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There’s really no room for doubt anymore — living with a dog has significant benefits for seniors… both physical and emotional health benefits. It’s been widely studied and well documented in recent years.

Studies show that living with a dog can reduce blood pressure; lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels; and reduce cardiovascular risk. It combats loneliness and depression, reduces stress, provides a sense of purpose, and introduces new opportunities for exercise and socialization. Speaking from experience, I can tell you it certainly gets me out and about in the neighborhood, and initial conversations with passersby stopping to ask about Micky have led to friendships with neighbors who I may not have otherwise gotten to know.

Also speaking from experience, my pup Micky is a continuous source of joy who makes me smile over and over and over again every day. There’s very little else that does that.

And for their part, our senior four-legged counterparts benefit from us as well. They have their own set of physical and emotional needs as they age. As their hearing, eyesight and mobility decline, the touch of another living being brings them joy and comfort. If you’ve lived with a senior dog, you know how special they are and that they don’t ask for much — a close companion to share life with is all they want.

Senior citizens with senior dogs — I can’t think of a better fit. Unfortunately, there are obstacles for some that make this tough, especially for seniors on fixed incomes. Caring for a dog can be expensive, especially for a senior dog that may require increased medical attention. On top of the costs of food and regular necessities like flea, tick and heart worm medication, veterinary bills are prohibitive for many.

I recently learned of a program offered by Charming Pet Rescue that gives seniors in the San Antonio area the opportunity to live with and care for a dog without incurring any costs.

Charming Pet Rescue Sign

The Silver Paws & Senior Hearts Program

Under this program, seniors (ages 55+) can adopt a senior dog (ages 7+) and Charming Pet Rescue will cover all costs the dog incurs for its life. Under the program, the senior is a ‘forever foster’ with a signed contract that states that Charming Pet Rescue will take the dog back if a situation arises in which the senior can no longer care for it.

Here are some of the program details:

There are no adoption fees.

The rescue organization provides food for the dog's life, available for pick-up at the organization’s location. Alternatively, program participants can purchase food and be reimbursed based on guidelines established by Charming Pet Rescue.

The rescue covers veterinarian costs for (a) prevention measures such as vaccines, and heart worm & flea/tick treatment; (b) annual bloodwork; (c) necessary treatment for illness or injury. The veterinarian clinic that is used by the organization bills Charming Pet Rescue directly, so there are no out-of-pocket vet costs incurred by the senior.

The rescue will give you supplies. You and your new family member will go home with a leash, collar, bed or crate, and water and food bowls.

The program also covers adopting senior cats.

There are only two requirements to participate in the program: One, you must be 55 or older, and two, you must live in Bexar, Kendall, Comal, or Bandera county.

Launched on April 29th of this year, this program is new. Charming Pet Rescue made its first ‘senior / senior’ match in June, and has made seven additional matches since then. And they are already looking ahead to further develop and expand the program.

Teresa Parker, Silver Paws & Senior Hearts Program Manager, told me that they are looking at ways to facilitate the veterinarian and food services.

Currently, they have a relationship with Fair Oaks Ranch Veterinary Clinic. Teresa told me “we know that’s not convenient for all seniors eligible for the program, so we’ll look to establish relationships with other clinics throughout the area covered by the program.” She further explained that they currently provide transportation to the vet for those in a 10-mile radius of the rescue organization. They hope to establish relationships with non-profit transportation services or volunteers so they can offer transportation to more of the program participants. And lastly, they hope to establish relationships with pet food companies or nonprofits that will offer free food delivery.

Earlier in this article, I called this program ‘extraordinary’. I can’t think of a better way to describe it.

Visit the Charming Pet Rescue website for more information. And of course, donations are always appreciated (and you can designate that your donation be used specifically for the Silver Paws & Senior Hearts program).

And lastly, if you are eligible, and if you are interested in adopting a dog or a cat, contact Teresa Parker, Silver Paws & Senior Hearts Program Director. She may be able to match you up with the pet of your dreams! Teresa can be reached at Take a look below at the senior pups that are currently available for adoption at Charming Pet Rescue. And visit the Charming Pet Rescue website to learn more about these adorable pups!

Charming Pet Rescue

Charming Pet Rescue, founded in 2015 by Hilary Woodworth, is located in Boerne, Texas and primarily serves Kendall, Bexar and surrounding counties. The organization takes in dogs and cats that are surrendered by their owners, strays off the street, and animals in area kill shelters. In 2020 and 2021 alone, they found homes for over 1,300 animals in need.

So far, this sounds like a good rescue organization, of which there are many, right? There’s something about this one, though, that stands out: its ‘Silver Paws & Senior Hearts’ program. While there are other organizations that make things easier for seniors to adopt dogs (like waiving adoption fees and offering lower-cost veterinarian services), Charming Pet Rescue offers a program for seniors that is extraordinary.

Jane Gennarelli is co-editor of LNF Weekly. She also edits the Lavaca & Friends weekly arts and entertainment newsletter.

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