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North Hills Monthly

Senior Hearts Rescue & Renewal Gives Old Dogs New Lease on Life

Sep 01, 2017 08:29AM ● By Vanessa Orr

A senior dog with their adoptive parents.

There’s nothing sweeter than an old dog, and there’s nothing sadder than seeing one in a shelter, especially since they are almost always overlooked in the search for puppies or younger animals. Senior Hearts Rescue & Renewal, located in Bradford Woods, is working to make sure that older dogs get the chance to live out their lives in comfort, surrounded by love and lavished with attention.

“I had previously adopted an older dog, and I saw the transformation when I provided him with the medical care he needed, as well as safety and security,” explained Senior Hearts founder and president, Denise Pavitt.  

“That 13-1/2 year-old dog was a medical mess; he couldn’t walk and he was very sick. But I invested in him and cared for him, and now he’s 16,” she added. “He runs around the house, goes on walks and chases toys. When these animals get the care and medical attention they need, I swear they get younger.”

After having a senior Yorkshire terrier foster dog abandoned with her that was unwanted because its medical care costs were too high, she decided that she needed to start her own 501(c)(3) organization dedicated specifically to these needy animals. “It was a turning point for me,” she said. “I wanted to run a rescue that would do right by these dogs and give them the life they deserve.”

Pavitt’s rescue adopts what she calls “super seniors”—dogs whose ages are in the double digits, as well as those with medical issues such as blindness, deafness and other neglected or chronic conditions. Animals come to her from all over the mid-Atlantic region, as well as from the greater Pittsburgh area. While many come from shelters, others are direct owner surrenders—for example, from a family whose grandmother goes into a nursing home, leaving behind her 13-year-old blind poodle.

“Most of the dogs we get won’t ever make the adoption floor,” she said. “They are at high risk of being euthanized when all they need is some help and a home.” 

In general, Senior Hearts has between 16 and 20 dogs in their care, and they utilize foster families to keep the dogs in loving homes even before they are adopted. “We worked very hard to build this foster network, because our goal was to provide these dogs with one-on-one attention, as well as safety and security, with caretakers who would follow the medical directions,” said Pavitt. “Our foster families, as well as our many volunteers, are so great—they are a very passionate group of people.”

Many of those involved in Senior Hearts have cared for their own aging animals, and know that there are not resources out there for abandoned elder dogs to get help. “What’s wonderful is that they can see these dogs transform under their care,” said Pavitt. “The dogs come to their foster families shaking and scared, not eating and with no fur, and you can witness their transformation into happy, healthy animals. Fosters are a key piece of this renewal process.”

Pavitt appreciates that many shelters, such as the Beaver County Humane Society, have reached out to her organization to give these animals a second chance. “Because of the volume of animals they receive, many shelters don’t have the staff, dollars or physical resources that these types of dogs require,” she said. 

To pay for their care, Senior Hearts is always fundraising, as the organization relies solely on private donations and grants. It costs approximately $700 in medical care for each dog that they take in—and almost 90 percent of the dogs they receive need surgery.

“People can help us in four ways—they can donate, foster, adopt or volunteer,” said Pavitt, adding that she takes dogs to the Wexford Ace Hardware store on the first Saturday of every month to let people meet adoptable dogs and learn more. There is also a “wish list” on Amazon, and people can drop off non-monetary donations at Happy Tailz Spa in Wexford, Sincerely Yogurt in Gibsonia, and Sincerely Yogurt in Bridgeville. 

“Those donations allow us to use the money we receive to finance medical care,” said Pavitt, adding that Senior Hearts also greatly appreciates the pro bono services that its partners donate toward the dogs’ care.

On Sunday, Oct. 29, Senior Hearts will also be holding a fundraiser at The Woodlands in Wexford to celebrate their one-year anniversary. Wine and Wags will take place from 1-4 p.m.; watch for updates and ticket information on their Facebook page. 

To date, the organization has had amazing success, saving 98 senior dogs, with 69 of those adopted into forever homes. “The rate of how quickly these dogs are being adopted is way beyond what I’d anticipated,” said Pavitt. “I thought it would take about six months per dog; the average time of adoption is five to six weeks for the dogs in our care. That fact just blows me away!

“I feel very grateful to the people who are a part of our team,” she added. “We’re not even a year old, and we’ve got a village of supporters. We’ve become a family.”

To learn more about Senior Hearts Rescue & Renewal, visit, follow them on Facebook or email