SF Volunteers Give Old Dogs New Life

The prognosis for Tommy G's teeth is not looking good. Advanced decay means most of them are going to have to be pulled.

As for the rest of him, though, things are definitely looking up.

Tommy G, you see, is a dachshund. Or, at least he looks like one. No one is really sure.

His age is also a bit of a question mark, though it is clear Tommy G is up there in years.

That last fact is important because it is why Tommy G has found himself at Muttville, and in the hands of Sherri Franklin.

"Oh you are a cutie," Franklin says as she lifts Tommy G out of the car that brought him to San Francisco. "And a chunker!" she adds after lifting the 20 pound small dog.

Muttville is a San Francisco dog rescue specializing in senior dogs ages seven and older. Tommy G has been brought from another shelter where workers feared he had little chance of being adopted.

At Muttville, though, Tommy G has a great chance of finding a new home. That is, after the dental work is done, a flea bath is given, and Tommy G's nails get a much-needed trim.

Franklin says it costs, on average, $1,000 to get a senior dog ready for adoption.

Franklin started Muttville in her Potrero Hill home seven years ago. She had been volunteering at the time at a shelter and the plight of the senior  dogs touched her. "A lot of the older dogs at the time weren't making it out of the shelter," Franklin recalls. "They'd come in with hope in their eyes, but after days and weeks they wouldn't even get up to greet you when you came to take them for a walk."

Franklin began by taking just a few of the worst-off ones home with her and doing what she could to find them homes. Then she took home some more. Franklin talked about formalizing her operation. Talked about it a lot, in fact.

"One day a friend said, 'I'm sick of hearing about it. Either do it or shut up!" Franklin remembers. So she did it.

In its first year, Muttville succeeded in adopting out 27 senior dogs. Franklin thought that was a good year. She had no idea how big Muttville would get. Over the past year they have adopted out 500 dogs. Sometime this month, Muttville will record its 2,000th adoption.

Just last year the operation moved out of Franklin's home. Muttville now has a 2,000 sq. ft. headquarters right next to the San Francisco SPCA. Many of Muttville's smaller dogs awaiting adoption live a cage-free life, roaming around the space. The larger dogs are housed in foster homes while they wait.

Even with all their success, Franklin says, Muttville can only save a fraction of the dogs needing help. Franklin says she receives 500 inquiries a week from people (and shelters) looking to surrender a senior dog. She says in a good week, she can take in just 20 of those.

It can be disheartening, Franklin says, when she thinks about all the dogs that don't get saved. But she need only think about the ones she did save to keep her going.

"I found love with this cause, and this is where my passion lies. I feel incredibly lucky that I found it and that's why I am doing it.

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