San Francisco ‘Cuddle Club’ Is Bringing Together Senior Dogs and Senior Humans

Most people who adopt a dog tend to go for younger animals. There is no doubt that puppies are adorable and it is easy to see why they may choose a more energetic, tiny puppy over an older, well-established and more mellow senior dog. If San Francisco-based Muttville has anything to say about it, however, those senior dogs will soon be enjoying plenty of face time with people who understand the needs of older individuals. Sherri Franklin founded that nonprofit in 2007 that rescues senior dogs, who are a minimum of seven years old, from around California.

What the organization is doing is giving senior dogs another shot at life. They are actually doing much more as well. Muttville launched a new program in 2013, the ‘Cuddle Club.’ It supports another one of their adoption programs, Seniors for Seniors. Up to four times per month, senior citizens can visit the shelter and take advantage of their community cuddle room. It is also convenient for them to do so because it is handicap accessible. Once they are inside, they can spend some time with elderly dogs. The event has been gaining popularity and there is even a waiting list of senior organizations at this point.

“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.”

Older people can come to the Cuddle Club and spend some time with senior dogs, even if they aren’t able to adopt a dog of their own. There is no obligation of taking a pup home in order to take advantage of the program. Seniors are able to walk the animals during their visits and they may even let smaller dogs 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.”

The adoption program, Seniors for Seniors, helps the elderly adopt an older dog. It offers a number of benefits, including waiving the $200 adoption fee if the adopter is at least 62 years of age. Muttville will also provide a kit when the dogs go to their new home, including a collar, harness, leash, dog bowls, medication, and some starter food. A bed is also provided and, at times, stairs and a doggie gate may be provided. Muttville has already been responsible for the rescue of 6000 dogs as of October 2018. Some of those who adopted the dogs are part of the Cuddle Club.

Muttville has other programs along with the Cuddle Club and Seniors for Seniors. They also offer a canine hospice program so that dogs near the end of their lives are able to receive palliative care. Muttville covers the majority of the cost.

It is well-known that there are health benefits for pet owners who spend time with their animals. “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. Other benefits include a reduction in depression, an increase in physical activity, and an increase in well-being.

You can visit the website to check out all of Muttville’s dogs. If you aren’t yet a senior citizen, you can still adopt one of their dogs. People of all ages could benefit from a senior canine because they have so much to offer.

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