available for adoption can be found on its website.
Second Chance Rescue and Rehoming
352-363-1364 | secondchancerescueandrehoming.org
Second Chance Rescue and Rehoming aims to give cats and dogs collected from the Alachua County Animal Shelter a second chance to find the loving homes they deserve. While the organization does not accept animals from the public, everyone is welcome to come adopt and give a lucky cat or dog a second chance.
Town & Country Veterinarians and Pet Resort
6980 SW Archer Road, Gainesville, FL, 32608
352-378-6027 | tandcvets.com
Town & Country Veterinarians offers a complimentary adoption service to families that adopt from local rescues associated with Maddie’s Pet Rescue Project of Alachua County. The package includes a comprehensive wellness examination and consultation, a stool test for internal parasites, a heartworm and flea prevention service, behavioral counseling and a spa bath package (includes spa bath, ear cleaning, and a nail trim and file.)
According to Chrissy Sedgely, senior pets captivate visitors at the animal shelter.
Volunteer Nancy O’Malley, who runs the Danny Boy Adoption Fund, is shown with Gwen, a senior dog at the Alachua County Humane Society.
Roscoe is an adoptable senior dog at the Alachua County Humane Society.
Photography by Erica Brough