Editor's note: This article was updated on June 4, 2016 to correct the first reference to the Berkshire Humane Society.
PITTSFIELD — In 2010, when the Wojtaszek family adopted Stan, an 11-year-old German shepherd, they were overcome by his gratitude, affection and loyalty.
Stan died six months later, leaving the family broken-hearted.
Since then, in Stan's name, the Wojtaszeks have raised more than $4,700 to help senior homeless pets find their forever home.
The annual Cans For Stans drive is from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday outside the Petco, 690 Merrill Road, said Debbie Wojtaszek.
Folks can drop off empty bottles and cans or cash donations. The bottles and cans are later redeemed and the money raised is split evenly between the Berkshire Humane Society and the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter to help them adopt out their senior homeless pets that are seven years old or older.
The money is used to discount the adoption fees, provide medical care to the senior pets that are ailing, and to help promote adoption of older pets that have been stranded at the shelter for longer periods.
"We try to eliminate anything that can stand in the way of an older pet going home with someone," Wojtaszek said. "These pets have had a home before, and I just can't bear the thought of someone having had a home before and not having one now. I can't stand the idea of them dying in a shelter."
Senior pets can wind up homeless for a variety of reasons, including legal troubles, domestic disputes and loss of income. But there is an advantage to adopting older pets, Wojtaszek said, because they are normally housebroken, socialized, laid back and wildly grateful to find a new home.
Just about the whole family helps out on the can drive. If someone can't make it to Petco, one of the Wojtaszeks will come by and collect the cans or bottles.
"It's a real mom and pop operation," Wojtaszek said.
Wojtaszek's 102-year-old grandmother, Elizabeth Salo of Pittsfield, even gets into the act by popping all the tops off of the cans, and they are donated to the Shriners for their fund drive.
Lizzie Brown, humane educator at Berkshire Humane Society, said older pets are usually easy-going.
"They can add so much more to your family," she said. "There is such a gratefulness, and they bond with you almost instantly. But senior pets are the unwanted animals in a shelter, with a much slower adoption rate, and they usually wind up at the shelter for a longer time."
Right now, she said, there are a number of senior cats available at Purradise in Great Barrington, which is operated by the Berkshire Humane Society, and a few more at the Pittsfield shelter.
Brown said the Cans for Stans event not only helps the pets get medical care and a home, it also raises awareness of the plight of our aging pet population.
"It takes a very special kind of person to open their heart to an aging pet, and they add so much to the household," Brown said.
In fact, after the first Cans for Stans event, when Wojtaszek went to drop off the money at the Berkshire Humane Society, she met Wicca, an aging German shepherd mix, which walked over and rested her head on Wojtaszek's lap.
Wicca was adopted on the spot, and now happily chases squirrels at her forever home.