A senior dog for seniors

WEIRTON – Dozer is the newest resident at The Wyngate Senior Living Community in Weirton.

And he’s one lucky dog, digging his new digs along with all the love and attention he’s getting from the more than 100 residents and staff there.

He is a senior dog adopted by seniors.

But his happy-ending tale was not so certain when he was brought to the Jefferson County Animal Shelter in Wintersville on Feb. 19.

The dog warden had found Dozer – so named when he was brought to the shelter – and another dog running together on county Road 10 in Smithfield.

Shelter employee Kristina Rosser was there when Dozer and his buddy – named Wiggles afterward – arrived.

“He was the sweetest dog,” Rosser said of the medium-sized, black hound-lab mix with a gray muzzle and estimated to be around 9 or 10 years old.

“He had a sweet disposition,” Rosser said, describing Dozer as a bit on the thin side and in need of attention and a loving home.

While Wiggles would be adopted rather quickly through the Jefferson County Humane Society, Dozer remained behind at the pound, unclaimed and destined for what seemed would be a lengthy stay.

At least that was the fear/assumption, given older dogs are less likely to be adopted, their younger counterparts and puppies holding more appeal to would-be pet owners visiting the shelter.

“Most people coming to the shelter are looking for certain things, including a dog to be with them for a long time,” Rosser said. “It takes a very special person who comes in specifically for a senior dog, and we do have them.”

February came and went. So did March.

Dozer didn’t.

Early in April, on what was a sunny day, Rosser said she decided to feature Dozer on the Jefferson County Humane Society and Jefferson County Animal Shelter Facebook page.

“I grabbed the office camera and made a nice collage of him and posted it on Facebook,” Rosser said, explaining the page promotes animals in need of adoption.

“Somebody saw the post and wanted to see him and that made me feel really good,” Rosser said.

That somebody was Heather Hayes, assistant manager at Wyngate, who responded almost immediately.

“I have the humane society on my Facebook feed, and I was just scrolling through one day, and Dozer’s picture popped up, and I thought we have to go see him,” Hayes said.

Wyngate is no stranger to having live-in animals. In fact, says Mark Cummings, residence manager, there’s an animal-friendly philosophy embraced by the Columbus-based Chancellor Senior Management, which owns the Weirton facility and three others in West Virginia in addition to ones in Ohio.

“Some of our facilities have two or three dogs,” Cummings said, noting residents are even encouraged to bring their pets.

“A lot of residents had pets at home, too, so just because they move here doesn’t mean they can’t have a pet anymore,” Hayes said.

“We encourage them if they have a pet, they can bring them, too. We had two ladies bring cats,” Cummings said. “Right now, this is the only pet in the building, but at one time we had two cats, our house dog and two brother and sister Schnauzers a lady had.”

This marks Wyngate’s fourth community dog, according to Cummings, who said the dogs came from various shelters. “They interact with people so well, and it really calms the adults. They like to pet them, and they like to feed them.”

But Wyngate had been animal-less for a couple of weeks after a lab/boxer mix that had been living there was adopted by one the nurses – a sweet dog but a bit on the nervous side.

Hayes immediately told Cummings about Dozer.

“They said he was a senior dog and he had been at the shelter since February and that he loved attention and loved to be loved, but because of his age, he just kept getting passed over by people who had come to the shelter to look, so I thought well, we take care of seniors, why not a senior dog?” Hayes said.

Off went Hayes and Tom Holt, Wyngate’s maintenance director, to meet Dozer.

“We went and looked at him, and once we were there, he was so lovable. Tom and I couldn’t leave him there. We brought him back,” Hayes said.

The adoption took place on April 11, amid smiles – and tears.

“They were in with him 10 or 15 minutes and said ‘This is the dog,’ and it brought tears to all the staff’s eyes,” Howell said. “We thought it was phenomenol.”

Instead of just one person to love him, he has more than 60 residents, according to Howell.

“We could not have asked for anything better for our dog, especially a senior dog.”

Dozer’s name remained unchanged. “We kept the name,” Hayes said. “When he comes up to you, he rubs his head into your leg and pushes into you, so Dozer is perfect,” she said.

Cummings said Dozer was a little introverted at first and needed hand-fed, but has since adjusted well, has put on some weight, loves to play and only barks when he is outside and wants in. He is especially fond of Holt and their daily play time with a squeaky toy Holt provided.

The residents are enjoying their new people-oriented community dog.

“They seem to really like him,” Hayes said.

The shelter is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and by appointment on Sunday.

Potential adopters fill out an application questionnaire, and fees vary with dogs starting at $70 and cats at $65. For information, call (740) 264-6888.

(Kiaski can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)