Touch of Grey Rescue extends a new leash on life


Wendy Johnson, left, and her husband Pete Chunka founded Touch of Grey Rescue in February.

Courtesy of Touch of Grey Rescue

Puppies aren’t for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Touch of Grey Rescue, which was created in February as a non-profit organization, rescues senior dogs (7 years or older) who have been left behind by owners or who are residing in shelters. They hope to provide these dogs with foster care, re-homing assistance and hospice care.

“I do some volunteer work at the shelter,’’ said Wendy Johnson, who founded Touch of Grey Rescue in Melbourne Beach with her husband Pete Chunka. “People fight over puppies all the time. A puppy needs training and they need to be spayed or neutered. A new owner often doesn’t consider the damage they can cause. They chew up things and they pee in the house.’’

Someone obtaining a dog for the first time often would be better off adopting an older dog. Older dogs are house trained, past the point of chewing anything other than a bone and are content to sleep while their owners are at work.

Veterinarian bills might become a problem if the senior dog is 12 years old, but a 7- or 8-year-old dog still has a lot of spunk to go with a healthy profile.

“People are overwhelmed by how cute puppies are,’’ said Johnson, who moved to Florida from Syracuse, New York in 2015. “These first-time owners might have trouble training the puppy and end up surrendering the puppy. That’s a real problem.’’

Since Florida is a retirement state, many senior dogs become homeless after the death of their elderly owners. Too many adult children are happy to inherit the money while sending the beloved dog to the shelter for an almost-certain death.

“Every family situation is different,’’ Johnson said. “They might have pets that don’t get along with that dog. This is why seniors need to make plans for their pets ahead of time.’’

On its website, Touch of Grey Rescue highlights data from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) showing that dogs 7 or older have only a 25 percent chance of being adopted from a shelter. Only 56 percent of senior dogs have a live-release rate, which means many of these dogs in shelters end up being euthanized.

“Mentally, it’s really rewarding to find permanent homes or foster homes for the senior dogs,’’ Johnson said. “I hate to see how uncomfortable they are on cold cement and in a tiny cage. They need to have a comfortable bed, people who give them attention and mowed grass where they can play and do the things that dogs do.’’

Since Touch of Grey Rescue is in its infancy, the group could use help with fostering; donations of dog beds, leashes, bowls and collars; grant writing; transporting dogs; partnerships with high-kill shelters or veterinarians; organizing fundraising events; social media; and marketing. For information, go to