Muttville's Cuddle Club: Sharing the Special Love of Senior Dogs by Andrea Brooks

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Photo Courtesy of Muttville Senior Dog Rescue

Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, located in San Francisco's Rescue Row, takes in senior dogs who, because of their age, don’t have much chance of adoption in a shelter. A grant from The Grey Muzzle Organization helps make more Muttville adoptions possible by paying for medical expenses for adoptable dogs. Contributor Andrea Brooks launched Muttville's Cuddle Club in 2013.

Cuddle Club. Photo Courtesy of Muttville
Muttville's Seniors For Seniors program provides a way for senior citizens to bring a furry, loving companion into their lives. The main focus of the program is helping older adults be able to adopt, and finding the perfect match between dog and person. To qualify, prospective adopters must fill out an application and then work with our adoption counselor. Muttville waives our $200 adoption fee to qualifying seniors 62+ years of age.

All Muttville dogs receive a wellness check from a veterinarian. This includes vaccinations, full body exam, dental exam and other diagnostic tests deemed necessary prior to adoption. In addition to having the adoption fee waived, Seniors For Seniors adopters also receive a welcome kit which includes dog bowls, leash, harness, collar, one month supply of food and medication, dog bed, and home modifications, such as a doggy gate and stairs if needed. We make every effort to make the right match and provide support to make it as easy as possible!

Cuddle Club was added to the Seniors For Seniors program in 2013 after we moved into our new headquarters at 255 Alabama Street in San Francisco (also known as Rescue Row). All of a sudden we had a lot of space! We saw an exciting opportunity to give back to the community—and also get our mutts some extra love as well. While our top priority is rescue and adoption, we know not everyone may be able to adopt a dog, and we don't want that to get in the way of sharing the special love that one of our gentle, loving rescued senior dogs can give!
Cuddle Club, separate from our adoption events, is an opportunity for seniors to spend a lovely afternoon, on a couch downstairs in our community room, snuggling up with some of our adorable mutts. This is a very therapeutic, healing interaction. We initially reached out to Openhouse, which provides services to LGBT seniors, to set up a trial club. It worked great and they have been coming every month since!

Cuddle Club. Photo Courtesy of Muttville
Our mutts also need all the love they can get. While we have many amazing volunteers working with and caring for our dogs every day, sometimes it can be nice for our dogs to just curl up and snooze on a lap for a couple hours! The Seniors For Seniors Program Manager coordinates with the Mutt Manager upstairs and relies on her knowledge of the dogs to identify the best mutts for Cuddle Club. Our mutts get some serious affection at our Cuddle Clubs...and our active dogs get an additional walk for the day!

The response from our participants has been very positive. A majority of them return time and again. And, every once in a while, we get an adoption out of Cuddle Club, which is such a sweet surprise. Last year, we had a new group visit, and immediately one of the participants announced that she had lost her dog but that she was definitely not ready to adopt. A few minutes later, one of our dogs nestled right into to her. After another ten minutes of this snugglefest, an adoption form was requested! It was the perfect match and wonderful to see unfold organically in the group. We actually all live in the same neighborhood and it is such a treat for me to see them out and about.
It just proves what we say in Seniors For Seniors - it's never too late to fall in love, (again)!

For more information about Muttville and all of the wonderful organizations that Grey Muzzle supports, see Who We Help.

The Grey Muzzle Organization improves the lives of at-risk senior dogs by providing funding and resources to animal shelters, rescue organizations, sanctuaries, and other nonprofit groups nationwide.

About the Contributor: Andrea Brooks formalized the Seniors For Seniors Program, and launched Cuddle Club in 2013. An avid advocate for animal and human alike, she is the past recipient of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission Fair Housing Rights Award for her work ensuring that the companion animals of senior citizens be accommodated.