Sporting their finest feather boas, tutus, tuxedos, crowns and festive collars, older shelter dogs had their moment to shine at BARC’s third annual Senior Prom on May 31.
The event turns the spotlight on adoptable senior pets who are frequently overlooked by people in search of puppies, kittens and younger cats and dogs.
The lobby of the BARC Adoption Center at 3300 Carr Street was festooned with tinsel and balloons for the occasion.
BARC employees paraded adoptable pets out to the lobby to mingle with guests, potential pet parents and volunteers.
Nature Dog Photography provided official prom portraits, and BARC employees danced cheek to cheek or paw in hand with a few of the senior dogs.
BARC considers any animal older than 5 to be a senior pet for adoption purposes. Lynette Bodmer, adoptions co-coordinator, brought her own 13-year-old dog, Bailey, who wore a sequined skirt.
“The older animals are definitely at a disadvantage,” Bodmer said. “Lots of folks come into the shelter wanting puppies.
This is the season when we get an influx of puppies and kittens, so sometimes the older pets don’t get noticed as much.”
“Around age 5 we start seeing more trouble with demand for adoption,” Bodmer said. “We’re trying to make this an annual event to raise awareness that the older guys are here and need attention as well.”
Senior pets often spend their final days in shelters because people erroneously assume the animal is unhealthy or undesirable as a pet. But the American Animal Hospital Association points out that many senior pets are gentle, loving animals formerly owned by elderly people who passed away, moved to assisted living facilities, or simply couldn’t care for the animal.
“There are actually more benefits than disadvantages to adopting older dogs,” Bodmer said. “These dogs are more likely to have been house trained or had some socialization.
"A lot of them adjust really well going to a new home compared to the younger guys who need a little more time. They probably aren’t going to need as much exercise. If you want a cuddler or a couch potato, the seniors are the way to go.”
Viridiana Sanchez, BARC adoptions co-coordinator, echoed the same sentiments.
“Older pets are ideal for everyone,” Sanchez said. “So many of them have had a rough life and when you get them home, they’re so grateful, loving and patient.
They have so much to teach us and so much love to give.”
For the first time, BARC encouraged everyone attending the event to bring their own senior dogs.
“We thought, why just celebrate our shelter pets, when we can celebrate all senior pets,” Bodmer said.
Marjorie Mason heard an interview about the Senior Prom on television and encouraged her brother, Michael Knight, to consider adoption. Knight left the prom with a new canine companion, Baggins.
“I haven’t had a dog in a long time,” Knight said. “This little guy seemed to take a liking to me right away. I liked the way he walked with me.”
With a capacity for 550 animals, BARC is busting at the seams with an influx of about 700 animals each week since May. Adoption fees for cats and dogs have been reduced to $1 Thursday, June 27, through Sunday, June 30. BARC is open for adoptions noon to 5:00 p.m. every day.
Adoption fees usually range up to $75. BARC's adoption package includes a spay/neuter surgery, age-appropriate vaccinations, a one-year city pet license, and a pre-registered microchip with lifetime registration.
The adoption package, sponsored by Proler Industries, would cost hundreds of dollars if purchased independently.
City of Houston employees can adopt a pet any time for $20, and receive a discount on wellness services. Watch for more adoption specials on www.facebook.com/BARCHouston and read more about summer pet safety in our sidebar article.