Old Dog Haven: Providing Warmth and Comfort to Homeless Senior Dogs

Posted by TF Oren

"All creatures die...The question is: are they going to die happy with you, or are they going to die alone and scared in a shelter?"

These are the words of Old Dog Haven co-founder Judith Piper.

In 2004, Judith and Lee Piper founded Old Dog Haven (ODH), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing lifetime care for senior shelter dogs who would otherwise have little to no chance of adoption.

Located in Arlington, Washington, ODH is the largest rescue of its kind in the United States. The organization partners with shelters all over western Washington to find adopters for senior dogs over age eight.

Now the subject of a recent book, "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts" by TODAY writer Laura T. Coffey, ODH has received a major boom in the form of recognition for its lifesaving work and the unique way in which the organization operates.

ODH is unique in a number of ways, one of which being that all of the dogs the organization pulls from shelters are either adopted into families if they are healthy enough, or go into permanent foster homes (called Final Refuge homes), thanks to a 200-strong network of volunteer households.

Another way in which ODH is unique is that it covers 100% of the dogs' vet bills. That way, volunteer foster families don't have to worry about the sometimes cost-prohibitive reality of caring for a senior dog. Thanks to the fantastic volunteer network, the organization is able to foster upwards of 300 dogs at any given time.

Today's shelter pull: He's been named Thomas after Seattle Seahawks' safety Earl Thomas. Super sister transport team Jean and Sue picked Thomas up at the shelter and drove him northward towards Old Dog Haven's founders, Judith and Lee Piper. Thomas cannot see very well at all, he has a funny gait and is still recovering from kennel cough but Judith told us that Thomas is "adorable, cuddly and extremely friendly". He will see an animal ophthalmologist as soon as possible and get started on the road to better health. Today was a very good day. We hope yours was too. Thanks to all of you for sharing the old dogs we post and for your support! #seattlepets #seattledogs #king5pets #pnwdogs #dogsofwashington #olddogsrule #olddogsofinstagram #rescuedogsofinstagram #dontshopadopt

A photo posted by Old Dog Haven (@olddoghaven) on

"It can be very expensive to take care of an old dog - not always, but a lot of the time - so the idea is that we pay for all the vet visits to make this financially possible for people who are willing to do this...Our vet bills average about $80,000 a month. Fortunately, we're able to afford that - our donors are just fantastic," says Judith.

Some of the dogs that ODH rescues remain in permanent foster care for a year or less before they pass, but some last far longer, as many as six or seven years. As a result of the variety, Judith and Lee have re-labeled the nature of the work they do; they used to call it hospice work, but Judith says they've taken to calling it "assisted living" instead.

Since its inception, ODH has rescued more than 4,800 senior dogs. Unfortunately, the need for senior dog rescue in western Washington alone is still far greater than the organization can accommodate. What's more, in other states and other regions without such well-organized, large-scale rescue efforts, senior shelter dogs face a much more dire reality.

On the upside, however, awareness of the plight of homeless senior dogs is spreading, and the Pipers have helped a handful of other senior dog rescue groups launch their own organizations.

ODH is a nonprofit organization that relies on public support to continue to operate. You can read all about ODH, and the many ways you can contribute to its lifesaving work on the organization's official website.

All photos courtesy of olddoghaven/Instagram.

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Old Dog Haven: Providing Warmth and Comfort to Homeless Senior Dogs