Puppies might be easy to love, but there’s something special about senior dogs. At least, that’s what Judith and Lee Piper believed when they started Old Dog Haven in 2004. This non-profit may have started with two senior dogs, but it’s now the largest senior dog rescue in the United States.
This weekend, on July 22nd, Old Dog Haven hosts the largest gathering of senior dogs in the United States. Located at Cromwell Park in Shoreline, Washington, the event lasts from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. This event also doubles as the year’s largest fundraiser for Old Dog Haven, so they are expecting a crowd! Registration is only $25, and people can preregister online on the Walk for Old Dogs Website.
To find out more about this event and Old Dog Haven’s mission, we spoke to Ardeth De Vries, Interim Executive Director for Old Dog Haven. Not only is Ardeth a 13-year staunch advocate for Old Dog Haven, but she’ll be emceeing the event on Sunday, so feel free to stop by say hello!
MB: There are many breed-specific and just general dog-related non-profits, so why did Old Dog Haven decide to focus on serving senior dogs?
AD: When Old Dog Haven was founded in 2004, Judith and Lee found that people weren’t going to shelters to adopt senior dogs. People were going to shelters to look for younger dogs and puppies, so the Pipers created Old Dog Haven by opening their home to two senior dogs, and then they added a few more. And a few more…
Over time, the rescue community heard about Judith and Lee’s work helping senior dogs. Shelters said that there was a real need for what Old Dog Haven was doing. At the same time, people began volunteering to foster senior dogs in their homes because Judith and Lee couldn’t possibly foster everyone!
Old Dog Haven might have started with two dogs, but now we have over 300 dogs in our care that all live in private foster homes. It’s important to understand that we aren’t a shelter. Around 2008 we found that people were a bit more willing to adopt young senior dogs from shelters and the dogs that were coming to us were what we call Final Refuge dogs that needed permanent foster homes for the rest of their lives. That trend has continued and as of this writing we don’t have any adoptable dogs, but instead, we have dogs that are permanent foster dogs that will live with their families for the rest of their lives.
MB: So, when Old Dog Haven uses the term non-adoptable dogs, what does that mean?
AD: Most non-adoptable dogs that come to Old Dog Haven are at least 12-14 years old or older with serious and/or ongoing medical, emotional or mental issues. These dogs may be blind, deaf, or have specific physical or emotional needs and would never be adopted from a shelter. A shelter is a difficult place to live for any dog, but senior dogs have a particularly hard time because they suddenly find themselves to be homeless through no fault of their own, and then end up dying by inches in a cage.
The waiting list of senior dogs in shelters that need homes is always long, but we never take a dog out of a shelter that doesn’t have a waiting foster home. We work very hard to match the dog with a home that will be a good fit for that dog’s specific needs.
MB: What about senior dogs that are adoptable? Does Old Dog Haven work help support those dogs as well?
AD: Old Dog Haven helps shelters and individuals needing to re-home their adoptable senior dogs by featuring them on our website. These courtesy postings have been very successful because people who are interested in adopting senior dogs know they can check our website to find adoptable senior dogs. Even though Old Dog Haven rarely has adoptable dogs anymore and we’ve truly become a haven for old dogs, we’re happy to spread the word about senior dogs in western Washington that need homes.
MB: For people who are interested in helping senior dogs, what needs does Old Dog Haven have?
AD: We’re always looking for volunteers in a variety of areas: transport, writing thank-you notes, fostering, monitoring donation cans, or helping with the newsletters or blog. Anyone interested in volunteering is encouraged to look at the Old Dog Haven website’s volunteer page. We also love to see people sponsor dogs. Information about sponsoring can be found on our website.
Of course, donations are always welcome. Old Dog Haven pays for all veterinary care for the dogs in our care and our vet bills average about $90,000 a month. Just as people need more medical care as they get older so do older dogs. But medical care can get very expensive, which is why we host our annual big fundraiser, The Walk for Old Dogs, in July.
MB: For people who’d like to come to the Walk for Old Dogs, what should they expect?
AD: The Walk for Old Dogs is in its seventh year, and it’s really evolved over time. What began as a way for a few people to get individual and team sponsors and walk with their dogs for Old Dog Haven has morphed into an event that generally draws about 400 people. It’s more than a fundraiser: it’s an experience. The Walk isn’t limited to just old dogs either; dogs and people of all ages are welcome.
In addition to the actual Walk, there’s a dachshund race in which dachshunds of all ages can race in three different categories. We also have a Pageant where dogs can compete for the best costume, best trick and best begging face. Entry for both the dachshund race the Pageant are free for registered guests. The oldest dog and the newest foster family are also recognized at the Walk. Prizes are awarded to the winners.
There are also plenty of vendors who offer food and drink for humans and dogs and many of our corporate sponsors are there to give away samples or talk about what they do in the community. We owe special thanks to our corporate sponsors because their sponsorships pay for the cost of hosting the event so every penny raised at the event goes to help our dogs.
We also announce the top three individual fundraisers and the top three fundraising teams. There are prizes for them, too! The event concludes with the actual Walk; everyone walks around the 1/3-mile paved walkway with their dogs. It’s a pretty amazing sight!
This event is truly a celebration, not only of senior dogs but of a community that supports us in so many ways. Please join us! You may find your people there. And you’ll certainly be inspired by the dedication and commitment of everyone involved in Old Dog Haven and of our extended family who supports our cause. For more information about the Walk and a schedule of events go to http://www.odhwalkforolddogs.org and if you want to learn more about old Dog Haven please go to www.olddoghaven.org