Giving old dogs new kicks at the Dubai Senior Dog Project
Nurse-turned-dog-trainer Hayley Stifler talks finding homes for Dubai’s elderly and special-needs canine residents through her Dubai Senior Dog Project. Words by Gemma White
How does one make the leap from being a palliative care nurse to a dog trainer and founder of a Dubai-based project that places older and special- needs canines in foster homes? For Australian-born Hayley Stifler, it took a change of country and career heart, which resulted in the 26-year-old becoming the voice of our senior citizens of the four-legged variety.
‘I realised that there were older and special-needs dogs who had plenty more healthy years left who were sitting in rescue kennels or being put down because perhaps people didn’t understand their needs,’ revealed Stifler, founder of the Dubai Senior Dog Project, which celebrates its one-year anniversary in October.
Sponsored by Paws Pet Planet and Petzone, Hayley is alerted to older dogs who arrive at Dubai’s shelters and uses her growing database to match dogs to fosterers.
‘Our current foster dog Russell (Russy) came to us back in March; he had a tough life and was miserable,’ says fosterer, Kate Tavener. ‘Over time it has been a joy to see Russy’s personality come out. He has gone from being an old man to being a puppy full of energy and joy who greets us each morning with a full body cuddle – we call it the Ruddle.’
‘I want to dispel the myth that older dogs are high maintenance, they’re not,’ explains Stifler, whose dogs all receive a full medical examination before they’re fostered out. ‘Older dogs are calm, affectionate and great around kids and with cats.’
And the project also supports foster carers for the duration of the dogs’ stay in their homes, covering vets and dental bills and taking them back when foster carers go on holiday.
‘We fostered a dog called Casper before he went to his forever home,’ says South African triathlon coach, Trace Rogers. ‘Hayley gave us the background on Casper. We enjoyed having Casper around before the lucky boy found a loving family.’
‘We took in a deaf and blind dog and before we brought her in we had to assess whether or not she would have a good quality of life,’ reveals Stifler of one of her special-needs dogs. ‘She had amazing coping mechanisms and used her sense of smell to get around, so she needed very little support.’ Adding of a recent success story: ‘We had this 17-year-old dog who, because of his advanced age, we took a leap of faith on and weeks later his new owner sent me a video of him running around the garden like a puppy.’ Dubai Senior Dog Project, 055 330 5686, email: email@example.com or find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dubaiseniordogproject
More ways to provide animal aid
Friends Of Animals Getting involved at a community roots level, Friends Of Animals helps to facilitate fostering, adoptions and urgent appeals for animals across the emirate. Visit their site to give an animal a home, or help with the vet bills for Akela, a German Shepherd puppy who was run over by a truck and now needs six months of intensive treatment. www.friendsofanimalsdxb.com
K9 Friends This canine charity offers up a myriad of ways in which you can help man’s best friend – from adopting to helping walk their four-legged residents (with their dog-walking programme resuming at the start of October). Plus, you can volunteer in areas including fundraising and administration, as well as sponsor a dog or a kennel. www.k9friends.com
Feline Friends It’s long been the first port of call for anyone who has ever found a stray cat in Dubai, and the charity cares for homeless kitties, also treating and sterilising their animals. Help out by adopting or fostering one of their lovable fur balls, as well as donating or volunteering your time. www.felinefriendsdubai.com