our four-legged besties

Looking for a steadfast companion who provides unconditional love and loyalty, isn’t judgmental, 

and knows how to snuggle? Perhaps you could use a friend to exercise with and accompany you on long walks. Who can you turn to for this perfect friendship? Many people would tell you to adopt a pet.

Those of us who may be feeling isolated or alone can experience wonderful companionship from a pet, says Lisa Bonanno-Spence, director of development at the SPCA in Briarcliff Manor. “A pet gives you a reason to be a little more active,” she says, and can help get you out and about, and socializing.

Westchester County is a great place to live when it comes to owning a pet. “There are so many resources in Westchester for pet owners,” Bonanno-Spence notes. “There are canine boarding facilities, pet sitters, and even vets will occasionally board your pet when you travel.”

Pets offer abounding love and they don’t hold grudges! “They say you live longer when you have a pet,” offers Paula Krenkel of PetRescue in Harrison, where cats and dogs are available for adoption.

Kirstin Mende and her mother Maria Mende (pictured here with her puppy) are the co-founders of Lucky Dog Refuge in Stamford, Connecticut. She believes there aren’t any negatives when it comes to adopting a rescue. “For a senior, an animal can be the center of your world and the reason you get up every day,” she says. “Some rescue organizations will not adopt out to anyone over 60 or 65. We know that age is just a number and we know how comforting a rescue can be.”

Before you decide to commit, here are some things to consider:

Think about adopting a “senior” animal. Most of the time, these more seasoned pets have lived in a home and already have some training, encourages Bonanno-Spence. “Older pets are calm and mellow once they get into their golden years,” she says. “Senior dogs make good companions, which is so nice for anyone of any age.”

Keep your lifestyle in mind. How often do you travel and who would care for a pet while you are away? Who would care for her if you were to get sick?

Take all the costs of pet ownership into account, advises Krenkel. “It is a big financial investment,” she says. “Expect $1,000 a year for basic care. And you really need to think carefully, since there is added expense if the cat (or dog) gets sick.”

If you live in a rental apartment or a condominium, learn about any and all regulations from your landlord or your condo association, cautions Krenkel. There may be restrictions on the size or breed of the dog.


Larchmont resident Paula Krenkel has been involved in rescue for 18 years and always has some rescue animals in her home. “I am now down to two dogs and a cat,” she admits. I love having a pet. A pet makes you think of something other than yourself. For my husband and me, it’s about giving a great life to dogs and cats that otherwise may have been euthanized or still on the street.” Kaleah is her Chihuahua mix from Texas; her Beagle Terrier mix hails from West Virginia; and her cat Piper is a local, from Tuckahoe.

Judy Sirakos, 72, of New Rochelle, says having dogs is a longtime passion for her. “I hardly have time to sit around,” she says. “I have fostered over 230 dogs.” At home with her now is Benji, a Bichon Frise. He came four years ago as a foster and she subsequently adopted him. “Benji is very friendly and alert,” she enthuses. “I have a big backyard and he keeps me active.”

Baby boomer and Purchase resident Maria Stark is a volunteer and kennel manager at PetRescue. “I would never not have a dog because they give you unconditional love and companionship.” They are always happy to see you and they help calm you down, she says. Right now, her rescue is a Pit Bull named Marvel.

Ossining resident Shari Applebaum, 64, and her husband have an eight-year-old mixed breed named Mowgli, who was a rescue from Albuquerque. Commenting on their experience, she shares, “There is always warmth and I love knowing that I have a friend who is around to walk with me all the time. I take incredibly long walks and it is fun to have a dog with you that never says no.”


Car safety is vitally important when you are on the road with your pets.

“If you are traveling anywhere in a car, you want your pet secured,” says PetRescue’s Paula Krenkel. “It’s for your safety as well as your pet’s safety.” Your pet should be secured in a carrier, a dog car seat, or a harness. “If they are not secured and there is an accident, it could be deadly,” adds Krenkel.

And beware of the summer heat. “We tell all our adopters to never leave your pet in a hot car or van, as the heat goes up in a car rapidly and can be dangerous,” cautions Krenkel.

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