In 2020, The Sanctuary for Senior Dogs celebrated 20 years of continuous operation saving the lives of abandoned old dogs. The following short history highlights our work and our accomplishments.
The mission of The Sanctuary for Senior Dogs is to rescue senior dogs abandoned in shelters; to provide lifelong quality care for rescued senior dogs; to adopt appropriate dogs into loving, permanent homes; to develop programs that match senior dogs and senior people to their mutual benefit; to foster an awareness of our lifelong responsibility to our companion animals; and to strengthen the bonds between humans and animals by teaching respect and compassion for all living things.
The Sanctuary for Senior Dogs had its early beginnings in 1999 when the founder Deborah Workman rescued Angel, a timid 8-year-old Whippet/Collie mix whose guardian had just died. Angel’s family fered that they would have to take her to an area shelter that routinely killed all dogs over five years old. Several months later, Sammie, a beautiful 11-year-old Retriever mix recently blinded in a fire at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, came to Cleveland to join Angel and Meghan, an 8-year-old abused Boxer Workman had also rescued. As the senior dogs continued to arrive in Workman’s home—Ralph, Rose, Guido, Henry, Ted, Georgia—the idea of a sanctuary to provide refuge and hope for old dogs was born.
In December 2000, the Sanctuary was incorporated as an Ohio nonprofit and was granted federal 501(c)(3) tax exempt charitable status in February 2002.
In 2002, the Sanctuary pledged to serve only vegetarian food at all events. In 2016, we pledged to serve only vegan food at all events. We do not believe in serving animals of one species in order to save animals of another.
In the years since incorporation, the Sanctuary has rescued nearly 700 abandoned old dogs, on average 33 abandoned senior dogs a year. Senior dogs that cannot be adopted because of health or behavioral issues stay in a Sanctuary Forever Foster or Hospice home for life.
Senior Dog Rescue & Adoption: The Sanctuary rescues senior dogs primarily from shelters in Ohio. Each dog that enters our program receives complete medical care, including blood tests (heartworm and general screening) and a complete health evaluation before being placed in a foster home to await adoption. We treat all known medical conditions prior to adoption, including heartworm, dental issues, and tumors. We also spay/neuter every senior dog before placement.
Forever Foster & Hospice Programs: Senior dogs that come too us too ill or too emotionally fragile for adoption have a place for life in one of our Forever Foster homes. We provide medical care, food, and supplements and the foster caregiver provides the love and care. In addition, we provide force-free training for any dog that needs it. Every dog that enters our program has a place for life.
Senior Dog Therapy Training and Service: Through Companions, a program that works to unite senior dogs with senior people and others in need in our community, the Sanctuary offers reduced adoption fees for people 65 years of age and older. The Sanctuary also sponsors several therapy dogs bringing awareness to the value of senior dogs and comfort to those in need. Pollyanna, a 13-year-old Poodle mix, visits patients at an area hospice center; Roxy, an 11-year-old Coonhound mix, visits assisted living and groups home in Cleveland; and Josie, a 12-year-old Boxer mix and our newest addition to therapy work, will begin visitation now that the COVID restrictions are being eased.
Public Speaking and Media: The Sanctuary presents talks on senior dogs, therapy dogs, and the vital connection between senior dogs and senior people in various venues, including local television stations, libraries, clubs, schools, and colleges.
The Scoop: The Old Dog Party of the Year: Each year except for 2020 when COVID-19 derailed our plans and the plans of many others, the Sanctuary hosts the Scoop, a party in the park just for old dogs age 7 and older and the people who love them. A fun-filled community event with contests, raffle prizes, vendors, paw print painting, massage, Reiki, a blessing of the animals, a parade of adoptable dogs, and more drew over 125 senior dogs from across the state and beyond in 2019. The Scoop features the Old Dog Olympics, an agility course set up just for the slow of paw where every dog wins a gold medal. This unique event showcases old dogs’ zest for living and provides an opportunity for fun and friendship.
Harley, a beautiful 12-year-old Collie mix, came to the Sanctuary in early January. Although our work is primarily with senior dogs in pounds and shelters, the person who loved Harley the most went into the hospital and was not going to return home. Family members and neighbors struggled to care for him, but being left alone in the home for well over two weeks was not what anyone wanted. The Sanctuary became aware of his desperate situation through a Facebook post, and we knew we had to act. Harley needed us, and one of our fosters was able to open her home to him.
When we picked him up, two things were immediately apparent. Harley's health had been sorely neglected for quite some time. As his person's own health deteriorated, he was unable to provide the care that Harley so desperately needed. Nonetheless that Harley had been a much-loved family member was equally obvious from the moment he arrived at the Sanctuary. Full of affection and excitement, Harley had kisses, finger nibbles, and tail wags for everyone he met, clearly happy to be alive and surrounded by people who fell in love with him at first sight.
We knew he had a large tumor that would need immediate medical attention, but we remained hopeful that it could be safely removed and that Harley would have years left to enjoy his second chance at the good life. Sadly, however, that was not the case. An exam by our trusted veterinarian revealed large, inoperable tumors on his liver and his spleen. So Harley has joined our Forever Foster Hospice program, receiving the best comfort care from our veterinary team and the unconditional love of his foster family for life. Nearly nine months later, Harley shows no signs of slowing down. He continues to defy the odds and revel in the life all senior dogs deserve.
Every dog that comes to the Sanctuary has the promise of lifelong care whatever their challenges, whether they can be adopted or not. But we cannot do this life-changing, life-saving work without our supporters and our dedicated foster caregivers. If you are in NE Ohio, please consider opening your home to a deserving old dog like Harley in need of a soft place to land and a safe place to learn the power of love.
Old Dogs, Great Friends! ™
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