This accountant gives senior dogs and disabled animals, including a pig and a turkey, the love they deserve.
Posted in , Apr 24, 2020
Accountant Steve Greig’s motley family of 16 animals has taken over his suburban Colorado home. Crazy? Not to him. The all-senior crew, which includes a moody 110-pound pig and a music-loving turkey, has helped him heal after his greatest loss and given the lifelong animal caregiver unexpected blessings of joy, fame and friendship.
Have you always had pets?
I grew up in a little town in New Mexico. My parents were animal lovers and let me bring home any creature I wanted, as long as I could take care of it. We always had a dog. I also had hamsters, gerbils, rats, a duck. I’ve only ever known life with a bunch of animals.
Tell us about the special dog that came along when you were an adult.
I became an accountant and bought a house. I had three dogs at the time and loved them all. I’ve never met a dog I didn’t connect with. Then I got Wolfgang, a miniature pinscher puppy who I became especially close with. We did everything together; we went on vacation and even went horseback riding together. We could look at each other and know what the other was thinking.
What happened to him?
He was hit by a car and died when he was 12. I was 36 and devastated. It was the worst thing in the world. A month, then two months, then three months later, I was still not feeling any better. I thought, Something good has to happen. Something good has to come from this.
So what did you do?
My parents had instilled in me the importance of adopting shelter dogs. I decided to adopt the oldest dog I could find at the shelter. I went there and was just about to leave when a 12-year-old Chihuahua with bad knees and a heart murmur sat on my lap. I could just feel the joy radiating from this dog. I could feel him lifting my spirits. And I thought, I can help this dog live. He’d been at the shelter a long time. He had one ear pointing down and one ear sticking up. I named him Eeyore, and today he is 19 years old. He still has a bunch of issues, but he’s doing great.
How did adopting Eeyore change you?
Eeyore was the first senior animal I adopted. But from that moment on, I realized that was what I was supposed to do. It was the best way to honor Wolfgang. And the best way to heal after his death. I’ve only adopted seniors and animals with disabilities since then. It has felt so impactful. So I adopted another and another. Now I have nine senior dogs. That’s my magic number! I also have a pig named Bikini, a rabbit, two ducks, four chickens and a turkey named Tofu who gobbles along to Madonna tunes.
You essentially have a farm family but not on a farm…
Well, I’m in an area of Denver where there’s an exception to the pet maximum number. They all have plenty of space to roam and relax.
How do you juggle a full-time job and caring for such a large and diverse group?
During the week I get up at 5 A.M., before my day as an accountant begins, because it takes a couple of hours to feed everyone, give out medications and clean up. Luckily, I live close to work, so two days a week I come home at lunch to take care of them. Otherwise I have a great housekeeper who is just as crazy about animals as I am. I get home at 5 P.M. and do it all over again.
As seniors, are they able to exercise much?
There are five dogs who don’t walk. They have heart problems or are blind, so I pull them in a wagon while the others walk. I have a couple of doggie doors so they have access to the outdoors when they want some fresh air.
How does your giant Irish wolfhound deal with all these little old dogs?
I had Enoch before I started adopting seniors, and now he’s nine years old. He’s so low-key, he’s great with putting up with all these oldies.
And there’s a pig in the mix?
Bikini has been with me for five years. I was at a chicken swap in Denver and met this guy whose landlord wouldn’t let him keep his pet pig. The pig had already lived with dogs and had even used a doggie door. Of course, I had to have mine enlarged for her—twice. She’s 100 percent house-trained, moody at times and now, at eight years old, 110 pounds.
What do your friends and family say about your crew?
They’re so used to it by now. Besides, they thought I was crazy before all of this!
What do you say to someone who is worried that adopting a senior dog will mean expensive health care?
Animals will always have health problems, no matter their age. When I got Eeyore seven years ago, he had heart and knee issues, but he’s been on heart medication and is doing well now. With any pet, you need to be prepared for medical expenses—even a young dog can cost you. Older dogs are so much easier. They just want to be with you. They only need short walks. As you get older, you become the best version of yourself, and that’s true of dogs, too.
If someone loves older dogs but is worried about the responsibility, they should foster. Most shelters need fosters, and they’ll cover the costs. I get so many messages on Instagram from people who adopted senior dogs and are so glad they did. I’ve never received a negative response about it, actually.
How did your Instagram following become so huge?
I’m the last person you’d expect to have a social media presence. I joined Instagram because I liked sharing pictures of these animals I love. And the number of followers just kept growing and growing. It really is crazy that it took off like this. I think people like it because they get to see animals get adopted and happily live out their lives.
How did your book, The One & Only Wolfgang: From Pet Rescue to One Big Happy Family, get its start?
After you hit a certain number of Instagram followers, you get lots of offers. I received several to write books. When HarperCollins brought up the idea of creating a children’s book, I thought it was great. What a wonderful message for younger people: that seniors need to be cherished. Kids get so many messages about how the newest is the best, but not about the importance of loving people and animals and things that are old. So for me, that was a good reason to do it.
What was the process like?
It was crazy! There are real photos with the illustrations, so the publishers would tell me they wanted this or that pose. But working with a pig—you never know how cooperative they’ll be! Promoting the book for several months, traveling and doing author readings while still having a full-time job—it’s been busy but amazing. The book is dedicated to Wolfgang, so the experience was bittersweet. I’m grateful to be able to share what a loving senior animal family can be.
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