Friday, March 20, 2009

Sanctuary Spotlight: Old Dog Haven

Not far from our home in Western Washington, there is special sanctuary that's devoted exclusively to senior dogs. Fittingly, this organization is called Old Dog Haven and it offers rescue and hospice for elderly canines. Several years ago, founder Judith Piper was compelled to create Old Dog Haven after a friend asked her to take in a senior pooch named Liza. Piper recognized that Liza was just one among many aged dogs that end up abandoned in shelters at the end of their lives. On the Old Dog Haven website, Piper explains the rationale behind her organization:

"All too many dogs of advanced years find themselves terrified and confused at shelters, where their chances of adoption are almost zero. Others are desperate for a new home because of a move, owners working much longer hours, trouble with small children in the home, a death in the family, or bad financial circumstances. Many of these dogs are in poor physical condition as well, making them even less appealing to others. Helping them is sometimes challenging, is often expensive, but is very very rewarding."

Old Dog Haven does not operate a traditional shelter. Instead, the group's canine charges reside in dozens of foster homes throughout Western Washington. Last year 60+ volunteers cared for 400 dogs, providing hospice for approximately 85 percent of them, including little Shawnee - the 14 year old Yorkie pictured above. As heart wrenching as it might sound, hospice care is a wonderful gift for a dog who would otherwise die afraid and alone in a shelter. The Old Dog Haven website puts it this way: "Our goal is that their last years are happy and that they die safe and at peace, knowing they are loved. Wouldn't we all wish this for our own pets, and for ourselves?"

In addition to providing "final refuge" for senior pooches in need, Old Dog Haven also places dogs for adoption. Many of them have age related ailments like vision impairment, deafness, hip dysplasia, etc. Still, the folks at Old Dog Haven recognize the value in these sweet seniors and they provide a compelling list of reasons to adopt an elderly pooch:

-Older dogs, especially those that come to us, settle in easily and are more than ready and willing to bond with you and your family.

-What you see is what you get with older dogs. They've already grown into themselves in all ways.

-An older dog probably won't need a great deal of exercise, and will really appreciate quality time with you and a good nap. And of course, your socks and underwear will remain intact.

-Older dogs generally like to watch the same TV programs that you do, so you won't have to learn to enjoy cartoons.

-Many older dogs have already experiences rides in the car and walking on leash, so they're instant companions and ready to continue those activities with you.

-Older dogs have figured out what humans are all about and are willing and eager to add new information to their knowledge of human behavior. Old dogs can absolutely learn new tricks!

-Older dogs are very grateful for the second chance they've been given and they are very good and giving and receiving love.

-There's absolutely nothing like the smile you get from older dogs - especially dogs that haven't felt like smiling in a while, but now have reasons to smile because you love them.

-Older dogs are looking for human companions who will value their wisdom and their slow pace. They have their very own special appeal.

-When you adopt older dogs, you can erase any unpleasant past experiences that they've had by loving them and caring for them. It doesn't get any better than that!

What a great list! With these wonderful sentiments in mind, I highly recommend a visit to the Old Dog Haven website. I should warn you in advance, though - your heart might just be stolen by one of the precious adoptable seniors you see. I'm currently in love with Natasha, a 12 year old mini Dachshund who looks so much like Greta...