Bradford Woods woman gives old dogs a new 'leash' on life
On most days, Wade-Wade is asleep behind the cash register at Salvaged PGH, curled up by Tracy Rittle's feet. Like most of the items in the shop, the little dog is old and in need of a good, loving home.
Rittle is fostering the pooch for Senior Hearts Rescue & Renewal, a nonprofit organization that focuses on placing elderly and/or chronically ill dogs. Wade-Wade spent most of his life in a hoarding situation and needs to be socialized before he is adopted.
He is a daily fixture at the Wexford store, which specializes in architectural salvage, and some of his four-legged buddies drop by on the first Saturday of every month to promote Senior Hearts' mission.
“People see a dog with medical issues and they think, ‘Cha-ching! We don't want to invest in him!' ” says Denise Pavitt, who founded the organization in 2016 to give abused, unwanted or overlooked pups a chance at happiness.
Since its inception, Senior Hearts has saved 157 dogs.
At any given time, there are between 20 to 30 canines in the system. Pavitt, a Bradford Woods resident, doesn't have a shelter or public facility; she relies on a network of about 60 foster families to help rehabilitate the dogs.
Whether they are rescued from shelters or surrendered by owners who are unable or unwilling to care for them, all dogs are given a full veterinary work-up within 24 hours of intake. About 95 percent of the animals have significant medical issues, including visual and hearing impairment. Pavitt says the group spends approximately $750 on each new arrival. Funds are raised through an annual gala, private donors and events such as the monthly Salvaged PGH meet-and-greets.
Volunteer Amy Bulebush is now the proud owner of Petey, an 18-year-old, blind poodle who was found wandering the streets in North Carolina. Her house also is the temporary home of a skittish Chihuahua named Redd. Bulebush says caring for the dogs gives her daughters a lesson in compassion and responsibility.
Carol Innamorato, a volunteer since January 2017, fell in love with Tulip, a Maltese who was plagued by mammary tumors and a mouth full of rotten teeth, all of which have been removed.
“I actually love senior dogs. I'm a senior myself,” she says. “They all deserve a loving home.”
New foster families join the Senior Hearts family each week by promising to give their furry house guests the same security and love they'd give to their own pets. They also provide valuable information on the dog's temperament and behavior which helps Pavitt find an appropriate home for them.
Dogs that are found to have terminal illnesses, but are not suffering, stay in the foster system for the rest of their lives so Pavitt knows they are getting the medical assistance they need.
“This is not a dog hospice,” Pavitt says, noting that the organization is guided by several respected veterinarians. “It's about renewal. It's about quality of life. We try to take emotions out of it and get expert advice to help make these decisions.”
Just a little affection rejuvenates many of the dogs who appear weak or sickly.
Denise's first foster (and inspiration for Senior Hearts) was a 13-year-old, overweight Dachshund who could barely move. Now 17, the roly-poly wiener dog known as Snack chases toys and goes on walks around the neighborhood.
For folks who are unable to foster, but still want to help the hounds, Senior Hearts has a long wish list such as food, medication, supplements, blankets, collars and leashes. Volunteers are also needed to transport doggies, plan or work events, perform office duties and raise funds. Tax-deductible donations also are accepted and people can filter the funds to a specific animal. Bulebush smiles as she pets Benji, an old, yet adorably puppy-like, Yorkie. She gives him a kiss and snuggles him, prompting a happy wag of the tail. Benji, and the other pooches in the program, now have a new “leash” on life.
For more information on Senior Hearts Rescue & Renewal, visit www.seniorhearts.org. Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 187, Bradford Woods, PA 15015.