Laura Coffey covers every corner of the world as a writer for TODAY.com, but her biggest story is the one closest to her heart. After a human interest piece she penned about a photographer named Lori Fusaro and her 16-year-old rescue dog went viral in 2013, Coffey became immersed in the cause of senior dog adoption.
After the story ran, a literary agent contacted Fusaro about the possibility of creating a book featuring her photography alongside stories of senior dog adoption successes. Coffey agreed to do the storytelling, and My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts was born.
“It’s a story about love—the love that animals give so freely, and the love that kind-hearted people show for the underdogs out there,” says Coffey. “Pets never say the wrong thing. They help us smile and laugh when we didn’t think we could. This is universally true, regardless of a person’s walk of life. That’s what makes these stories so relatable.”
Besides giving her the opportunity to meet “the coolest dogs and human beings ever,” writing the book also helped Coffey through a personal loss and changed her own feelings on aging.
“I think I was drawn to this book idea because aging-related issues had been swirling through my mind. I lost my mom to Alzheimer’s one month before I wrote that initial feature story about Lori. Before my mom died, I spent months observing people in nursing homes and thinking about what it takes to age with dignity. And you know what truly helps? Having meaningful work and someone to care for. A lovable, calm, older pet can help fill both of those needs.”
Coffey knows a thing or two about lovable older pets. She and her husband are pet parents to Frida, a 12-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, and Manny, a 10-year-old Labrador Retriever — though they’ve had the pair since they were puppies.
“Back then we didn’t understand that it was possible to jump straight ahead to the best part and take in a dog over the age of 6 or 7!” she says.
For a family of four-legged seniors, the Coffey crew remains active. Frida and Manny are regulars at the dog park in their Seattle neighborhood, and also enjoy hiking in the Cascades. Coffey also likes to treat them to the occasional seaside romp.
“The dogs go completely bonkers running,” says Coffey. “It’s always an amazing experience to see them so wild and happy and free on the beach!”
But it’s not all smooth sailing when pets grow grey in the muzzle; right now Manny is recovering from ACL surgery and Frida is wearing a cone because of a lick granuloma on her front leg. Despite many other veterinary escapades over the years, Coffey and her husband maintain a sense of humor about it all.
“Critics would describe [a book about my own pets] as, ‘a triumph of the dog spirit in the face of swallowed socks and other misadventures,’” she says.
Her natural sense of levity is no doubt why Coffey’s stories appeal to so many people—and it’s definitely part of what makes My Old Dog so special.
“It’s a happy book, not a sappy book,” says Coffey. “Every single person we met who took in an older homeless dog said — without even a hint of reservation — that it was one of the best things they’d ever done. Seeing a dog feel so relieved, grateful and content is an incredibly rewarding thing to do.”
“What comes through is that the love of a dog just makes life so much better,” she continues, “When you go out of your way to help an older dog who would have run out of options without you, you get so much in return: affection, gratitude, unconditional love and so many happy memories.”
— published in fetch! magazine, the “Jet Set Pet” issue