Zina Goodin and her husband love older dogs. So much that they run a nonprofit rescue for them, the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary, in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. The sanctuary is billed as a place “where love never grows old.”
“We do not concern ourselves with the quantity of time that they have left, rather the quality of the life that we can provide for them in that time,” Goodin said.
The sanctuary got its nonprofit status in 2012 and since then has grown greatly.
“While we were volunteering for and taking in senior dogs from a local Golden Retriever rescue, we became more and more aware of a pattern,” Goodin said. “Senior dogs were the last to be adopted (if ever) and often ended up being bounced from one foster home to another because of their unique needs and problems, and people’s general unwillingness to bring in a new family member with potentially higher vet bills who may only live for a few months or years.”
The sanctuary is a home-based one that includes a network of forever foster homes, where dogs are placed in homes within 100 miles of Mount Juliet. The sanctuary “pays for preventatives and vetting for the dog for the rest of his or her life, and the foster homes provide love and food for the rest of the Old Friend’s life,” Goodin said. “This eliminates the fear of high vet bills and allows those interested in taking in a senior dog, but afraid of the costs, to enjoy the company of and help a senior dog in need.”
The sanctuary doesn’t charge fees for people to adopt through the foster home program, and it also provides a safety net. It will take a dog back for any reason, Goodin said, because they have promised their dogs a good home for the rest of their lives.
The sanctuary consists of two homes, where 50 senior dogs live in a comfortable, homelike environment cared for by the Goodins and three staff members. The dogs sleep wherever they want to – on couches and chairs as well as various dog beds. (Another 150 dogs are in the foster program.)
In August, the county zoning board told the sanctuary to move its dogs and operations after complaints from neighbors. The Goodins found another property, which they expect to move to in January.
“The building is 7,200 square feet, all on one level, with warehouse space and a wonderful, large area to convert to a homelike environment,” a post announcing the move said. “There are nearly 2 acres of a parklike environment with large trees, landscaping, and a greenhouse to convert to a rainy-day play area or covered event space.
“The new location is in a public, commercially zoned, area so that there are new opportunities for visitors, volunteers, and public events.”
Donations helped with the purchase. The sanctuary and its dogs have more than 1.6 million followers on Facebook, which also helps the Goodins find those forever foster families.
Although she loves every dog who comes to the sanctuary, Goodin told the story of one dog whose memory has stayed with her.
“Our most inspiring senior dog story is that of Lucy-Lu, co-founder and inspiration for OFSDS. Lucy-Lu came to us in July 2010. She was a 10-year-old Golden Retriever rescued from a terrible situation where she was kept with other dogs in small cages in a basement, underfed and uncared for,” Goodin said. “She was not expected to live, but pulled through and came to us with a happy attitude and a ‘don’t let it get you down’ way of looking at life.
“Lucy-Lu proved to us that senior dogs could get over their past and appreciate and enjoy the rest of their life,” she added. “They just needed a safe, comfortable, caring place to do it. Lucy continued to inspire us until March 2014, when she passed to the Rainbow Bridge. She will forever continue to be the symbol of why our hearts are with senior dogs.”
The sanctuary’s dogs are popular on Facebook, where Goodin posts multiple photos every day. People delight in their antics, or their lack of them.
“Following this page might have been the greatest decision I’ve ever made,” one fan wrote.
Another wrote, “Thank you so much for helping me smile today during such a dark, uncertain time by sharing pictures and stories of these beautiful, loving pups! We really appreciate you sharing your love and joy with our world.”
Goodin gave five reasons why people should adopt senior dogs.
- They are over the drama of being a young dog. They don’t care about being the top dog in the group so most get along better with others.
- Senior dogs are not just “old dogs waiting to die.” Rather, they are active, involved family members who can profoundly enhance the lives of the members of their families.
- Since dogs live in the moment, senior dogs are able to leave their emotional baggage behind, allowing them to enjoy and appreciate their new life.
- With senior dogs, what you see is what you get; their personalities are developed and they have grown fully in size. There are no surprises as the dog grows up.
- Senior dogs need you. They are most often overlooked at shelters and are the first to be euthanized when the shelter fills up.
The sanctuary can always use donations, which are tax-deductible.
“Our vet bills alone average about $15,000 per month,” Goodin said.
You can also purchase items from the sanctuary’s online shop, help the organization while shopping with Amazon (the group will get 12 percent of your purchases in November), and make purchases for the dogs from the sanctuary’s Amazon wish list. Find more information about all of those things at www.ofsds.org/donate.html.
You can also order a 2017 OFSDS calendar, titled “The Faces of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary.” Each month features a favorite Old Friend at the sanctuary.