Maria Buck has a hard time understanding how anyone could dump their pet on the streets. But that’s exactly what happened to her dog, Rex, before she adopted him.
This summer, a woman found the 14-year-old Pekingese mix wandering the streets of New York City. She alerted Marty’s Place Senior Dog Sanctuary, a nonprofit in New Jersey. Thanks to a microchip, the rescuers located the dog’s family, anticipating a joyful reunion.
Instead, the people admitted to purposely abandoning Rex because he was “too old” — and they didn’t want him back.
Rex needed a new home.
He found it on Sept. 1 when Buck fell in love with him after seeing photos of his quirky face — he has just one top tooth and a severe underbite, as well as one floppy ear — and hearing his story. Her beloved Labrador retriever, Samson, had passed away at age 13, and she didn’t think an energetic puppy would be a good fit for life in a corporate townhouse.
She’d applied to foster Rex but changed her mind and asked to permanently adopt him.
“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in a very, very long time,” Buck, 57, told TODAY.
Rex is a curious, playful guy who loves other dogs and people. Aside from a mouthful of missing teeth, mild allergies and hearing loss, he’s in good health. He enjoys several slow “sniffing” walks a day and meeting new people.
His distinctive looks attract a lot of attention, and Rex delights in greeting his admirers. Buck lets him walk for as long — and as slowly — as he likes.
“I am never in a hurry, and I use that time to reflect. I think about maybe what his life was before I found him, and just the gratitude I feel that I get to see him through,” she said through tears. “I just decompress from the day and get sucked into his perfect little world, and reflect on my gratitude, and focus on what’s really important and what’s not.”
It pains her to think of Rex being abandoned, particularly without teeth or the ability to defend himself if he “got in a jam.” She hopes families won’t give up on senior pets, and that more people will consider adopting them when they do need new homes.
“Every ounce of love you give them, you get back tenfold,” she said. “Knowing you’re making an impact in a senior’s last years is just an incredible privilege.”
Rex is one of hundreds of “ambassadogs” for Saving Senior Dogs Week, which runs Oct. 25-31. The awareness campaign shines a light on the plight of senior pets and the rewards of adopting them. Some dogs, like Rex, have already found happy homes, but others are available for adoption at 25 participating senior dog rescue organizations across the country.
The stories will be shared through social media and the website for Saving Senior Dogs Week. Additionally, senior dogs will be highlighted in some films in the 2021-2022 New York Dog Film Festival, which premieres Oct. 24 and will donate a portion of the proceeds from the traveling festival to Saving Senior Dogs Week and its associated nonprofits for the next year.
Alice Mayn, who founded both Saving Senior Dogs Week and the nonprofit Lily’s Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary in Petaluma, California, said the ambassadogs all have different stories but share the common thread of being down on their luck and bouncing back from traumatic experiences or medical issues.
“It’s amazing what these dogs do,” Mayn, 76, told TODAY.
For instance, ambassadog Daisy and another pooch were left alone in a house after their owners moved away without them. By the time they were discovered, Daisy was thin, with severe dental disease and several masses hanging from her belly — including one that made it challenging to walk.
Lily’s Legacy took her in and got her the surgeries she needed, including having 11 teeth removed. All four tumors proved to be benign, and now the mixed breed dog is ready for adoption.
“Daisy is a sweet, cuddly girl,” Mayn said. “She’s just a cuddle bug.”
Mayn said she’s witnessed and heard from countless adopters that senior dogs exude gratitude for the chance to live out their lives as beloved pets in happy forever homes.
“These dogs are 100% grateful for what you give them,” she said, adding, “I think gratitude is a really good life lesson for the rest of us.”