Of all the dogs languishing in shelters, the ones that really break our hearts are the oldies—the sweet seniors found as strays or dropped off at animal control when their care becomes too burdensome or costly. Their grey faces and clouded eyes seem to beseech: what have I done to deserve this? Facing reduced adoption prospects, many simply don’t make it out.

Stepping in to change this is The Grey Muzzle Organization, a registered non-profit that believes no old dog deserves to die alone and afraid. The Grey Muzzle team is dedicated to creating a world in which every senior dog is cherished.

“Although they have so much love and companionship to give, senior dogs are among the first to be euthanized and last to be adopted,” says Lisa Lunghofer, Executive Director of The Grey Muzzle Organization.

When senior dogs enter shelters, their future is uncertain—just over 50 percent find new homes, says Lunghofer. But thanks to the work of The Grey Muzzle Organization, more good, old dogs are getting out of shelters and into loving homes.

Razz enjoys snuggling with an adoption center volunteer. Grey Muzzle grants prevent at-risk senior dogs like Razz from being surrendered to shelters.

Grey Muzzle focuses solely on the welfare of senior dogs. Through grants, the organization funds programs throughout the United States designed to improve the lives of at-risk senior dogs. Thanks to supporters, since 2008, Grey Muzzle has provided a total of $3,800,000 in grants to senior dog programs nationwide, including $705,000 awarded this past July to 78 animal welfare groups. Grey Muzzle invites shelters, rescue groups, sanctuaries, and other non-profit organizations to apply for these grant funds. Grants typically range from $2,500 to $10,000. 

From Chained to Beloved: Pilgrim’s Journey

Rescue group NMDOG answered an urgent call for help from Animal Control in Albuquerque, NM. An Animal Control officer had picked up nine-year-old Pilgrim, who was found chained and freezing. He was severely malnourished and covered in wounds from repeated dog attacks.

Thanks to a Grey Muzzle grant, NMDOG was able to say “yes” to taking in Pilgrim. Within the hour, he was on his way to the veterinarian.

It was clear that Pilgrim had suffered horribly, so much so that the responding officer filed animal cruelty charges. Ultimately, Pilgrim’s abuser was found guilty.

Safely with NMDOG, Pilgrim finally received the care he had gone so long without. He was treated for a severe blood infection and trauma to his right eye and placed on a special diet to help him regain the 20 pounds he had lost while fending for himself. The community rallied around him, sending care packages with tasty treats and notes with words of encouragement.

As Pilgrim’s body began to heal, his spirit started to return. Finally feeling safe and loved, he shared a bit more of his wiggly, kissy self each day. It was only a matter of time until he was ready to find a home of his own. It wasn’t long before Pilgrim found the yin for his yang: Woody! Two old guys cut from the same cloth, they loved hanging out on the couch together and surfing the Web. Woody even got Pilgrim a monthly subscription to a magical box filled with chew toys and special treats that didn’t upset his tummy.

After three wonderful years together, Woody and Pilgrim’s NMDOG family had to say goodbye. “With lots of treats, so many kisses, snuggles and wags, we told Pilgrim what a best boy he was, what a difference he made in many lives, what an honor it’s been, being his rescue,” says NMDOG. “We are grateful that Pilgrim knew only health, happiness, and love since coming into our care…as this is our ultimate promise to each of them.”

This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Dog magazine. Subscribe today!