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A new program in Virginia that matches man's best friends with senior citizens is helping local residents transition from the working world into the 'golden years' of retirement. The "Seniors for Seniors" program from the Prince William County Animal Shelter offers cats and dogs over the age of 5 for adoption to senior citizens free of charge.
Mary Moragne was the very first senior citizen to adopt a pet through Seniors for Seniors.
"And there was this little thing just balled up in a knot, and I said, 'If she get in my lap, we belong together," Moragne says. "And so finally she sniffed me and she got in my lap and I said, 'That's it. She's mine.'"
The 65-year-old grocery store clerk from Quantico ended up adopting that little ball of fur, a 6-year-old Maltese terrier named Sweetie.
"I have the prettiest little white dog, the fluffiest little ears, the fluffiest little long tail," Moragne says. Moragne is smitten. She retires in May, and Sweetie is her retirement present to herself.
"My kids are grown. One lives in Atlanta, another lives in New York," she says. "It's nobody but my husband and I."
And the present didn't cost her a thing. For the month of April, the shelter is waiving adoption fees and the costs to spay and neuter cats and dogs to anyone over age 60, even if they live in another county.
"You know what? It’s really a blessing," Moragne says. "It would've been like $200."
The program is meant to help the animals find good homes, as much as it’s meant to make sure that seniors' so-called golden years really are golden, according to shelter director Suzette Kapp.
"A lot of senior citizens in the area that are alone and don't have a companionship or their caregivers work during the day or live alone," she says. "So this gives them something just to help with the loneliness."
Kapp walks over to a silky terrier in a kennel at the shelter, another one of the senior animals available free of charge this month. "This is Mimi. She's a silky terrier. She's 6-years-old. She's house broken," says Kapp.
Mimi is steadily pawing at the gate, ready for her evening walk. "She's lost sight out of one eye, but she can still see out of the other eye," Kapp says.
The shelter only offers cats and dogs -- no critters -- for adoption through the seniors program. According to the CDC, pets can help with all kinds of physical ailments, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.