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Richmond woman dedicates life to helping older dogs: 'Their world is forever changed'

Posted at 11:10 AM, Mar 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 23:21:14-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Lauren Auster-Gussman opens her Southside Richmond home and heart to animals in need. The social worker volunteers with Lu’s Labs, a rescue group based in Alexandria, Virginia.

“Even if you’ve had a tough day at work, you come home and these dogs, their tails are wagging they are happy to see you," Auster-Gussman said. "They run to greet you. You couldn’t ask for a better greeting from your spouse. It’s just wonderful."

Since 2016, Auster-Gussman has fostered 30 dogs.

Most of the mutts she welcomes are long in the tooth.

“I can foster one dog at a time and I can help that dog find a forever home that they’re going to be loved in for the rest of their lives however much time they have left,” Auster-Gussman said.

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The Pennsylvania native said senior dogs make the perfect pet but are often overlooked at shelters.

“They’re not super high energy. They’re not going to run around your house like a maniac and pull toilet paper rolls as a puppy would,” Auster-Gussman said.

One particular foster pup found a special place in Auster-Gussman's heart.

When Amelia rumbled into Auster-Gussman's life in May 2020, Amelia was about 14 years old.

She needed a home after her human companion was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The pair bonded immediately.

Auster-Gussman's other two dogs, Watson and Guinness, adjusted to the senior lady in the house.

To increase her chances of finding a forever home, Auster-Gussman started posting daily messages using the dog’s thoughts on social media.

“She just had this spirit and spunk and sass and it seemed like I don’t want to write about her she should write for herself,” Auster-Gussman said.

While Amelia was gaining a loyal following, Auster-Gussman's friend suggested writing a children’s book.

“I think it was Ernest Hemingway who said in order to write about life first you must live it and I was living it with her,” Auster-Gussman.

“Amelia’s Journey to Find Family” was published last spring. The book highlights the benefits of adopting a senior dog.

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“And the story is how she got to my home,” Auster-Gussman said.

Some of the proceeds from book sales are being donated to shelters.

“Her legacy is a legacy of the awesomeness of senior animals. So if people adopt more senior animals because of her that is my intent,” Auster-Gussman said.

Lauren’s furry friend passed away on May 20, 2021. Ironically on National Rescue Dog Day.

“People reached out in the last few days and in her passing to say how much her posts helped them through the dark times of COVID,” Auster-Gussman said.

While Amelia was only in Lauren’s life for one short year, the author said her impact to help homeless animals endured.

“You may not be able to change the world for every dog but for that one dog, their world is forever changed,” Auster-Gussman said.

If you would like to meet Lauren and pick up a copy of Amelia’s Journey to Find Family the author will be appearing at Redemption Books in Chesterfield on March 5 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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