Erin O'Sullivan wants to change lives by finding new homes for old dogs.
Visitors to her popular Facebook page say she has done just 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, many of which have extensive health problems that can stall adoptions.
"I think more than food or water, companionship is lifeblood to a dog," said O'Sullivan, who lives in Los Angeles. She is convinced that when an older dog is adopted, they will live longer.
Many shelters and rescues online and off focus on senior dog adoptions that are growing in popularity. 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 owns a dog named Susie.
Brandon Stanton of Brooklyn is the author of a much-read blog called Humans of New York, which claims 4 million followers on social media and chronicles the lives of New Yorkers.
Three years ago, Stanton adopted Susie, an 11-year-old Chihuahua.
"She is the greatest dog in New York ... I didn't realize what it meant to have an animal attach itself to you so her only concern in life is being close to you," he said.
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.
That includes a 12-year-old pooch that Britany Spangler of Grand Rapids, Mich., found on the page.
"I never intended on getting a dog until I saw our Molly," she said.
The Lhasa apso was missing teeth, was infested with worms and fleas, had an allergy that made her hair fall out and suffered kidney problems.
Despite those issues, the dog gets along well with her three children, who are all under 3, Spangler said.
"It was like they had been together forever," she said. "She came potty-trained and full of love. If she is with us for six months, she blesses us for six months. If she is with us for five years, she enriches our lives for five years."
Meanwhile, O'Sullivan and animal rescuer Elli Frank are trying to help Tanya, an 8-year-old pit bull mix that was all but forgotten after being dumped at a shelter as a puppy.
Frank is the founder of New York City's Mr. Bones and Co., which takes in a few animals at a time. It won't acquire other dogs until Tanya has a home. The dog has been adopted twice but then returned. Frank has since sent her to an obedience school.
"I want her to be the most adoptable dog she can be," she said. "It's so wrong that she doesn't have a home."