As many of you know, Betty came to us through Old Dog Haven. She was struggling in the shelter environment, having been left there by the only owners she had ever known. She was overweight with ear and skin issues, but mostly miserable at leaving her lifetime home. She arrived at our home by virtue of a gracious volunteer, who had driven hours to reach us and had nothing but delightful things to say about Betty. And the reasons were obvious, Betty smiled with every breath in her body. Her tail wagged for even the slightest bit of praise. She was eager to please then, and still is, a year and a half later.
She came to us because of the selflessness and determination of Judith Piper and her husband Lee. They took in their first dog from another rescue group, over a decade ago, when the dog’s owner developed Parkinson’s and could no longer care for him. They realized then that this wasn’t just one dog, but a lot of dogs. They looked around and saw a number of old dogs in need, in distress, in the shelters not being adopted, and realized someone needed to do something. They assessed their life, their space, and realized that they could be that someone.
They started Old Dog Haven in 2004, with the idea of finding homes for old dogs. The reason they took in their first dog, because the elderly owner was no longer able to care for him, remains the most frequent reason for dogs coming to Old Dog Haven now as well. Through their persistence and passion, their non-profit organization has grown dramatically in the years since, making a significant difference in the lives of thousands of dogs. It has become a network of people who love dogs, of volunteers going above and beyond themselves to help senior dogs in need.
They have helped over 300 dogs find permanent foster homes, have over 200 in active foster homes and have helped over 5000 senior dogs since their founding. Because of their dedication and that of numerous others as well. Volunteers doing transport, fundraising, coordination and a hardworking Board of Directors. All for the love of dogs. Judith herself spends 10 to 12 hours every day working for Old Dog Haven. “It never ends,” she says, and the hardest part is “managing people and their emotions – dogs are much easier!”
The dogs give her motivation to keep going, “They are so devastated to lose their homes, and so grateful to be loved and wanted again in a new home.” When you take in a senior dog, you’re not just making the world a better place for that dog, you are improving your own life as well. Senior dogs “are the best companions, wise and loving and usually very calm. We get more love from them than we can give.”
One such dog is CeCe, a Shih Tzu, who came into the shelter overweight with a bladder stone, dental disease, dry eye, and skin issues. She was immediately taken in by an Old Dog Haven foster mom. After numerous veterinarian visits, including ophthalmology and neurology, she relearned house manners, worked through significant anxiety attacks and lost a lot of weight. CeCe is now a registered therapy dog, working in schools to help children learn to love reading. Judith smiles every time she thinks about CeCe, knowing that she is “beautiful, happy, well adjusted and delighting in helping children learn to read.”
Not all dogs are lucky enough to have such happy endings, but Old Dog Haven is doing everything they can to make it so. You can help, in a variety of meaningful ways:
- Pay attention to the old dogs in your neighbors’ homes, notice if your neighbor is in need of help caring for their pet. Resolve to do something about it, offer to take the dog for walks or pay for a vet visit.
- Donate. About 90% of their donations goes to care of the dog, which includes veterinary care, mediation and hospitalization
- They do not have one specific kennel or shelter, but a network of volunteers willing to step up and help. The more people helping the more dogs they can reach. Learn more about the many different ways you can volunteer.
- The biggest thing you can do is to spread the word about Old Dog Haven because, according to Judith, “it actually makes a big difference.” Please click on the buttons below to share this post.
If you would like to learn more, please visit their website or read about them in the book by Ardeth DeVries, “Old Dog Haven: Every Old Dog Has a Story to Tell.”
by Tammi Kaeberlein