AWLA seeks home for senior dog pair

AWLA seeks home for senior dog pair
This pair of 12-year-old dogs is looking for a loving home. (Photo/DeSilva Studios)

By Olivia Anderson |

Searching for some furry friends to add to the family this holiday season? You’re in luck.

The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria is looking to find a home for two 12-year-old canine sisters named Sophie and Joey. After spending their lives with the same pet parent, the pair is currently seeking a new permanent home.

According to Gina Hardter, AWLA director of marketing and communications, their former owner was a devoted senior who “was no longer in a position where she was able to care for” Joey and Sophie. Her one wish was for the dogs, who had lived together their entire lives, not to be separated from each other.

The dogs, who are of mixed breed, arrived at the AWLA in early December, at which point staff checked them out to determine any medical complications. From the first day Joey and Sophie arrived, Hardter said they have been loving, sweet and friendly toward staff.

“One of our care techs was sitting on the floor with them and they were both cuddling up with her. You could tell it made them really comfortable,” Hardter said.

It was also apparent that the dogs depended on one another, which is not true for all dogs that come to the shelter. In fact, Hardter noted that sometimes people bring in animals who have been living together for years and don’t particularly care whether or not they’re separated.

But Joey and Sophie genuinely rely on one another for love and support, which Hardter attributed to much of the reason the pair is happy and comfortable in the shelter.

“Even on the first day they came to us, you could tell that they didn’t want to be apart, not even for a moment,” Elena Carver, AWLA’s veterinary and foster care manager, said. “But when they were together, they completely opened up. Suddenly this new place wasn’t as scary to them.”

Joey and Sophie have distinct personalities, Hardter said. At 60 lbs., Joey is slightly smaller. She has a fluffy coat, and in almost every photo dons a wide smile.

“She’s happy to be doing anything, honestly,” Hardter said. “She’s happy to be hanging out with people, she’s happy to be getting snacks, she’s happy to be going on walks and she’s definitely happy to hang out with Sophie.”

Sophie’s personality is calmer; she wears what Hardter refers to as a “stern big sister face.”

“It’s not that she’s a grumpy girl. She just has a very serious face and I think she has a similar personality. She enjoys the things Joey enjoys just as much, but I think she takes a step or two behind Joey, [who] definitely takes the lead on everything.”

Joey and Sophie’s breed is unclear, but Hardter said they’re likely a mix of some sort.

When it comes to the best place to house the two dogs, Hardter said that the ideal home would be big enough to fit two larger-sized dogs but does not need to be massive. Although the dogs love walks and have pep in their step, they’re not high energy, so they don’t need extra space to run around.

“They’re not looking for somebody who’s going to be taking them on hikes. So, it could be a smaller home than you might think for bigger dogs, because it’s not like they’re going to be running around your entire house,” Hardter said.

Additionally, because Joey and Sophie are gentle and have done well with everyone they’ve met so far, the type of people living in the home is flexible. Anything from adults only to kids of varying ages could suit the pups.

The AWLA does not know if Joey and Sophie have lived with other dogs or cats before, but would be able to provide guidance for future owners on how to introduce them to other animals.

Although it might seem like a large undertaking at first, there are advantages to adopting two dogs who already know and love one another.

Four years ago, former Alexandria resident Ginger Vallaster adopted two “paired” dogs. Her beloved labradoodle Henry had recently passed away, and Vallaster knew two things for certain: She wanted to eventually get a new dog, and she wanted to name it Tater.

Approximately one week later, Vallaster came across a Facebook post seeking adoption for two dogs named Sam and Tater. Upon hearing the latter name, she felt a sense of shock and shortly after, a sense of resolve.

“I just knew those were my dogs,” Vallaster said. “… They already named her Tater and I wanted to name my dog Tater.”

The adoption process was straightforward, she said. It started with a Zoom interview, in which Vallaster showed her house and back yard, and discussed finances and how often she was home.

Several days later, Vallaster was approved and took the dogs home. According to Vallaster, the adoption was a dream come true. Adopting two dogs at the same time offers several perks, such as the fact that they keep each other company when she leaves the house.

“The best part about adopting two is that they already love each other. There’s no acclimation period or worry that they’re not going to get along, or one’s going to bully the other or whatever,” Vallaster said. “It just made it easy that I knew they both adored each other. It made it a very simple process.”

Those interested in giving Sophie and Joey a forever home are encouraged to reach out to the AWLA. There are different possible avenues; for adoption inquiries, email and for fostering inquiries, email foster@

“As soon as we hear from people, we are ready to answer any questions, see what we can set up, give you a chance to meet the girls and hopefully give them a chance to go home – whether that’s on a permanent basis, which would be wonderful, or even a temporary foster [home],” Hardter said.

As much love as the AWLA pours into caring for its animals, Hardter acknowledged that it’s not the same environment as a permanent home. Dedicated and consistent care is important for all dogs, but particularly older ones who have lost their owners.

She emphasized that the sisters have lived in a home environment their entire lives, don’t need training and know about co-existing with other dogs.

“With senior pets, we always say they have years of best friend experience, and with Sophie and Joey that’s definitely double,” Hardter said.

The AWLA generally doesn’t have much trouble finding homes for kittens and puppies, but it’s more difficult to find homes for older, larger dogs. However, the organization is taking steps to give those animals an extra boost. For example, through the AWLA’s annual Home for the Pawlidays program, adoption fees for all adult animals are paid for by Priority Automotive through the end of December.

For Joey and Sophie, the future is currently uncertain, but Hardter has no doubt that they’ll find their perfect home soon.

“Alexandria is just such an amazing pet-loving community, and we think somebody has the space in their home and heart to make that happen,” Hardter said.