Published: April 19, 2014
Erin O'Sullivan wants to change lives by finding new homes for old dogs.
Visitors to her popular Facebook page say she has done that by helping them discover the pets they didn't know they were missing. O'Sullivan's page tells stories about pooches past their prime that need loving homes and taps into the wellspring of animal lovers seeking calmer, well-trained dogs or those wanting to care for pets in their twilight years. Shelters will ask her to help place older dogs that aren't as sought after as puppies, and many of them have extensive health problems that can stall adoptions.
"I think more than food or water, companionship is lifeblood to a dog," O'Sullivan said. She is convinced that when an older dog is adopted, it will live longer because of an owner's love.
Many shelters and rescues online and off focus on senior dog adoptions. But O'Sullivan's page, Susie's Senior Dogs, has gotten more attention than most thanks to a big boost from her boyfriend, an Internet star who knows how to build buzz online - and owns a dog named Susie.
Brandon Stanton of Brooklyn is the author of a book and much-read blog called "Humans of New York," which claims more than 4 million followers on social media and chronicles the lives of New Yorkers, enrapturing overtaxed Web surfers with heartfelt photos and snippets of text.
Three years ago, Stanton adopted an 11-year-old Chihuahua named Susie.
O'Sullivan had set up a Facebook page for Susie, which had about 10,000 "likes" the morning she changed its purpose to finding other old dogs new homes. Stanton pitched the page on his blog, and by nightfall the page had 10 times as many followers. That number has since grown to more than 150,000, and she has helped nearly 200 dogs since January.
O'Sullivan and animal rescue owner Elli Frank are trying to help Tanya, an 8-year-old pit bull mix all but forgotten after being dumped at a shelter as a puppy.
Frank, founder of Mr. Bones and Co. in New York City that takes in a few animals at a time, won't acquire other dogs until Tanya has a home. The dog has been adopted twice, but little things went wrong and she was returned.
Frank has since sent her to an obedience school in Connecticut.
"I want her to be the most adoptable dog she can be," Frank said. "It's so wrong that she doesn't have a home. . But who is going to gamble on a dog that's never had a home?"
O'Sullivan would call her an underdog - her favorite kind.