When adopting a dog, people often fall in puppy love, choosing younger, peppier pups over the older, more mellow mongrels. But San Francisco-based Muttville is changing that trend by uniting gray-muzzled, cloudy-eyed canines with people who will dote on them for the rest of their days. In 2007, Sherri Franklin founded the nonprofit organization, which rescues senior dogs (ages 7 and up) from all over California.
The organization is doing more than giving senior dogs a second shot at life. In 2013, Muttville launched Cuddle Club, a subsidiary of their Seniors for Seniors adoption program. Two to four times a month, senior humans can visit the shelter’s handicap-accessible Community Cuddle Room and spend time with Muttville's elderly dogs. The event has become so popular that some senior organizations are on a waiting list.
“This program is a win-win,” Franklin tells Mental Floss. “Our senior dogs get love and attention while our senior citizens, some isolated, have created a community where they get out and socialize and get lots of unconditional love.”
At the Cuddle Club, older people who may not be able to adopt their own dog receive an abundance of tail wags and slobbery snuggles—without the obligation of pet ownership. During the visits, seniors can walk the animals, and even let small ones ride on their walkers.
“I think the dogs are giving some of our guests a sense of value, because sometimes a dog will come down and they’re nervous, and they start shaking, and over the course of 15 or 20 minutes, the dog quits shaking and has fallen asleep on that person’s lap,” Muttville volunteer Beth Hofer told Today. “You can just see how happy and fulfilled that person is that they were able to help that dog.”
Seniors for Seniors, on the other hand, helps elderly people adopt older dogs. In addition to waiving the $200 adoption fee for adopters over the age of 62, Muttville sends dogs to their new homes with an entire kit, which includes a harness and collar, a leash, dog bowls, a starter supply of food and medication, a bed, and, if needed, a doggy gate and stairs. As of October 2018, Muttville has rescued 6000 dogs—some of whom were adopted by Cuddle Club attendees.
In addition to Seniors for Seniors and Cuddle Club, Muttville also has a hospice program, in which dogs near the end of their lives can receive palliative care in someone’s home (Muttville funds most of the cost).
Spending quality time with a dog has proven health benefits for pet parents. “Studies have shown that holding and petting a dog lowers cortisol [a stress hormone] in your body and lowers blood pressure, and we see stress eased from both the dogs and our visiting humans at our Cuddle Club events,” Franklin says. Taking care of a pet also increases physical activity, lowers depression, and offers an overall sense of well-being.
You can check out all of Muttville's friendly Fidos who are in need of a forever home here. You don’t have to be a senior to adopt one of the adorable dogs, of course. People of all ages can bring home a canine companion—say, a Chihuahua, a Bichon Frise, or a marvelous mixed-breed—and start their very own Cuddle Club. And for those who want to foster a dog, Muttville offers that option, too.