If you’ve never heard of Mildred, you must not be up to date on your current events, because she is running for president. Well into her senior years, Mildred sets herself apart from the other candidates not only with her one eye, but also because she brings something to the table none of the others have: four legs.
“One night around the time of the first debate, I posted a photo of Mildred on our Facebook page,” Zina Goodin, co-founder of OFSDS, explains. “One of our followers said, ‘Mildred should run for president.’ Mildred agreed, and the rest is history.”
Jumping snout-first into her campaign, Mildred filmed a campaign video, which quickly spread across the globe. “Ever since her campaign video, there’s been high demand for Mildred gear,” Zina says. “We’ve been selling items in our online store and through the fundraising site Bonfire. We’ve already sold thousands of T-shirts.”
But as famous as Mildred has become, she’s just happy she has a home. “Mildred was surrendered to a local animal control with a younger Pug,” Zina recalls. “The younger Pug was picked up by another rescue, but Mildred was left behind because of her age and medical problems. She had an irreparably damaged eye, needed dental work, had skin issues and mobility problems, and was underweight.”
Thankfully, though, the campaign to save Mildred’s life was successful when OFSDS pulled her from the shelter. “People don’t realize that most senior dogs will never make it out of shelters alive,” Zina explains. “There is just very little interest in adopting them.”
Back in 2010, after seeing an urgent plea from a local rescue that was desperately trying to place a dying senior dog, Goodin and her husband Michael agreed to open their home to Bandit, a Golden/Pyrenees mix. Although Bandit only lived with them for less than a month before passing away, it really opened their eyes to the need for an organization that would care for the senior dogs most people weren’t willing to adopt.
With that vision in mind, Zina and Michael founded Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary, becoming a 501c3 nonprofit organization in April of 2012. As Zina explains, “The dogs we bring into our program are those who are nearly or fully unadoptable due to disability and/or age, but who are still able to enjoy the remainder of their senior years with a good quality of life. The amount of time they stay with their foster family may range from weeks to months to years, but fostering for OFSDS is different than fostering for other rescues, in that we hope our fosters will be able to provide forever homes for the remainder of their Old Friend’s life. During that time, we also aim to provide the best quality of life possible for our Old Friends by providing them with high-quality vetting, medication, and great food.”
Organizations like OFSDS are the difference between life and death for the senior dogs they take in, and if Bear the senior black Lab could talk, I’m sure he would tell you the same thing. “Bear was picked up by animal control after he had been hit by two cars,” Zina says. “His leg was broken, and his paw was crushed. We took him into our program and had surgery done to repair the damage. He immediately went to a Forever Foster home, where he was cared for in a loving family environment while he healed and is now, a year later, a ‘normal’ dog, spending time with his family and enjoying his retirement.”
Unfortunately, some foster placements are a bit more difficult than others, but OFSDS is committed to seeing every animal through to the end. “Once we take a dog in, we are committed to that dog for life,” Zina says, a sentiment that was proven when Hannah, a senior Staffordshire Terrier, came into OFSDS.
“Hannah came into our program with no teeth and an extreme resentment of other dogs,” Zina explains. “She loves humans, but doesn’t like other dogs at all. We took her in, first boarding her, and then set her up in her own area at the sanctuary where she got plenty of human, but no canine, attention. The first home Hannah went to had a cat, but no other dogs. Unfortunately, we soon found that Hannah could not live with felines either. She climbed on the counter to try to get near the cat. We took her back to the sanctuary until the perfect home was found. She has been there for several months and is well loved and treated like a queen.”
As you can see, OFSDS is more than committed, which is especially wonderful when you consider that some senior dogs are never able to be placed with foster homes. In those instances, the dog will remain as a resident of the sanctuary on the sanctuary campus — which is basically doggie heaven spread out over 5 acres of land. With 24/7 indoor and outdoor access and private yards, the dogs are split into social groups that best fit their needs, and better yet, they are never alone. With the founders of the organization living on the campus and the assistance of two full-time staff members and two part-time staff members, all of the dogs are able to have their senior-citizen needs taken care of at any time day or night.
When asked what the biggest challenge has been for OFSDS, Zina says that without a doubt it has been saying no. “There are so many senior dogs in need, and the needs in our local area keep us more than full.”
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to fight the battle alone. “We are approaching one million followers on Facebook, and while we can’t help every senior dog, we can encourage others to join in the cause. Our local area has been very accepting of our cause. We have about 200 local volunteers, including our Forever Foster parents, and maintain a good relationship with the shelters in Middle Tennessee. Through sponsorships, donations, and grants, we provide medical care and basic needs to the dogs living in our foster homes.”
The need will always outweigh its resources, though. With all the costs of keeping the sanctuary running and vet bills that total close to $15,000 a month, OFSDS is in constant need of donors. Without them, the sad fact is that most senior dogs who end up in shelters will never have the chance to live out their lives with the comfort, love, and dignity that they deserve.
“Senior dogs are not ‘poor souls’ waiting to die,” Zina says. “Senior dogs live in the moment and enjoy the life that is given them. Given the chance, they can be wonderful family members and can profoundly affect the lives of those around them.”
And if given the chance, one might even become president!
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About the author: Eden Strong is a quirky young woman with a love for most animals with fur. Read her blog, It Is Not My Shame to Bear.