Pensacola, Florida
Saturday August 24th 2019


The Pet Issue ’19: Senior Superlatives

By Sydney Robinson

Simon and Paco
When my dog Simon died, I was prepared. Well, as prepared as I could be.

Simon was 17 years old. He was an adorable deaf, partially paralyzed Rat Terrier who was missing a toe. He was white with black and brown spots. He was my best friend.

Losing him hurt, but that’s what it means to love a pet—to open yourself up to a tiny creature (well, not always so tiny) who you feed, walk, carry, adore and disappoint. It means committing to loving them long after they have left the cute puppy stage and provide a true “forever home.” It means lying on the floor with them or holding them in your arms and saying goodbye.

Truth be told, I had been steadily following the intakes and adoptions of local animal shelters and rescues for a few years. I always knew that when Simon’s time came, it wouldn’t be long before I would need another dog in my life. So a couple of months later, when I had stopped tearing up at seemingly random times, I started an earnest search for my new companion.

When I got Simon, I was a child who picked out a puppy from a dirt-lined crate somewhere in Alabama. This time, I knew that this dog (and all other dogs I would ever care for) would come from a rescue or shelter. I would save a life, not buy one.

Operating with a busy work schedule and active social life, there was no time for an adorable puppy. No, a full-grown dog with his own life and quirks was what I needed.

Enter Paco.

Paco was brought to Pensacola from Panama City as a result of Hurricane Michael. He was in the shelter before the storm and was transported to give lost dogs separated from their owners space to reconnect.

All of five pounds, and approximately 6 years old, Paco roamed around his foster’s yard, independent and curious. His little teeth were rotted (which is how the rescue estimated his age), but with his deadly breath, he longed to lick and kiss whoever gave him the chance. I was smitten. He was mine.

Adopting an older dog from a foster-based rescue was the right move for me and I think for Paco, too. Once again, I have a friend, a best friend, who I will care for as long as I am allowed. And that’s the happy ending here, that a dog that deserved to be happy was given a second chance. Or maybe a third. I’ll never really know.

To the Rescue
I spoke with Francine Armstrong, owner of nonprofit rescue organization Flori Bama Small Breed Rescue, the same rescue that saved Paco, to discuss the benefits of adopting older dogs.

“I have never experienced anything like a rescue dog,” said Armstrong. “They are so grateful when somebody shows them the love and attention they are craving.”

“A lot [of dogs] are grieving losing a family member. A lot have been thrown away or are a stray on the street,” Armstrong shared. “They bond with you so fast and so hard.”

Flori Bama is a foster-based rescue, which means that the organization can only take as many dogs in as they have fosters to care for them. Not having a facility keeps the cost of overhead down and allows all of the money raised through adoption fees and fundraisers to go directly to the dogs in need.

The foster-based system also means that a potential adopter can learn a great deal about the dog they are interested in, far more than one might learn about a dog in a kennel.

“If I have a little dog that is very cuddly and likes to sleep in bed with their foster and someone tells me they are kenneling them, I won’t adopt to them. Those are the advantages, knowing their little quirks, especially with senior dogs [because] some of them are pretty dang quirky,” said Armstrong.

Armstrong says that a foster-based rescue is especially important for small-breed dogs. Flori Bama’s cut-off is 25 pounds because they often suffer in a shelter environment.

In addition to smaller dogs, Armstrong says her rescue most often deals with older dogs. Flori Bama considers dogs 8 and older as “senior” and has placed dogs as old as 18 years old.

“We have two [senior] poodles right now who were surrendered after their owner passed away,” she told Inweekly.

That pair of poodles are Coco, a 14-year-old white female, and Jackson, a 16-year-old male.

“If you look up a poodle’s life expectancy, it says 12 to 15 years,” Armstrong said, which means this pair are super seniors and have definitely been well cared for.

Some of the other senior dogs currently in Flori Bama’s care are Cinder, a 15-year-old Chihuahua, Melody D, a 10-year-old Japanese Spitz, and Minnie Pennie, a 12-year-old Miniature Pinscher.

Flori Bama tries to match the correct dog to the correct person, and that includes taking into consideration the age of the adopter.

“We try to encourage senior-to-senior adoptions. We will also do reduced rates if we have an old dog. We get a lot of people on fixed incomes, and if they are willing to adopt a senior dog, we do a reduced rate for that,” Armstrong said.

If you want to see these senior pups or just learn more about Flori Bama in general, visit