Experience counts

Couple has made a habit of adopting older dogs

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Thelma and Jerry Felleton take their dogs Hamish and Jane for a walk at English Point in Hayden Thursday. The Fulletons have been adopting older dogs, most of which are from abusive environments, and giving them some much needed tender loving care, for years.

Jerry and Thelma Fulleton make it their mission to adopt senior dogs.

When the dogs die, their hearts break. But they do it again and again.

"What you get out of living with a dog for that period of time is greater than the grief when a dog dies," Jerry said.

Within 60 days, they always have another dog.

"We never say we're not going to do that again," Thelma said.

Their current mixed-breed pals are Hamish, 13, and Jane, 10, both of whom climb from the Fulletons' big black Dodge pickup using a ramp. When asked what kind of dogs they are, Jerry says "wonder dogs."

Wiry-furred Hamish is grizzled and arthritic. Jane will sit and then lay down whenever she finds the opportunity. Both are beloved.

The Hayden couple has owned dogs for 30 years and began focusing on older dogs in the last 12 years, when the retirees moved to North Idaho. They have had six dogs in that time span. Now, they are looking to add to their flock of two as soon as they find property with a big enough backyard.

They found Hamish at the Kootenai Humane Society. He had been abused when he was younger and still flinches when anyone tries to touch his head. His white-sprinkled fur makes him look his age.

"They called him Methuselah," Jerry said.

Jerry and Thelma sometimes tell people he's a "silvertip Scottish terrier," a breed they made up. People will nod as if they know what it is, they said, smiling.

Jane came from Sandpoint. She had been living with a hoarder and was surprisingly overweight, at 84 pounds, when they adopted her.

She's a great watchdog, Jerry said, though she sometimes scares smaller dogs without meaning to.

"Inside, she thinks she's a Pekingese," he said of the slimmed down Jane, now 71 pounds.

Neither dog has expensive health problems, though Hamish does take daily arthritis pills. The couple puts their elderly dogs on a good diet and feeds them cooked oatmeal every day. And they are rewarded with all of the devotion a dog's heart can muster- which is a lot, the couple agreed.

Both encouraged others to adopt older dogs. They're calm, trained, and you don't have to housebreak them, they said.

At the Kootenai Humane Society, director of operations Debbie Jeffery said that adopting older dogs can take work, but there is a home for every dog. The Humane Society has a good success rate with them, even though some people hesitate because an older dog's life span is shorter than they wanted in a dog.

"You may only have it for two or three years, but that could be the most cherished two or three years of your life," Jeffery said.

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