Animals

How One Woman Found a New Purpose Helping Senior Dogs Find Forever Homes

When Lisa Lunghofer found herself in a moment of transition in life, she decided to take a leap of faith and change jobs to pursue her true passion: helping animals. Little did she know that her new career path would not only improve her life but also the lives of thousands of senior pups across the country!

Lisa sat in her car, wringing her hands as she mulled over what she had just been told. It had been a stressful day at work, and on top of it all, she had just learned that her hours were being cut.

″This can’t be all this life has to offer,″ the social service programs director sighed. ″I wish I could switch my career to do something I’m more passionate about.″ For Lisa, that something was helping animals. She had always had a special place in her heart for dogs — especially senior pups — and that’s why she volunteered for the Pennsylvania SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in Philadelphia.

″I want to do something like this as my full-time job!″ she’d said to another volunteer one day.

″You should check out this great organization for at-risk senior dogs I volunteer with,″ her friend had replied. ″It’s called the Grey Muzzle Organization.″

At the time, Lisa had been intrigued by the idea but hadn’t acted on it. But now, sitting in her car, her friend’s words echoed in her mind.

Volunteers and dogs with Grey Muzzle
Grey Muzzle

With my hours getting cut, I have a choice to make, Lisa thought. I can get another job and do the same thing I’ve been doing for 15 years… or I can do what I’m really passionate about.

Later that day, Lisa cracked open a fortune cookie that read, There is in the worst of fortunes the best chance of a happy ending.

Right then, Lisa remembered how her fellow volunteer had previously explained how Grey Muzzle gives ″happy endings″ to older pups all across the country.

This is just the sign I needed, Lisa thought as she clasped the fortune cookie’s message in her hand. This is my chance for a new beginning!

A Pawsitive Change

Inspired, Lisa connected with the founder of Grey Muzzle, Julie Dudley, whose story resonated with Lisa, as she’d also left her career to help senior dogs.

″How can I get involved?″ Lisa asked excitedly as Julie explained the organization’s needs. Right away, Lisa jumped into organizing fundraisers and virtual events to raise money for shelters and senior animal rescues across the country.

″These stories are beautiful,″ Lisa told Julie as messages poured in from the grantees, letting Grey Muzzle know just how much the money they’d raised and donated meant, and how it was being used to save thousands of senior dogs, providing for their care and helping them find forever homes.

Cute dog with tongue sticking out
Grey Muzzle

One Grey Muzzle grantee, Tara, sent pictures of the senior Great Pyrenees, Molly, she had adopted. Seeing Molly dressed up in a tiara, happy and healthy, made Lisa’s eyes well up. She’s finally getting the second chance she deserves! she thought.

″She’s changed my life for the better,″ Tara told Lisa through tears.

″And you’ve done the same for her,″ Lisa replied, her heart soaring as she realized her own life was changing for the better too.

A Place to Call Home

Today, Lisa works as executive director for the organization, and this past year helped 64 other animal welfare organizations receive more than $500,000 through the Grey Muzzle Organization.

Hearing stories from the grantees who help to save senior pups keeps her going. Recently, after Grey Muzzle helped fund the rescue of 32 poodles from a hoarding case, Lisa received a call from the Carolina Poodle Rescue telling the story of one of the poodles, named Remi.

″After she was adopted, her new family was on the way home when their 6-year-old daughter said, ‘I think Remi needs a new name,’ ″ the rescue worker explained. ″‘I think we should call her Lucy since she’s finally loose from that cage.’″

Now, Lucy and Lisa both are living the happy ending the fortune cookie promised.

Lisa Lunghofer with a dog
Courtesy of Lisa Lunghofer

″People talk about how the bond with a senior dog is life-changing,″ she says.

″Doing this work has been the same for me! It’s an honor to work with such a great organization. All you have to do is show up for things that you care about, and you can make a difference!”

Easy Ways to Help Senior Dogs and Cats:

Donate an orthopedic bed: ″Senior shelter pets tend to get achy joints, but you can help them be pain-free, cozy, and ultimately more adoptable by donating an orthopedic bed,″ says Lisa. Visit GreyMuzzle.org and click ″How to help,″ then ″Donate a bed.″

Provide dental care: ″Lack of dental care can lead to serious health issues in older dogs and cats,″ Lisa explains. Next time you get a free toothbrush at the dentist, consider donating it to a shelter. Or bring things like fluoride-free pet toothpaste, dental treats or water-soluble rinses to keep teeth strong and healthy!

Gift warmth and comfort: Cleaning out your linen closet? Instead of tossing out old towels and sheets, donate them to your local animal shelter. Lisa says, ″Shelters use your old, washed towels to bathe pets and blankets to keep them warm and comfortable!″

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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