The running joke that San Francisco has more dogs than children sounds true if you go to a park. They come alive with the sounds of dogs barking and their owners calling after them. Dogs run, amble and walk to the skirt of the Pacific Ocean, tongues lolling, owners laughing as the sun sets on the western coast.

But the dogs without this life end up in shelters where they wait for someone to come along and adopt them. The older ones wait the longest. This pained Sherri Franklin, a long time animal welfare volunteer and once the Commissioner of Animal Control and Welfare for San Francisco. A lot of the older dogs want nothing more than to rest or amble Much like older humans, their eyes and ears might fail them. And though they may not be the bouncy energetic dogs that we are used to seeing on TV, they still have plenty of life left in them and a lot of love to give.

Sheri ought to know: she started Muttville Senior Dog Shelter eight years ago. Between the shelter, Sherri's home and those of other volunteers, Muttville houses seniors dogs that have been abandoned or whose owners could not care for . She's been on Oprah and Muttville has won a string of best-shelter awards. Muttville collaborates with other shelters, dog-swap programs across the country and even private pilots who fly dogs from place to place .To date, they have managed to get 3,000 dogs adopted!

Muttville is located at Alabama and 16th St, within walking distance of SCPA, Family Dog Home (who work with dark-colored cats and dogs as these too are also less likely to be adopted) and the city shelter. Fittingly, the city renamed that block Rescue Row.

Around 5 months back, I decided to volunteer my Friday mornings to Muttville. I grew up with a labrador spaniel called Jake and have always adored larger dogs, but the opportunity to keep one. The reasons have been many: building rules, lack of space or long working hours that would have kept me away from my friend.. By volunteering at Muttville, I was able to get my ‘dog fix.’ It turns out that getting one’s dog fix is a popular enough desire that a shelter in Kauai, Hawaii pairs shelter dogs with dog-loving visitors to accompany them on their island hikes. Many go on and adopt their furry guide.

Friday mornings start around half-past-seven and continue for two and half to three hours. You know you’re needed because the dogs have woken up and greet you and everyone else with a highway of howling, yapping and barking. And when you cross the barrier, there is the lap sitting, licking and tail wagging. It’s a great way to start your day. Very quickly the amount of work to be done dawns on you.

My human friends there include Jeremiah, whose responsibility at Muttville is to prepare food and medications. Then there’s Steve who does a lot of administrative work and helps with the dog walking. I’ve always enjoyed dogs, but having spent time in the company of Sherri, Steve and Jeremiah, I know what truly unconditional dog love is like. At any given time there are around 20 to 30 dogs at Muttville, mostly smaller ones, though there are a handful of bigger ones All the dogs are people-friendly and enjoy the tummy rub and a hug. Once harnessed, which is important--because dogs no matter their age can squirm their way out of collars and then it’s a two-legged vs four-legged race-- the dog walking begins. These morning walks that are the best. Older dogs adore the sight of the leash and can’t wait to get out. And in the early morning before the sun is out, a nip sings in the air, we take walks around this block or that block led by our dogs. It’s a great moment. You can’t really use a cell phone and walk the dogs together, so I ignore my phone, and enjoy the tranquility of the moment instead. And almost every passerby smiles at the dogs as they sniff and mark the road as their own.

As the hours go by, windswept from the licks and the San Francisco weather, we separate the dogs for feeding time. Food brings out some dog personalities much like it does in humans. Some dogs have to be separated because they won’t be satisfied with their share. But once the dogs have wolfed the food down or been hand-fed, and some few amble over and empty their bladders, a calm settles. A welcome moment when there are only three dog walkers. It's exhausting but I start my day with a satisfied exhaustion. With hot coffee in our hands and warm dog to cuddle, it’s really better than a Friday to start the weekend.

Muttville’s mission is “... dedicated to changing the way the world thinks about and treats older dogs, aged seven years and older, and to creating better lives for them through rescue, foster, adoption, and hospice.”

Come over and visit. Even better, come over and adopt. Every Saturday and Sunday.