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A 13-year-old "chihuahua mixed with love" from Brooklyn is helping senior dogs across the country find their forever homes.
Known as the straggly haired pooch of photographer Brandon Stanton, creator of Humans of New York, Susie the dog is now at the center of a social media campaign to place older rescue dogs in safe homes.
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Erin O'Sullivan, Stanton's girlfriend, created Susie's Senior Dogs on a whim in January. She'd been posting as Susie the Dog on Facebook for about a year, but wanted to use the page to make a difference.
The first story O’Sullivan posted was about an 8-year-old dog named Tyra living at Animal Haven in SoHo.
"She's like a grumpy old woman and she’s not so beautiful,” O’Sullivan said. “She was definitely the low man on the totem pole for getting adopted.”
But after the post, Tyra quickly had a home. O'Sullivan soon began new Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts devoted to such matchmaking.
The campaign has been successful. Susie's Senior Dogs went from a few hundred followers to 10,000 within 24 hours of Stanton’s promotion on Humans of New York, which has more than 3.7 million followers.
"The fact that 75 to 80 percent of the dogs are getting adopted off the page is just amazing," Stanton said. "These are the most unwanted of the unwanted dogs."
Stanton was matched with his own senior dog three years ago on a Brooklyn stoop. He photographed Susie for his blog, calling her "the greatest dog in the world." A few weeks later, he ran into the owner, who said he was going to have to give Susie away and asked Stanton to adopt her. Now the pair are inseparable.
"I've gotten all the joy of having a dog," he said. "With senior dogs, they come off the energy curve and they’re a lot more mellow. She’s just been really easy."
While Susie’s Senior Dogs has placed more than a dozen dogs, O’Sullivan said there are still a few shared stories that haven’t resulted in adoption.
Senior pets are much easier to care for than puppies because they are already housebroken and have clear personalities, said Samantha Brody of Social Tees Animal Shelter in the East Village. But Brody said there are some risks associated with adopting senior pets, mostly involving health problems.
"You may lose your pet to that big dog run in the sky much sooner than you would if you adopt a puppy,” she said. “We like to think that the immense amount of love they can show you in their golden years is worth the trouble.”
After only a few weeks of working with O'Sullivan, Social Tees has successfully placed six senior dogs and has 12 more available for adoption.
Both Stanton and O'Sullivan are grateful to those willing to open their homes to elderly dogs.
"You're very legitimately saving a life that wouldn't have had an opportunity to live the rest of its life out of a shelter," Stanton said.