Old dog, new home: Senior pooches find families thanks to Facebook page

Susie the dog facebook.com/susiesseniordogs
Meet Susie, the senior dog who changed the life of "Humans of New York" author Brandon Stanton.

Sometimes you really can find what you didn’t know was missing.

It happened to Brandon Stanton, the man behind the popular blog and book “Humans of New York.” One summer day in 2011, Stanton was strolling down a Brooklyn street when he spotted the funniest little dog sitting on a stoop.

“I thought to myself, ‘That is the coolest dog I’ve ever seen,’” Stanton, 30, recalled of the Chihuahua mix with the wiry mohawk. “‘If I ever get a dog, I want it to look like that.’”

A week or so later, a man in that same neighborhood approached Stanton with an urgent plea. “He said, ‘I saw you photographing my dog, and I saw that you really liked her,’” Stanton said. “‘I have to get rid of her. Would you like her?’”

Stanton never had a dog before, but something made him bring 11-year-old Susie home. That decision immeasurably cranked up the comedy and contentment quotient in Stanton’s life — and now a new Facebook page bearing Susie’s name aims to do the same thing for humans and older dogs everywhere.

Brandon Stanton, Erin O’Sullivan and Susie the dog. Courtesy of Erin O'Sullivan
Brandon Stanton, Erin O’Sullivan and Susie the dog recently traveled together to British Columbia, Canada. "She's dipped her paws in both oceans!" Stanton said of Susie.

Called “Susie’s Senior Dogs,” the page connects people with older pooches up for adoption. In six weeks of existence, it’s racked up 144,000 followers and used its reach to find homes for 30 senior dogs in overcrowded shelters.

Stanton’s girlfriend, Erin O’Sullivan, started the Facebook page in late January. The page got a major boost when Stanton shared it with his Humans of New York Facebook followers, who number more than 3.6 million.

O’Sullivan, 29, said she got the idea for Susie’s Senior Dogs after reflecting on the happy, silly bond between Stanton and Susie, and thinking about how hard it can be for older dogs to find homes.

Matt Wiley with Trina the dog facebook.com/susiesseniordogs
"We do a great 'Lady and the Tramp,'" said Matt Wiley, a Seattle man who rescued a 12-year-old dog named Trina after learning about her through Susie's Senior Dogs on Facebook.

“When most people think about getting a dog, they think about a new wrinkly puppy,” O’Sullivan told TODAY.com. “But if you bring up the idea of an older dog and touch their hearts a little bit, they think, ‘Oh.’ Sometimes it’s just a matter of putting that option in front of them.”

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O’Sullivan works full time for a jewelry designer in Manhattan and spends her evenings scouring the Internet for postings of senior dogs up for adoption. Many of the dogs aren’t that old — they could have years of adventures ahead of them — but they’re at risk of being put down because shelter visitors keep passing them by.

Caroline Ostrom with dogs Esmeralda and Tabitha. Mara Millich / facebook.com/SocialTeesAnimalRescue
Caroline Ostrom adopted two senior sisters named Esmeralda and Tabitha from Social Tees Animal Rescue in New York after seeing a post about the pair on the Susie's Senior Dogs Facebook page.

Once she finds good canine candidates and does some fact-checking with shelter employees or animal-rescue volunteers, O’Sullivan writes detailed Facebook posts about the dogs. 

Success stories are popular on the page. A close-knit pair of female siblings named Esmeralda and Tabitha who needed to find a home together? Adopted. A 12-year-old American Staffordshire terrier/boxer mix named Trina whose owners gave her up because they could no longer afford a dog? Adopted. A sweet-natured dog named Molly who had to have 14 infected teeth removed so she could eat properly again? Adopted.

Jaime Bunny McKnight with Molly the dog facebook.com/PawliciousPoochiePetRescue
Jaime Bunny McKnight rescued Molly in Florida and helped the once-neglected dog find a happy home through the Susie's Senior Dogs Facebook page.

“This site is a huge deal, especially for a little grass-roots rescue like mine,” said Jaime Bunny McKnight, 37, the founder of Pawlicious Poochie Pet Rescue in St. Petersburg, Fla., who helped Molly get dental care and find a good home. “I had people from all over the world calling and emailing me about Molly within moments of the post. Even if I couldn’t find a perfect adoption here locally, people were willing to fly here to get her.”

Susie the dog facebook.com/susiesseniordogs
"I really can't imagine life without her," Brandon Stanton said of his dog Susie.

O’Sullivan and Stanton are astonished — and thrilled — that so many people are using social media to rescue their future furry family members, and that Susie was the spark behind it all.

“Susie has become so entwined in my life,” Stanton said. “I’m constantly amazed at how much this little creature loves me.”

Need a Coffey break? Connect with TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and Google+or read more of her stories at LauraTCoffey.com.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Image: Stella the dog

    There’s life (and love) in these old dogs yet

    A Los Angeles animal photographer is on a mission: To change people's perceptions of older dogs and help more gray-muzzled pooches find loving homes. See images from her "My Old Dog" project here.

  • There’s life (and love) in these old dogs yet

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    Fiona -

    Los Angeles animal photographer Lori Fusaro is on a mission: To change people's perceptions of older dogs and help more gray-muzzled pooches find loving homes. Alarmed by how many senior dogs languish in shelters because no one wants them, Fusaro launched a photography project to show how much older dogs have to offer. Here are photos from the project, which led to a book called "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts":

    “Fiona was a 15-year-old stray at the West Valley Animal Shelter (in Los Angeles),” Fusaro said. “She couldn't walk and she had to be carted around in a red wagon." A volunteer with a local animal rescue group took her home thinking she would not last long, but the dog blossomed. Fiona went on to "dance around the house for treats" and enjoy scratches behind the ears, Fusaro said.

    Copyright 2013, Fusaro Photography
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    Flopsy and Sebastian -

    These closely bonded dogs lived in a backyard with no attention until they were rescued in the summer of 2012. "They have arthritis, but they are not old dogs who like to sleep all day," Fusaro said. "They play, chase cats and squirrels as best as they can, and love their walks and park time.”

    Copyright 2013, Fusaro Photography
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    Healey -

    “Healey was adopted as a senior,” Fusaro said. “He had the odds stacked against him: He was old, a pit bull and blind. His mama couldn't bear the thought of him dying in the shelter and so she adopted him. He loves to go on walks and sniffs every inch of grass. He loves his doggy brothers and sisters and especially his human daddy. They are inseparable.”

    Copyright 2013, Fusaro Photography
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    Lady -

    “Lady was found at the shelter as a senior,” Fusaro said. “She was sweet as pie and her foster mama decided on the spot to bring her home. She loves her human friends and dog friends too. Her favorite pastime is rolling in the grass and belly rubs.”

    Copyright 2013, Fusaro Photography
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    Rosie -

    “Rosie is an 11-year-old English bulldog,” Fusaro said. “Tennis balls are her favorite toy to play with and tease you with. She will dare you to take it from her. She also likes to take the pillows off the bed or clothes that are at her reach until you give her a goldfish cracker. Her hips are wobbly, but she will still run and play.”

    Copyright 2013, Fusaro Photography
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    Sparky -

    “Sparky has lived with her family her whole life,” Fusaro said. “She is the neighborhood dog welcoming committee. All the new dogs become her very best friend. She loves to go on long hikes with her human family.”

    Copyright 2013, Fusaro Photography
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    Stella -

    “Stella was adopted from the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA in Virginia,” Fusaro said. “She was abandoned right before the Thanksgiving holiday in 2010, when her owner moved and decided to leave her behind. Her new daddy saw her picture on a website and decided he needed to meet her. It was love at first sight.”

    Lori Fusaro / Copyright 2013, Fusaro Photography
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    Sunny -

    Sunny is the senior dog who started it all for Lori Fusaro. Sunny was left at a Los Angeles shelter at age 16 with cancer and infected eyes. When Fusaro saw Sunny’s face in June 2012, she decided she couldn’t let the dog die alone, so she adopted her and cared for her. Sunny thrived for two and a half years in Fusaro's care. “She inspired me to use photography to show how many senior animals need homes,” Fusaro said.

    Copyright 2013, Fusaro Photography
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    Gabby and Sunny -

    Fusaro’s two dogs are pictured here: Sunny in front, and Gabby, who also is a senior dog. Fusaro rescued Gabby when she was 2 years old. Gabby "loves playing with her doggy friends and has a kitty boyfriend named Enzo,” Fusaro said. “Enzo grooms her every morning and sleeps with her at night.”

    Copyright 2013, Fusaro Photography
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    Blossom -

    “Blossom was adopted as an older dog,” Fusaro said. “For some reason, no one wanted her. She is such a character! She has such great expressions, she dances for you as she awaits a treat, and she is loving and affectionate. She gives good doggie hugs.”

    To see more of Fusaro's photos and read more stories about happy senior dogs, check out the book "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts," written by TODAY.com writer and editor Laura T. Coffey.

    Copyright 2013, Fusaro Photography
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