This Man Only Adopts “Unadoptable” Animals—And He Now Has 21 Pets
After the death of his beloved dog Wolfgang, Steve Greig started rescuing older dogs and giving them forever homes in their golden years.
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A man on a mission
When Denver accountant Steve Greig lost his beloved dog Wolfgang seven years ago, his life changed forever. He adopted not one dog after Wolfgang died but more than a dozen dogs over the years—all of whom have been in their last few years of life. He chose to rescue these senior dogs because they otherwise wouldn’t have had a home. Greig started posting family photos of his eclectic bunch on Instagram, and his following grew quickly. He currently has more than 894,000 Instagram followers, and in addition to nine dogs (which is a number he always maintains, adding to his brood when others pass away), he has a pig, two rabbits, two ducks, four chickens, two cats, and a 50-pound turkey. Yes, you read that right! Here’s his inspiring and heartwarming story, which he has turned into a new book, The One and Only Wolfgang. If you love a good animal story (and who doesn’t?), don’t miss these other tear-jerking stories of rescue dogs that found the homes they deserve.
An Instagram star is born
His mission didn’t begin with the intent of going viral, but rather simply to honor Wolfgang’s memory. He wanted something good to come out of the tragedy, so he went to a shelter and adopted the oldest dog there. After that, he started photographing his daily life with his animals. “I’m the last person you’d expect to have any kind of social media [success]. It grew organically—people just kind of responded to it,” he says. “It was certainly never intentional. They are just such a part of my life. I’ll come into a room and there’s a chicken sitting on a dog and it will be a great picture.”
He also didn’t originally intend to inspire others, but that’s exactly what happened. Shortly after he started posting, his inbox filled with messages of others adopting senior dogs as well. His fame led to his book, which teaches kids about valuing what is old instead of looking for the next new thing. He now keeps nine elderly dogs at a time, and when they pass away (six have, to date), he adopts new ones in their honor—and in honor of Wolfgang. Here are some reasons you should consider adopting an older dog.
Life in the animal house
Greig’s animals have two areas in his house in which they live while he works. His house is equipped with dog doors and has a secured kitchen area. While it sounds like disaster, Greig has things under control, but he admits that he couldn’t do it without his housekeeper, who comes three times a week. “I’m a fairly neat person,” he says. People are usually shocked at the cleanliness and can’t believe how many animals he has—and in the house, at that. Tofu the turkey, however, stays in the front yard. Whether you have one, two, or 21 animals in your house, you should definitely invest in one of the best vacuums for dog and cat hair.
The potty-trained pig
Bikini the pig is 100 percent potty trained, according to Greig. “She has a doggy door, and she’ll use it unless I’m there because she’d rather wait for me to open the door,” he says, adding that pigs are actually really clean creatures, despite popular misconceptions. Bikini tries to go to the bathroom as far away from where she sleeps as possible. Plus, pigs are one of the 12 animals who are probably smarter than you.
His time with these animals is about quality, not quantity
Greig has had numerous direct messages on Instagram asking how he can bear to adopt senior dogs, knowing the end is near. The answer is simple for him: “Love doesn’t have a time frame.” He has never regretted taking in any of his animals, even once he loses them. “Whether it’s three months, three years, or ten years, it’s still love, and it enhances your life,” he says. These abandoned animals also still have a lot of love to give, which is just one of the things shelter dogs wish you knew.
The challenges of senior-dog life
While health care is a consideration when adopting an older dog, it’s not a major source of concern for Greig, who has dogs with special diets and health concerns including cancer. Instead, he encourages all pet owners, regardless of the age of the animal, to make sure they have the budget to care for their pets in case they need medical attention. He also believes that they should seriously consider getting animal health insurance. “Three of my senior dogs are as healthy as can be, and other ones have health issues,” he says. “I have friends that have young dogs with health issues, too.” Illness can strike at any age. Make sure you know these 10 signs your “healthy” pet may actually be sick.
Adding to the herd
Greig’s dogs aren’t fazed by their farm-animal brothers and sisters. He laughs about how normal his dogs think it is to have a 50-pound turkey hanging out in the kitchen as he disperses evening medicines to them. “The dogs don’t even blink. It’s a zoo,” he says. His animals get along well because they’re used to animals coming in and out of the house whenever a dog passes away. That says, Greig knows his limits: He can only care for nine senior dogs at a time. Here are 60 of the most adorable animal pictures that will make you say “Awww.”
The name game
Part of Greig’s popularity on social media stems from his family portraits and his updates of the animals, but the other part stems from the unique names he gives his pets. He named his pig Bikini, he explains, “because it was funny.” His other pets have “elderly” names like Loretta and Wilhelmina. The turkey is named Tofu, and he has a new dog named Edsel after the failed Ford model from 1958. He chose the name “because when it originally came out it was worthless, but now it’s a collector’s item.” His attitude towards Edsel is his attitude toward all of his pets, and it demonstrates his value for life in general. Expanding your family? Check out these 50 unique names for your pup.
Cliques are inevitable
The animals are buddies, that’s for sure, but even Greig’s brood forms cliques. They pair off into groups of “better friends,” he says, but generally, they are all together as a group. Bikini the pig definitely favors Enoch the Irish Wolfhound, and Loretta and Ensel are BFFs. Sadly, the animals grieve the loss of their friends when they pass. “Eeyore and Engelbert used to be inseparable,” he says. “Engelbert died a few months back, and I brought in a new little dog named Wilhelmina and she’s always snuggled up to Eeyore, which is just the best thing because he was so lonely for so long.” Your heart will melt when you see these 17 pictures of adorable animal friendships.
Birds of a feather don’t always flock together
When Greig adopted another Chihuahua named John Henry, he anticipated him befriending his current Chihuahua, Eeyore, but “it turns out it’s more complicated than that.” They did not turn out to be very close. “That was shallow on my part that I thought just because they were both Chihuahuas they’d get along,” he jokes. “I put them in a box.” He knows two animals get along better when he sees them playing together more often or sleeping together. Just FYI, these are the pet combinations that are most likely to hate each other.
How we treat animals should be how we treat people
Greig’s touching experience with older animals has helped him value humanity even more. Whether he’s looking at an overlooked and forgotten aging dog or a homeless person, there’s a common thread: compassion. They deserve attention, conversation, and help. “You’ll see a homeless person—[and] that’s so easy to ignore. But if that was a homeless dog, I’d immediately love it, and so I’m trying to help myself make that connection with people, too,” he explains. “People end up in bad circumstances beyond their control and that’s the same thing that’s happened to these dogs.” He also says that animals, like people, become the best versions of themselves as they get older. There are a lot of misconceptions about people who are homeless, as this once-homeless man explains.
Now it’s your turn
Greig’s Instagram posts are certainly adorable and heartwarming, but there’s more to it for him. He hopes that they inspire his followers to adopt a senior dog of their own. “If you’re a bit unsure, I can say that of all the messages I get (and I get so many), I never had one person say that they wish they wouldn’t have done it,” he says. Instead, he gets message after message saying, “Oh, my gosh—that was the best two years of my life.” If a future pet owner isn’t ready to jump all in, he recommends investigating the many foster programs offered by shelters and rescues so you can hang out with an animal without the potential costs and responsibility associated with it at first. Ready to take the plunge? These 50 shelter dogs need homes before 2020.