May 19, 2024

Dog Training Points Trained Companions

Happy Paws, Trained Hearts

Steve Greig has adopted dozens of the oldest dogs he could find

5 min read

Steve Greig was crushed with grief when his 12-year-old dog, Wolfgang, was hit by a car.

“I did everything with this dog,” Greig said. “We were attached at the hip.”

A couple months after Wolfgang’s death in 2012, Greig still couldn’t come to terms with the loss. He felt helpless.

“I wasn’t functioning that well,” said Greig, 59. “I decided to go to the shelter and adopt a dog that was probably going to be put down.”

Older dogs are often overlooked at shelters, seen as less desirable by prospective adopters, and are typically the first to be euthanized if they aren’t adopted relatively quickly.

“In a way,” Greig figured, adopting a senior animal “would give Wolfgang’s death purpose; he died, but another dog got to live because of that.”

Greig took home the oldest dog at the shelter, a chihuahua named Eeyore who had knee problems and a heart murmur.

“It was immediately healing,” said Greig, who, aside from his pets, lives alone. “I could tell it was exactly what I needed to do.”

They had six years together, and Eeyore lived to be 19. Within three months of taking Eeyore home, Greig adopted another senior dog — and then another and another. “It just kind of went from there,” he said.

For more than a decade, Greig’s home in Denver has been consistently inhabited by senior canines. He typically has about nine living with him, but at present he has 11.

“When one passes, I normally adopt another one in their honor,” said Greig, who has taken in dozens of disabled and elderly dogs over the years, hoping to give them the happiest end-of-life experience possible.

She spent a month trying to help stray dog whose head was stuck in a jug

Greig sleeps with at least seven dogs in his queen-size bed. Sometimes even more pups squeeze in.

“Being in bed with all those warm dogs, it’s just the best thing in the world,” said Greig, a recently retired accountant.

Greig’s home in downtown Denver has a large backyard, he said, and is in an area that is zoned for pet exceptions, which allows him to have more than three dogs — normally the maximum allowed in a home in the city. He also has rescued a 13-year-old pig named Bikini, four chickens, two rabbits, one duck and a turkey.

“I’ve just stumbled upon them,” he said. He met Bikini’s former owner, for example, at a chicken swap, and learned the owner was trying to get rid of the pig. Greig saved her from potentially ending up at a pig farm.

Greig’s pets get along well, he said. “There’s kind of a pack mentality.”

Plus, he said, “They’re older, so they’re more chill.”

Greig tries to stick to nine dogs at a time because he finds it the most manageable number, although he will make exceptions if a senior dog is in desperate need of a home. The dogs typically live with him for about three years until they die, but the time depends on an individual dog’s condition and age. Sometimes, he’ll take in hospice dogs, knowing they won’t be with him for very long.

A chicken was missing toes. People sent him over 60 pairs of tiny shoes.

“You know your time is limited, and so you take advantage of that,” Greig said.

He says his heart breaks a little bit — sometimes a lot — every time one of his animals dies.

“I remember that it’s about the dog, and not about my pain,” said Greig. “They had the best end-of-life possible, and that really does make you feel better.”

Greig’s current pack includes, in order of who sleeps closest to him: Onion, Maytag, Mr. Magoo, Fernando, Willamena, Cat, Juanita, Chalmer, Raylene, Festus and Loretta. Raylene, 8, is the youngest, and Loretta, 19, is the oldest. The “senior” designation depends on the breed; smaller dogs are considered seniors when they are 10 to 12, and large breeds are considered seniors when they are 6 to 7.

Many of the pooches have heart disease, incontinence, blindness and other health issues. Some are low-maintenance and sweet, while others are a little sassier and needier.

“It’s been so great to have all these different personalities come into my life,” he said.

Greig renames most of the pooches that he takes in.

“I once read that dogs don’t associate their names with themselves, they associate their names with you,” said Greig. “So, it’s not confusing for them if you rename them.”

He has a routine to keep track of their respective schedules involving medications and feeding times.

“When everything is going well and we are in a routine, it works seamlessly,” he said.

One dog, for instance, is diabetic and must eat and have insulin every 12 hours.

In all, though, caring for a slew of senior dogs is less work than one might think, Greig said. They do a lot of group activities — such as movie nights and car rides — to keep the dogs entertained.

“Then I try to do individual things with them so they each have their one-on-one time,” said Greig, who chronicles his daily life looking after senior dogs on a popular Instagram page, which has more than 1 million followers.

“I think the appeal is people like rooting for an underdog,” he said.

Nobody wanted Elvis the dog. Then a former Elvis impersonator saw him.

Greig hopes he can encourage others to consider opening their homes and hearts to a senior pet whose life otherwise would most likely be cut short.

“Once you adopt a senior, you fall in love with them,” he said, adding that many people over the years have let him know that they were inspired by him to adopt older dogs or medically compromised pups.

In 2019, Greig partnered with the author Mary Rand Hess to publish a children’s book “The One and Only Wolfgang,” which tells Greig’s story of taking in the most “unadoptable” animals.

“I wanted to give the message to kids that old is as good as new if you have somebody that loves you,” Greig said.

Since Greig’s Instagram account has become known in the animal rescue community, rescue organizations contact him with photos of dogs in need of homes.

“He’s amazing,” said Lisa Letson, the founder of True & Faithful Pet Rescue Mission in Venice, Fla., which saves senior and unwanted dogs from kill shelters. Every year, the organization rescues between 600 and 700 animals.

“They just have so much love to give, and I would always encourage people to adopt a senior,” said Letson. “They make your life better.”

A few months ago, Letson rescued a miniature pinscher who was a stray in Miami and often took refuge at a local laundromat. The dog is estimated to be between 10 and 15 years old.

“Nobody wanted her,” she said. “I called Steve and said, ‘Can you squeeze in another one?’”

“I couldn’t say no,” said Greig, who decided to name his new dog “Maytag” — after the appliance company that makes laundry machines and has a fitting slogan: “What’s inside matters.”

“Seeing them happy, even for a short period of time, it just makes me happy,” he said.


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