About two years ago I saw an Op-Ed article in the local paper about old dogs in our local shelter. The article had a very touching poem, a plea for people to consider adopting an older dog, and a story explaining that most of the older dogs languished months and even years in the shelter because almost everyone considering adoption wanted a puppy or at least a young dog, and no one wanted to take on a dog that had any medical issues. That story really struck a chord with me not only because I love dogs, but because I had the good fortune to have been adopted by one of the sweetest old dogs ever to walk the earth. Sarge was old and very infirm when he adopted us, but we have never had a better canine friend.
After Sargie died I had a new appreciation for older dogs and I decided to look for ways I could help them. My next door neighbors are volunteers at the local animal shelter and they told me about a rescue group that is just for old dogs, Old Dog Haven.
Old Dog Haven was started in 2004 by Judith and Lee Piper. Judith says it all began when they adopted an old Lab whose owner was an elderly person moving to an assisted living home that would not accept pets. Hearing of this, their friends directed them to several other similar situations. After adopting three such dogs they decided they could do more. Judith puts it this way, "Lee and I decided someone needed to help these dogs die with friends and not terrified in a concrete hell - and we could do it."
Judith and Lee have some acreage which has been converted from an equine home to a canine assisted living home and hospice for some of the dogs. Over the last 4 years or so Old Dog Haven has grown to include an extensive network of more than 100 foster homes and other people who contribute to this very big hearted organization throughout western washington.
In addition to their shelter and network of foster homes, they also help people with infirmities who have difficulty giving their pet dogs all the care and attention they need. It is well known that animal companions improve the quality of life for their two-legged partners, and the same can be said for the four-leggeds as well. Keeping older people and their pets, who are often also older, together is another objective of Old Dog Haven. A network of volunteers helps with this endeavor.
Today Old Dog Haven currently has 153 dogs in its care, 114 of which are in final refuge. Final Refuge Dogs are too fragile to be subjected to another change in living conditions, too sick to be rehomed, and often don't have long to live, as such they are not available for adoption, but they still need food, medication, and vetranary attention.
Other ODH dogs are available for adoption, so if you are in a position to adopt a dog please click here. Some of the adoptable dogs are shown in the photos on the right.
If you are considering getting a dog, I urge you to consider adoption, and I really hope you will consider adopting an older dog or any of the special needs dogs that most people pass by. These are some of the sweetest dogs you will ever know, and I can tell you from personal experience they appreciate the kindness you show them and return your love a hundred fold.
*** UPDATED 3/16/2009 ***
Last Saturday (3/14) I went to ODH Home Base, Judith and Lee's home, for the first time. I have been donating to ODH and doing little things for more than a year now, but this is the first time I have actually been to ODH "Home Base." Judith wanted me to be sure that everyone understands that ODH is much more than just the two of them and their "home", it is also includes over a hundred volunteers. Having said that, I have to say that Judith and Lee are some of the most generous people I have ever met. Not only do they bring many of these special needs dogs into their own home (when I was there they had 17 dogs and at least one cat, and it was wall to wall dogs in their livingroom), but they work themselves beyond anything most of us would be willing to do for any cause. They are very good people!!!!
I did give scritches and belly rubs to everyone of the dogs I could get to... If you like dogs, this is a little piece of dog heaven.
*** UPDATED 4/23/2009 ***
When I went to visit Judith and Lee about a month ago they told me about Collette, a Malamute that was the female spitting image of my old buddy Sarge. She had been stuck in a shelter for months because she was older and had some hip problems. Of course I wanted to adopt her, but Cassie would never approve. Then about two weeks ago she was adopted by someone in eastern Washington. I had an opportunity to be the first leg of her transportation to her new home. I just heard that she is now settled into her new home and happy as can be.