Niagara Gazette

Features

August 14, 2013

Book hopes to urge pet adopters to consider old, needy animals

Niagara Gazette — LOS ANGELES — Sunny was 16 when she was left at an animal shelter by the family she had lived with all her life. The 75-pound bulldog-pit bull mix had cancer and infected eyes, and shelter workers figured the family probably couldn't handle medical costs.

"She was so sad and depressed, lethargic, sick looking. She wouldn't even lift her head for a treat," said photographer Lori Fusaro, who was taking pictures of old dogs at the Los Angeles shelter that day in June 2012.

Those who rescue and care for old pets say it seems more are being left at shelters for health reasons and more owners are facing personal age or health problems and can't keep their pets.

Fusaro, 44, had always avoided adopting older dogs because she didn't think she could handle it when they died. Sunny changed her mind. "No old dog should be left to die alone, unloved and broken-hearted on a concrete slab in a strange place," she said.

That day, Fusaro adopted Sunny and started making plans for "Silver Hearts," a photo book of old dogs that she hopes will encourage people to consider such animals. She plans to turn proceeds over to rescue organizations that save aging dogs.

When she took Sunny home, Fusaro figured she had a couple weeks, perhaps months at most. She never imagined Sunny would live long enough to be part of "Silver Hearts."

But Sunny rebounded and was soon eating, playing and loving trips to the beach. It's been over a year and Sunny is 17 now.

Fusaro's book is about 80 percent finished. She used shelter dogs, dogs of friends, Facebook, Sunny and her other dog Gabby.

To photograph dogs for shelters, Fusaro has to spend time with them, play with them and put them at ease, said Jan Selder, director of field operations for Los Angeles Animals Services.

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