Erin O’Sullivan wants to change lives by finding new homes for old dogs.
Visitors to her popular Facebook page say she has done just that by helping them discover the pets they didn’t know they were missing. O’Sullivan’s page tells stories about pooches past their prime that need loving homes and taps into the wellspring of animal lovers seeking calmer, well-trained dogs or those wanting to care for pets in their twilight years. Shelters will ask her to help place older dogs that aren’t as sought-after as puppies, many of which have extensive health problems that can stall adoptions.
“I think more than food or water, companionship is lifeblood to a dog,” O’Sullivan said. She is convinced that when an older dog is adopted, it will live longer because of an owner’s love.
Many shelters and rescues online and off focus on senior dog adoptions that are growing in popularity. But O’Sullivan’s page, Susie’s Senior Dogs, has gotten more attention than most thanks to a big boost from her boyfriend, an Internet star who knows how to build buzz online – and owns a dog named Susie.
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Brandon Stanton of Brooklyn is the author of a book and much-read blog called “Humans of New York,” which claims more than 4 million followers on social media and chronicles the lives of New Yorkers, enrapturing overtaxed Web surfers with heartfelt photos and snippets of text.
Three years ago, Stanton adopted an 11-year-old Chihuahua named Susie.
“She is the greatest dog in New York … I didn’t realize what it meant to have an animal attach itself to you so her only concern in life is being close to you,” he said.
O’Sullivan had set up a Facebook page for Susie, which had about 10,000 “likes” the morning she changed its purpose to finding other old dogs new homes. Stanton pitched the page on his blog, and by nightfall the page had 10 times as many followers. That number has since grown to over 150,000, and she has helped nearly 200 dogs since January.
That includes a 12-year-old pooch that Britany Spangler of Grand Rapids, Mich., found on the page.
“I never intended on getting a dog until I saw our Molly and I knew we had to have her,” she said.
The Lhasa apso was missing a whole side of teeth, was infested with worms and fleas, had an allergy that made her hair fall out and suffered kidney problems.
Despite the health issues, the dog gets along beautifully with her three children, who are all under 3 years old, Spangler said.
“It was like they had been together forever,” she said. “She came potty-trained and full of love. If she is with us for six months, she blesses us for six months. If she is with us for five years, she enriches our lives for five years. She’s the dog I never knew I needed.”