Loving Senior Dogs at “Tucson Rescue Now”

April 28, 2022
Processed with VSCO with fp4 preset

Volunteering and acts of service have always been an important element in my life, but a special place in my heart will always be tied to helping animals, especially dogs. I currently have four dogs, a German Shepherd named Hugo, a Pit-Bull mix named Sam, a Shih Tzu named Daisy (also known as Scruff), and a Schnauzer named Bella, each bringing nothing but contagious smiles, cozy cuddles and licks of love each time I see them. Rescuing dogs has been a part of my life, for as long as I remember. As a little girl, my family’s first dog was a stray puppy we saved on the side of the road, a Chow Chow mix, we eventually named Pablo who lived to be 14, only passing away a year ago.

Ever since Pablo joined our family, his smile never surrendered from his face. He was so affectionate, always providing kisses and offering warm cuddles. After adopting him, we made it a point if we were to adopt another dog, we would rescue and give another pup the life they deserve. Before attending the University of Arizona, I volunteered almost weekly throughout my high school career, because having the opportunity to volunteer made my heart leap. Then being able to volunteer at an animal shelter to play with dogs? An amazing experience where you can play, love and hang with older pups all day is right at Tucson Rescue Now. The experience and memories you’ll create here are magical, all while you’re making a difference one day at a time.

The story of how Tucson Rescue Now captured my heart <3

What is Tucson Rescue Now? It is a wonderful, non-profit organization that specializes in arranging for the adoption of senior companion dogs by loving homes. They bring senior dogs from local shelters in Tucson to their adoption site up in the La Encantada shopping center.

I first encountered TRN online, scrolling through non-profits I wished to volunteer in the future, then while scrolling through the endless pages of google providing answers, I saw the words “Senior Dog Animal Shelter”. After my eyes, quickly glanced back at this phrase, I blinked twice, thinking “huh? senior dog? what?” and I went on, clicked on the link and it brought me to their home website.

After reading, through quite literally each dedicated section, my jaw dropped, and tears formed just from reading how this place came to be. I read about all the adoption stories, pictures of dogs smiling with their forever owners, and endless comments from people who adore this organization. I just had to experience TRN for myself! Here’s my take on my wonderful time there.

Inside Tucson Rescue Now

Upon entering Tucson Rescue Now, the screaming children and chaotic foot traffic of the mall slowly fade out and are replaced with soft barks and squeaky toys. On the  right are t-shirts and jackets galore, each decorated in TRN and rescue logos, and every penny you spend goes back to Pima Animal Care Center and TRN to continue carrying out their mission. On the left is everything you’ll need as a new dog owner or for your new senior pup, such as, loud-squeaky toys, colorful dog bowls, harnesses made for big and small dogs alike, leashes, treats (of course) and medicine (probiotics to help boost the dog’s immune system, joint relief medicine, digestive tablets, etc.). They even have the most adorable paw-print jewelry!

The dogs’ areas are covered with large brown-rustic couches with colorful pawprint blankets (usually red or white) that are changed each day. They also have an abundance of toys accustomed to each dog’s particular liking: squeaky or not squeaky, soft or hard, rope or no rope — you name it, they have it. And if that wasn’t luxury enough, each senior pup usually has a wonderful volunteer sitting with them, giving them lots of pets, treats and love.

The first day I volunteered, I encountered surprisingly youthful senior dogs on couches and dog beds, anxiously looking at me with their eyes begging for love and attention. After introducing myself to my fellow volunteers, I gazed at each neon orange checkboard that presented information on each dog, such as size, age, history, and/or any medical issues they may have and awaited to be told which dog I should walk first. One dog, in particular, caught my eye after one glance…

Meet Harvard — um, I mean Harvey!

A Rottweiler mix coated in black with light brown stockings by the name of Harvard (Harvey is the nickname he was given by the local volunteers) swiftly stole my heart. This sweet boy is no older than four years old and has such a calm, admirable spirit. The moment our eyes met, he wagged his tail and I let myself in his play area.

He is obsessed with his red, squeaky bone toy that he carries it everywhere, from sunny walks to his own couch, the volunteers and I joke calling it his “security blanket”. I gratefully had the opportunity to befriend this lovable dog. He absolutely adores walks in the sun, sniffing away at the tree leaves lying on the ground, meeting new people (especially kids) by squinting his eyes and giving a smile with a little wag of his tail.

Harvard LOVES treats. He can be napping one minute and as soon as the opening of a treat bag sounds, he perks his head and barks at Bonny Harris, the Executive Director, meaning to tell her to hand some over. After spending quality time with Harvey, I asked Bonny if I could take this sweet boy for a walk in the sun out in La Encantada mall. “Of course,” she said. “In fact, that’s Harvey’s favorite thing to do. Just be careful since he may want you to just stand and enjoy the sun with him for quite a while.”

So, that’s exactly what I did. I put on his harness and attached a bright neon-yellow leash in bold lettering saying, “Adopt Me!” and we began our adventure. After a long walk in the hot Tucson sun, we returned to the building where Harvey climbed on top of his blanket-covered bed and slowly dozed off for a quick mid-day nap.

Not long after that wonderful afternoon, I learned that Harvey ended up getting fostered. I couldn’t contain my tears of joy that this sweet boy finally got his chance to go home to a loving family after four months at TRN. A young couple walked in one days and set their eyes on this friendly senior dog named “Harvard.” After spending time with him on his favorite couch, brushing his coat, handing him his beef treats and milk bones, it was settled. Harvard was going to a new home!

Since TRN is only open from Thursday through Sunday from 11:00-3:00, the few short hours that fly by each time I volunteer, I try to provide as much comfort for these dogs as possible. In the span of their 4-hour staycation, each dog is walked 3-4 times each day for a short walk around the mall. Now, before their walks, we leash them with two leashes, a regular leash for extra caution and a neon-yellow leash with the bold lettering of “Adopt Me” written all over so that bystanders know these dogs are available for adoption.

Celebrate good times!

All I have left to say is that Tucson Rescue Now is becoming a second home for me. If you’re ever feeling down, these senior pups will lick that frown away. You can’t help but smile once you enter this safe space. You can just sign a waiver, sit in with a dog, and you’ll both love each other’s attention and kisses.

The volunteers strike me as exceptionally kind-hearted. They spend their afternoons helping pups find forever homes while providing them with the love they deserve. And Bonny? The kindest soul who never gives up on any of the dogs who come to Tucson Rescue Now. She personally drives to and from PACC, transporting dogs each day TRN is open and spending her time doing what she does best — loving dogs. Having the opportunity to interact with a loving dog — like dear Harvey — makes my heart smile. Each day that a dog gets adopted is a cause for celebration not just for the dog but for their lucky new human companions.


Emily Davis is majoring in Care, Health & Society with a minor in psychology at the University of Arizona. She is originally from San Antonio, Texas.