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Senior dog adoption in Alberta

Adopting a senior dog isn't for everyone, but if it fits, there can be great joy in store for animal and adopter.
Adopted senior dog Snowy was a life-saver for Kim Hanson, she writes. Photo by Kim Hanson.

Have you been tossing around the idea of rescuing a dog? Maybe picturing a canine as part of your family? Before you take the plunge, why not consider rescuing a senior dog--one who is eight years or older?

Senior rescues are out there, just waiting for the right person to find them. Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue Foundation located near High River and ARTS Senior Animal Rescue in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton, each have animals waiting.

Heaven Can Wait was started in 1999 by Kim Hessel. She often takes in harder-to-adopt rescues from other agencies--animals that have health and/or behavioural issues. Though the first priority is getting the animals healthy, Hessel says with rehabilitation, nurturing and love, the elder animals flourish. And once a dog is feeling well, behavioural issues often improve.

Heaven Can Wait charges $500.00 for a senior, rescued dog. For that fee, the animal is spayed or neutered and given current vaccinations, two forms of parasitic treatment and an identifying tattoo or microchip. Bloodwork and dental treatment complete the package. 

Hessel reminds people that adopting a senior animal is not for everyone. As they've already lived a good portion of their lives, older dogs often crave a quiet lifestyle, longing only to be cuddled and to be close to their owners, she says. When looking at potential adopters, Hessel said she seeks those who "display empathy and compassion--who are fully aware their hearts may break open, yet still want to make the commitment. These people go into the adoption not thinking what the dog can do for them, but what they can do for the dog."

ARTS Senior Animal Rescue, was formed in 2014 and like Heaven Can Wait, survives entirely on donations. Caring volunteers take in the senior surrenders (both dogs and cats) and foster them until a new, forever home can be found. ARTS Calgary coordinator Blair Douglas said the organization placed 120 seniors in new homes in 2020--an astonishing number.

ARTS charges $260.00 for a senior, rescued dog. As with Heaven Can Wait, all vet charges prior to adoption are paid for by the foundation. 

My husband Rick and I have firsthand knowledge of senior dog adoption. After our beloved son Mike passed away, we both felt lost, sad and broken. Looking for some light in the darkness, we wondered: Was now the time to get another dog?

Both of us in our 60's, energy waning just a little bit, we were reluctant to bring a young, energetic puppy into our lives. We found Heaven Can Wait online, and clicked on the adoptable dog tab. There was the sweetest elder shih tzu ever. His name was Beau.  

When contacting Heaven Can Wait, we found Beau had just been adopted. Likely hearing the disappointment in my voice, Hessel said, “But you may be interested in a female Maltese that was just surrendered.”

Snowy was either ten or eleven years old, had a slight build and was very sweet. She sounded perfect for us.

After Snowy recovered from extensive dental work, Rick and I went to meet her. She touched my soul immediately; for Rick it took a bit longer. Our lives changed for the better the minute we were able to take her home.

Snowy was with us for three memorable years, taking her last breath in March 2021. Our sweet girl brought light, love, purpose and hope. We were honoured to have her with us in her twilight years. Our phones and computers are filled with Snowy photos and videos. She clearly resided in our hearts and we loved her very much. She was our salvation.

For more on senior dog adoption, contact:

Heaven Can Wait - email:

ARTS - email:

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