Old Dog Haven Gives Senior Pets Homes and Dignity

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
Expensive veterinary bills ward many away from considering the adoption of a senior dog. A non-profit organization out of Arlington, Washington ensures the last days for senior pets are comfortable and happy in their furever homes.

Senior dogs are special. They just are.

Yes, there’s nothing like the vim and adorable vigor of a puppy, but there is so much to be said for the quiet dignity and knowledgeable eyes a senior has. The looks they give are full of gratitude for life well-lived.

Related: Senior Canines Bring Love And Companionship To Senior Citizens

But shelters are full of senior pets–many strays who just couldn’t make it on the streets any more; many given up or abandoned because the cost of vet care for their aging and often-requiring-medical-care dogs is just too much for owners to afford. Old Dog Haven, a non-profit group in the Seattle, WA area, saw the difficulty in adoption of shelter seniors as a crisis, and for more than ten years, has been rescuing senior dogs from shelters and covering any and all urgent medical needs. They then adopt the dogs out, and if the dog is too medically fragile or old to get adopted out, Old Dog Haven has a network of over 200 permanent foster care families who take the senior pups in and make sure their last days, however long they may be, are safe, comfortable and mostly, happy. These ‘final refuge’ foster homes can provide care to more than 300 dogs at a time.

These foster families never have to worry about vet bills, and in some cases, some of the seniors live several more years and are the best additions to their family. Often content to just be ‘with their people,’ when the worry of vet expense is removed, it’s easier to make the choice about ‘assisted living’ for dogs.

Founded by Judith and Lee Piper, Old Dog Haven calls a suburbian 5-acre pasture in Arlington, Washington home. Judith and Lee have spent the last decade raising funds through donations to ensure that any senior dog adopted from their organization will have veterinary care paid for as long as the dog needs. This commitment to save elderly dogs from euthanasia has resulted in Old Dog Haven being the largest senior-dog rescue group of its kind in America, though their service areas are shelters in western Washington.Their plight has inspired a new book, “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts” by Today Show writer Laura T. Coffee and illustrated by Lori Fusaro.

Judith said she is amazed at how many are willing to open their hearts and homes to their pets, and as thrilled with their fantastic donors who make the vet bill coverage possible, but it’s turning out more and more people are being drawn to the ‘castoffs’ of the canine world.

Related: Abandoned Senior Pets Can Spend Their Golden Years At House With A Heart

Julie Dudley is a former Microsoft employee who offered final refuge for 15 pets through Old Dog Haven. She found the work so touching and fulfilling, she wondered what she could additionally do, and not just in Washington. WIth the motivation of ensuring that dogs died happy with their people as opposed to scared and alone in a shelter, in 2008 Julie founded the Grey Muzzle Organization. Grey Muzzle is an all-volunteer group that raises money to fund programs across the United States that will assist homeless senior dogs. Saying that people simply don’t realize what goes into helping senior dogs, it’s important to ramp up senior-focused rescue efforts to lighten the load.

As more and more non-profits committed to do just that are popping up, we love that the trend in shelters is to ‘market’ their seniors in special and unique ways, as well as to help with veterinary care for those considered ‘hospice’ dogs so that more seniors will be adopted.

The reality is that this type of work may be hard, but…it’s so, so good. If you’d like to feel your heart grow three sizes too big, check their organizations out and make a donation, or even check your local senior-focus rescue out to see how you can help.

You will not regret it.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

More by Lori Ennis