Before I review the new book Old Dog Haven: Every Old Dog Has a Story to Tell by Ardeth De Vries, you should know that I’m biased about Old Dog Haven. I think its one of the most effective, well-organized dog rescue groups in the country which helps the most overlooked segment of the dog population.
Started by Judith and Lee Piper in 2004 in their home in Lake Stevens, WA and supported by hundreds of dedicated volunteers and donors, Old Dog Haven is the largest senior dog rescue group in the country.
And about 90% of the dogs it saves are Final Refuge Dogs, which are too fragile to be subjected to another change in living conditions, are too sick to be re-homed, or have very limited time left to live.
OK, back to the book.
Released last month, Old Dog Haven: Every Old Dog Has a Story to Tell is a series of 2-5 page stories about the dogs that Old Dog Haven has helped. The dogs arrived at Old Dog Haven for a variety of reasons, including:
- their guardians didn’t make arrangements for their care after they died
- they were pulled from a shelter where they had little chance of being adopted and a good chance of being euthanized
- their guardians moved and didn’t want to take the dog with them
- their guardians got a new dog and didn’t want their old dog anymore
- they were removed from a home due to severe neglect
In the book’s introduction, Ms. De Vries, wrote that “this book is about transformation” and that is the one thing all the dogs in the stories share.
Regardless of the reason they ended up in Old Dog Haven’s care, they arrived at their foster homes scared, confused, disoriented, and, sometimes, suffering from severe health problems.
But each story shows that love, kindness, companionship, combined with nutritious food and veterinary care transform these old souls, as Ms. De Vries notes from “existing as throw-away dogs to living as loved and valued members of a family.”
And, when their bodies can no longer sustain them, these dogs can die with dignity and have the lives they deserved, even if its just for a few days.
A good example of this is Sidney, a chocolate Labrador Retriever that was taken to a shelter as a stray. Sidney arrived in horrific condition. His foster mom said “he was missing most of his hair, his eyes were oozing, the skin on his face was chapped an red, and there were open, oozing hot spot would on all of his legs, he had several very large tumors, which turned out to be lipomas, all over this body.”
She also said Sidney was “the most gentle, sweet natured dogs I had ever met.”
After a couple of months of daily shampooing, lots of medication, and even more love, Sidney had surgery to remove his lipomas and was adopted into a loving home. His mom said that his energy “exploded” after a few months and he turned into a “healthy, robust, 85 pound chocolate lab that is full of life.”
Like most labs, Sidney craved human companionship and he treated everyone he met like they were his best friend. Once he got the care he needed, he was “excited and happy” all the time.
Although Sidney only lived about a year after he arrived at Old Dog Haven, I bet it was most likely the best year of his life.
What a tragedy it would have been it Sidney died, suffering and alone, in a shelter.
Francis is another example of an amazing transformation thanks to Old Dog Haven. Another shelter sent him there because they thought he was too old to be adopted and didn’t see or hear very well.
It turned out Francis was both blind and deaf, so he couldn’t go to the home Old Dog Haven lined up for him. Instead, he went to live with Tina Nabseth, the group’s Transport/Placement coordinator.
Eventually, Francis’ eyes became so painful they had to be removed, but that didn’t slow him down. He quickly learned how to maneuver around the house and yard, and he wowed everyone he met. Tina said he often came home smelling of perfume because “so many women wanted to hug him.”
Because he loved people so much, Francis ended up being an ambassador for Old Dog Haven and attending many of their events. He also visiting kids, and during one of those visits, he made a significant impact on a young girl’s life.
During a visit to the 2nd grade class from John Stanford International School in Seattle, he made quite an impression on a girl named Jaya who was afraid of dogs. After he died, their teacher asked them to think about how much joy Francis brought them and how much he loved meeting them. One girl wrote this note that the teacher passed along to Tina:
“Thank you Francis.
You changed my life. Before I met you I was super scared of dogs. I would run away and cry. When you kept sniffing me at the bag sale I decided dogs can be safe. I love you so much. Thank you for what you did for me. May family was even able to dog-sit our friend’s dog for three days. Now I want a dog.
Love, Jaya 8-1/2 years old.”
Francis ended up completely transforming this girl’s life, and I bet by now that Jaya’s family has their own rescue dog.
He ended up living with Tina for 3 years. I don’t know how many other lives he changed, but I’m sure his transformation from a deaf and blind homeless dog to a much-loved ambassador for Old Dog Haven showed countless numbers of people what older dogs are capable of doing.
If you can’t tell by now, I loved this book. I was a bit apprehensive as I normally can’t read books or watch movies where dogs die, and I knew that (spoiler alert) the stories would end with the dog dying. And just over a month ago we lost our 13-year-old lab Dylan.
However, these stories weren’t about death. They are about how the hopeless, lonely lives of sick, unwanted, homeless old dogs transform into lives filled with love and companionship, something many of them never had.
Furthermore, these dogs gave much in return to their new people. Here’s what one woman wrote about an Old Dog Haven dog she adopted:
“If anyone ever wants to know what unconditional love really feels like, we highly recommend you consider giving an old dog a new home with you! We know you will not be sorry. We wouldn’t trade the experience for anything and believe that these loving old dogs deserve a wonderful home until the day they pass on. We only hope Emily felt we showed her as much love as she shared with us every single day she lived here. We were blessed and honored to call her ‘our dog’ and will never forget her time here.”
You can order Old Dog Haven: Every Old Dog Has a Story to Tell on Amazon and other online retailers. You can also buy it at the following locations in and around Seattle:
- Arlington – Skookum Brewery, 17925A 59th Ave NE
- Ballard/Seattle – The Mailbox (Ballard), 2400 NW 80th St.
- Bellevue – Tesslan Dog Spa, 14210 NE 20th St.
- Bellingham – Village Books, 1200 11th St.
- Coupeville – Kingfisher Bookstore, 16 Front St.
- Lynnwood – Mud Bay, 2800 196th St SW (next to Whole Foods)
- Mill Creek – Paddywack, 15407 Main St (Mill Creek Town Center)
- Mill Creek – Mud Bay, 1018 164th St. SE
- Puyallup – Puyallup Valley Veterinary Clinic, 2208 E Main Ave.
- Puyallup – Dog Daze Natural Pet Market, 105 East Stewart Ave.
- Puyallup – River Road Animal Hospital, 1508 18th St NW
- Puyallup – Ritzy Rover Pet Styling, 744 4th St NW
- Redmond – Eastside Dog, 7533 166th Ave. NE
- Seattle – Casita International, 423 15th Ave. E
- Seattle – Stardust Salon, 7220 Linden Ave. N
Ms. De Vries is donating all proceeds from the book to Old Dog Haven.