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A place in the world: Collier senior pets seek their forever home in Adopt a Senior Pet Month


Andrew Atkins   | Naples Daily News

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated the name of Humane Society Naples. 

Bacchus has a head that wouldn’t look out of place if it was plopped on the shoulders of a black bear. 

The dog ambled through a play yard at the Humane Society Naples, less interested in people and toys and more keen on finding a snack and a comfy spot to lie down — but he was still open to a good chin scratch. Did he know it was November? Did he know it was National Adopt a Senior Pet Month? 

Definitely not. All he knew was that he was hungry for another biscuit. 

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Bacchus — like many other Collier County critters — is a senior pet looking for a forever home. While the definition of “senior pet” differs between agencies, most set the bar around 6 or 7 years old. 

Jonathan Foerster, director of Community Affairs with the Humane Society, said the organization normally has a handful of senior cats and dogs, like 10-year-old Bacchus, and they do linger, unadopted, in the shelter longer than their younger counterparts. 

“We’re willing to let a guy like Bacchus have as long as he needs to find a home,” Foerster said. 

Other organizations, like the county’s Domestic Animal Services, see similar trends. Danielle Sommerville, Animal Services Program coordinator, said owners often give up older pets out of a fear that they’ll be unable to afford the costs of caring for an aging animal. 

But those who are open to something new, she said, could find the perfect pet for them in a senior pet. 

“With senior dogs, you kind of know what you’re going to get,” Sommerville said. 

And what do you get? Well, you get Maggie, a 9-year-old owner surrender who is a little timid with a bright smile and a tail that wags so fast it blows you away. You get 10-year-old Four, named so for his serial number, whose gray beard belies a youthful penchant for treats. You get Alexandra, 8, who volunteers describe as “absolutely chill.” 

But that sort of attention should extend to the canines’ feline counterparts, too. At the Naples Cat Alliance, you might spot Snickers, whose spot on a chair is so well defined that the nonprofit’s director, Megan Sorbara, says it’ll have to go with the pretty kitty upon adoption. 

Like dogs, would-be adopters will have an idea of the personality a senior cat is going to have, though that sometimes changes a bit as they adjust to a new home. 

“They’re easy. They just want a lap. They want a bed by the window, some food, and they’re cool,” she said. “I think people forget the energy level of kittens and how much work they take.” 

Jan Rich, founder and president of the Marco Island cat rescue For the Love of Cats, partners with shelters like Sorbara’s for a program called Seniors for Seniors. Through the program, individuals 55 years of age or older can adopt a cat 5 years or older free of cost. The seniors — the human ones, anyway — also receive a free care kit including a pet carrier, scratch pad, litter, litter box, food, bowls, and more. 

The program, Rich said, helps get senior cats out of shelters where they tend to have longer stays than a younger cat, and into the arms of someone looking for a companion.

“They’re at the same spot in life where they kind of just want to relax, take it easy, eat treats,” Rich said. 

The Humane Society recently began a similar program as well. Through the support of Jim and Barbara Peltason, those who adopt a senior dog (7 or older by Humane Society standard’s) will receive a $500 credit to use toward the in-house veterinary services. 

Adopting a senior pet, Foerster said, can make all the difference in their lives. 

“You can just see the joy that comes from them having a family again,” he said. “They know that they have a place in the world.” 

Andrew Atkins is a Naples Daily News features reporter. Contact him via email at andrew.atkins@naplesnews.com or on Twitter at @andrewjatkins.