Contributor Ardeth De Vries is the author of Old Dog Haven: Every Old Dog Has a Story to Tell (Bennett & Hastings Publishing, 2014). Proceeds from the sale of the book go to Old Dog Haven, a large network of foster homes in western Washington whose mission is to provide loving, safe homes for abandoned senior dogs through adoption or permanent foster care. The Grey Muzzle Organization has granted funds to help Old Dog Haven care for dogs in Final Refuge foster homes.
Think about what it would be like to be homeless. Now, extend that thought and imagine how you would feel if you were an abandoned, homeless senior citizen. Life as you knew it before you became homeless is a memory that has become barely a whisper in your mind. You’re confused, sad, afraid, perhaps not healthy, and no one wants you. You’ve lived your life in the best way you know how, but now your value has so diminished in the eyes of others that you’ve become expendable.
These words describe the old dogs you’ll meet in our book before they were rescued by a unique nonprofit organization based in western Washington and aptly named Old Dog Haven. Founded in 2004, Old Dog Haven is a nonprofit organization that uses a large network of people to provide loving homes for homeless dogs eight years and older.
Old Dog Haven: Every Old Dog Has a Story to Tell is a book about transformation: transformation for the senior dogs saved by Old Dog Haven, transformation for the people who helped these dogs make the journey from existing as throw-away dogs to living as loved and valued members of a family, and hopefully transformation for you if you’re inspired to do something to help old dogs after you’ve read the book.
Our goal at Old Dog Haven is that these dogs’ last months or years are comfortable and happy, and that they die at peace, knowing they are loved. Old Dog Haven is not a shelter. All the dogs in our care live in homes with our foster and Final Refuge families, where they are cherished as family members. As of January 2015, Old Dog Haven has helped over 4,000 dogs. Most were placed from shelters into our foster or Final Refuge homes. An increasing number of dogs find adoptive homes through our placement assistance program.
This book addresses the serious issues facing homeless old dogs by providing information about Old Dog Haven as well as featuring dogs that illustrate the various circumstances that contribute to the problem of old dogs ending up in shelters.
The heart of the book can be found in the chapters about thirty-six dogs that—because of Old Dog Haven—became valuable in the eyes of others and were no longer expendable. Just some of the dogs whose stories we tell are:
Aaron was among thirty-eight dogs confiscated from a hoarder by Animal Control. An estimated 250,000 animals are victims of animal hoarding each year. Aaron spent two weeks in a shelter as an “evidence hold” dog before he was taken in by Old Dog Haven. Aaron didn’t live long after he was rescued by Old Dog Haven, and yet his adoptive mom said ‘He will be missed for all of my life.’ In the book. we remark that, “If Aaron had that kind of impact on a woman who only knew him for seven days, think about how Aaron must have felt about her. Dogs live in the moment; it didn’t matter to Aaron that he was only with Linda for a short time. What mattered to him was that every moment he was with Linda he felt loved, safe, and valued. That’s why we do this work.”
Finally, there are three articles dealing with end-of-life-decisions, planning ahead, and grieving that provide supplementary reading for humans who live with older dogs. One of the most difficult, yet very necessary aspects of our work is making the decision to allow dogs to move on to their next expression of spirit when their bodies fail them and their quality of life becomes seriously compromised. Every day I talk with people who are worried about the health of their senior dog and agonizing over the end-of-life decisions that might need to be made with regard to their animal friend. If you ever find yourself in that position, perhaps the thoughts in the article about end-of-life decisions might be of some help.
Ultimately, this book is a celebration of hope, transformation, and life lessons, taught by old dogs and the people who love them. As Frank’s adopter puts it, “Frank’s legacy is not being a puppy mill survivor. It’s about new beginnings and purpose no matter what age or size. He was not a puppy mill dog when he left us; he was our dog, a loved dog, a bed-partner, a buddy”
All proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to Old Dog Haven.
For more information about Old Dog Haven and all of the wonderful organizations that Grey Muzzle supports, see Who We Help.