Milt Lessner says that he has “always had dogs” throughout his life. And being 104 years old, you can guess that he has quite the experience. BBC journalist Jen Reeder asked the elderly man – are dogs the secret of his longevity?
“I’d like to think so,” he says.
“I enjoy the familiarity with them, and the pleasantness, and the bonding – especially the bonding.”
Mr. Lessner is a widower since several years ago when his wife passed away, as did their several dogs. Understandably, the man has been quite lonely. He had looked into adopting a new dog to keep him company, but most rescue organizations – also understandably – refused to let a man over 100 adopt a dog.
For that reason, he contacted a dog rescue that specializes in older dogs – the Lionel’s Legacy rescue from San Diego, CA. The folks at Lionel’s Legacy were accommodating enough to arrange for him to adopt a senior dog named Layla. Mr. Lessner is to take care of Layla for as long as he can, after which the rescue will take care of her again.
Layla is a very even-tempered and affectionate dog and she adapted to her new life exceptionally quickly. This all happened a year and a half ago, in November 2016.
“In no time at all, we were quite friendly with each other,” he says. “She’s very conciliatory and very agreeable.
“We’re trying to stay in good health, both of us. So far, we’ve succeeded and we’re still alive.”
Mr. Lessner is a retired psychiatrist. In his professional practice he used to bring his dogs to work to relax his patients. So, even with his extensive experience, he says Layla is a fantastic companion. What’s more, she’s also already house-trained, friendly and mellow – just as what you would expect from a great older dog.
“I can’t think of anything better,” he says.
Older dogs are often unfortunate enough to wind up in animal shelters. There are plenty of reason why that happens – their owners move to places that don’t allow pets, they have financial problems, they face health issues, and so on.
Even though Layla was found as a stray, she didn’t seem to have been mistreated. Her only physical problem was that she had a dangerous infection of the uterus called pyometra.
Her life was saved by the emergency veterinary care at an animal shelter, after which Lionel’s Legacy took her in.
The founder of the charity, Laura Oliver, says she’s very happy to have matched Layla and Mr. Lessner so perfectly.
“You can tell they’re both smitten.”