- Associated Press - Saturday, March 18, 2017

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - Kate Reidy thought she’d have the tiny, long-haired, snaggletoothed red dachshund two weeks at most.

But Morgan, already 18 years old, is pushing forward nearly a year later and leading a true dog’s life of ice cream outings, rides on fire trucks and ambulances, hockey games, playing in the snow and planning his 19th birthday party, to which everyone is invited.

“We didn’t expect him to be hanging on after a year,” said Reidy, who is fostering the dog. Knowing his age, she thought she’d have him until he died. Dachshunds typically live 14 to as many as 17 years.

With his March 25 birthday - actually the anniversary of the date he came to live with her - she’s planning a bash to celebrate his life and raise funds for Senior Paws Sanctuary, the organization that accepted Morgan when his owner entered an assisted living center and had to surrender him.

Morgan’s “wish” is to receive birthday cards with $1 tucked in them to benefit Senior Paws. He’s already received more than 600. They’ve come from around the world, including Florida, New Mexico, California, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Canada, Hungry, England, France, Lithuania, Malaysia and Australia.

The party at Veterans Park in Lehigh Acres will include cake and people are welcome to bring dog-friendly presents that will go to the rescue. His four-legged friends also are invited.

Senior Paws Sanctuary is an entirely volunteer-run organization founded in July 2015 and relies solely on foster homes for the dogs it rescues. The group pays the dogs’ medical bills.

John Goldsberry, the group’s secretary and treasurer, said Morgan has brought in more than hundreds of dollars for the group already with his birthday wish, with about half of the cards he’s received containing cash.

“One of our deposits was 407 dollar bills,” he said. “It’s just one of those things. There’s an outpouring from all over the world.”

He’s witnessed Morgan’s recovery.

“He was in tremendously bad shape,” he said. “His hair was falling out, he had malnutrition, and a lot of problems. Now, if you look at him ready to turn 19 years old, he’s active. He gets tired; he’s like an older man - a person who’s in his 90s. … He can fall asleep in his forever mom’s arms.”

In an attempt to give Morgan a life that most dogs would dream of, Reidy and her boyfriend, Danny, created a bucket list for him. Fans can find it on the Facebook page, Making Memories with Morgan, and is a platform where community members can suggest ideas and experiences for Morgan.

“As for the bucket list, we thought why not have fun and have some fun pictures and see new things,” Reidy said. Facebook friends have suggested trips and he’s been to Dog Beach near Lovers Key, Loveboat Ice Cream, several Everblades hockey games, sat in a crane, had a spa day, and met Santa.

And Reidy has seen Morgan regain his energy. She suspects he can only see shapes, and he uses his sense of smell to navigate. But he keeps up with the couple’s dachshund/terrier mix Charlie, 10, in climbing the stairs to their Fort Myers apartment. At a recent outing to Wa-Ke Hatchee Park, he sniffed around the small-dog enclosure for several minutes and made friends with two other dogs.

“He loves to snoop around and smell everything,” Reidy said. “The day I go to the dog park and he sits by me is the day I know he probably doesn’t like the park anymore.”

During the past year, she found out he loves tennis balls, but prefers small, soft snacks over any toy.

As his popularity grows, he’s getting more engagements. The Gulf Coast Doxies have invited him as master of ceremonies at its three-day weiner dog racing classic in November at Six Bends Harley-Davidson in Fort Myers.

Reidy said having Morgan join the family has enriched their lives.

“He’s been such a joy,” Reidy said. “He’s a perfect little gentleman.”

The blowout birthday bash is a way to thank all the people who’ve followed his story.

If you want to make it a day, the Lehigh Acres Community Yard Sale is 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 25, at the Veterans Park Recreation Center.

___

Information from: The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press, https://www.news-press.com

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