GREENBURGH, N.Y. – For the last 4,745 days Smokey has slept on a concrete floor, surrounded by four walls of chain-link fence in Elmsford. The 14-year old Rhodesian Ridgeback-Shepard mix has never slept in a bed or had a grassy yard to run in.
Still, he remains trusting and friendly, sniffing and slobbering on any hands that make their way through the fence.
“He’s so mild mannered and he just loves to be held,” said Marcy Rydd, a staff member at Pets Alive, the rescue center that has been housing Smokey for part of the last 13 years. “If I lived in here, I would have gone crazy by now.”
But Smokey’s story has become all too familiar for Rydd and others at Pets Alive, a no-kill shelter in Elmsford.
Jewel, a pit-terrier mix, has been at the rescue center for the past 13 years. Champagne, a Husky-mix, has been living at the center since 1996 when she was a one-month old puppy.
And there are hundreds more just like them.
“They have never had a family – not one day,” Rydd said.
Pets Alive took over the 100 Warehouse Road facility nearly a year and a half ago, when it replaced the Elmsford Animal Shelter. With that, the center inherited hundreds of senior dogs and cats.
Today, more than half of the 500 dogs and cats living at the center are considered senior animals.
Rydd and the Pets Alive staff try desperately to find them a home, but often to no avail. Many adopters are looking for young puppies or kittens, expecting them to live longer lives.
So day after day, morning after morning, Rydd walks through the rows of kennels, only to see Smokey and hundreds of older animals still there.
“I hope to come here tomorrow and none of these animals will be here,” Rydd said. “I hope to never see them again except for happy pictures of them in homes posted on our Facebook page.”
Pets Alive, Westchester’s largest no-kill shelter, has been dedicated to taking in last chance rescue animals from all over the country. Last December an 18-wheeler hauled 88 dogs from an Arkansas shelter that was forced to close.
Many are taken on short walks by volunteers as often as possible, but they can only do so much. And without a home, these dogs and many others will spend their last years in the center, never knowing the feeling of love or having an owner to pet them.
“This is an opportunity to give and receive a great gift,” Rydd said of adopting Smokey and his friends. “We want to find them a home.”
But Smokey isn’t the only one in need of help these days. The Pets Alive center is in desperate need of money as it continues to, as Rydd puts it, look to change the world. In June, it will hold the “Fur Ball Gala” fundraiser in Tarrytown.
"We're not fancy," Rydd said. “We’re a grassroots effort, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps."