When asked if dogs are the secret to a long life, Milt Lessner tells Jen Reeder with BBC News, “I’d like to think so.” At 104 years old, he probably knows better than anyone.
Milt grew up with dogs and had dogs in his home his entire life, until his wife and pets died several years ago.
Once a psychiatrist (now retired), Milt would bring his dogs to work with him to help his patients relax. Even though he had excellent references, lots of experience with dogs, and had even previously volunteered with rescues, he was turned down again and again when he tried to adopt due to his extraordinary age.
Layla, a senior dachshund/corgi mix, was facing troubles due to advanced age as well. At 8 years old she was taken in by the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services after being found wandering. Although Layla was found on the street, she seemed to have been well cared for – she was in good health, aside from an infection of her uterus that required emergency surgery.
No one came forward to claim her and after receiving the care she needed, she was taken in by Lionel’s Legacy, a rescue that specializes in senior dogs in the San Diego area. But even in a rescue full of seniors, and with a sponsorship that covered her adoption fee, Layla spent months without a home.
Though Milt had been denied a dog from several rescues, he had not given up, and after reaching out to Lionel’s Legacy, he met Layla. The two became fast friends, and in November 2016, Milt took her home.
Layla was already housebroken and very calm – some of the benefits of adopting a senior dog and perfect for Milt. She adapted to her new home right away. In a Facebook post from Lionel’s Legacy, they address those who would question their decision to adopt to a man as old as Milt:
“Many of you may have wondered how as a rescue we could approve this union given the ‘potential problems’ due to Milt’s age. The greater question to us was HOW COULD WE NOT?”
The rescue took Milt’s age, but also his love of dogs into consideration, and decided to accept the adoption under their “Seniors For Seniors” program. Officially, Layla is still with Lionel’s Legacy, but she lives in Milt’s home. Unlike a foster dog she is not currently available to adopt, and lives happily as a member of Milt’s family. Should anything happen to Milt, Layla will return to the shelter, and he will never need to worry that she won’t be cared for.
The pair receive visitors and monthly phone calls from the rescue, who check in as part of the program. During a visit last year, volunteer and photographer Dona Tracy took these photos. The pure joy on Milt’s face and the love in Layla’s eyes prove these two were meant to be.
Milt has always loved dogs, and especially treasures the bond he has with Layla:
“I enjoy the familiarity with them, and the pleasantness, and the bonding – especially the bonding.”
Thanks to Milt’s persistence and a rescue who truly values seniors, these two will get to share their golden years with each other.
Milt lived to see his 105th birthday, and passed away less than a week later, in December 2018. He and Layla were together for two years, and she was with him right until the end.
Layla had had a hard time finding a home before Milt came along, but she won’t need to worry this time. Milt’s family decided to adopt her in honor of his memory. Read the post from Lionel’s Legacy here: