Indiana program finds homes for elderly pets

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) – Arlo, the abandoned dog who spent his last few weeks of life basking in the love of a foster home, died in late August, but his legacy lives on.

The Animal Rescue Fund, which took Arlo in after he was picked up by animal control, has named its newest program after him – appropriately, since his experience inspired the new effort.

The ARLO Program (which stands for ARF Really Loves Oldies) matches elderly or chronically ill dogs and cats with “forever homes” that will provide them with safe, loving, happy places to live out their final years, months or even days.

Though ARF always has had older pets or those with medical issues among its adoptable population, the ARLO Program was prompted by the conviction that even animals near the end of their days should “live happy and comfortable lives for however many days they have left in the world,” according to a printed description.

Unlike a standard ARF adoption, the adoption fee for an ARLO pet is waived, and ARF covers vet bills that are approved ahead of time. The intent is to keep the dogs or cats comfortable and pain-free, ARF co-director Jane Schowe told The Star Press ( ). ARLO dogs and cats must be inside pets, and must be returned to ARF if people decide they can’t care for them.

Priscilla the Papillion came to live at Marie Cieslak’s home through the ARLO Program. The Muncie couple had lost their beloved toy Boston terrier, Tabby, after 16 years, and were looking for another dog from ARF when they met Priscilla.

She and Cieslak “just clicked right away,” Cieslak said. “She’s just as beautiful as can be, and spoiled rotten.” Priscilla also is “a mama’s girl” and isn’t especially friendly to anyone else, including visitors or, unfortunately, Cieslak’s husband, but Cieslak notes that they just don’t know what her life was like before them: “What we need to do is be patient with her and try different things.”

The fact that little Priscilla is about 10 years old and has had some health problems isn’t an issue for her new family, however; Cieslak noted that she and her husband are on either side of 80, so they prefer to have a senior dog who settles in happily on the couch or her bed.

Priscilla is one of about five animals that have been placed in homes since the new program began earlier this month, according to ARF founder Terri Panszi. She characterizes the program as placing elderly or ailing pets in homes where caring people intend “that (a dog or cat’s) time may not be long, but his time will be good.”

ARF co-directors Schowe and Dana Salkoski echo that description. “It’s more or less a hospice for dogs and cats,” Schowe said recently while visiting with ARLO candidates such as Bertha, a sweet little Boston terrier, or Buddy, a large black cat with a unique, dove-like purr audible from across the room.

It’s important that people adopting through the ARLO Program understand that an animal could have just days, months or years left, Schowe said, adding “It’s going to take someone special.”

Adopting a pet for what could be a more limited time, or one that doesn’t tear around as much actually could be a plus for some people, Schowe noted.

As with the Cieslaks, some older residents might prefer an older, quieter dog or cat to an energetic younger one.

And not having to pay the standard adoption fee or vet bills can enable some loving households to take in animals they might worry they couldn’t afford otherwise.

The animals designated for the ARLO Program might have limited time, but “There’s a lot of life left … however many years, months or days,” Schowe said.

ARLO adoption animals are designated as such in the listing of available dogs and cats at