A Peaceful Refuge After a Long Life

Old Dog Haven Gives New Hope to Aging Canines

By Marissa Yamasaki

The soulful eyes of Sparky gaze out from a photograph on the wall beside Professor Lauren Yasuda’s office.  The picture and the accompanying plaque honor the dog, who passed away in 2008.  Professor Yasuda, who teaches Biology at Seattle Central College, found Sparky in his final years thanks to Old Dog Haven, a Western-Washington-based organization that connects aging dogs to loving homes.

When Professor Yasuda adopted Sparky eight years ago, she had never had a dog before, but she had always wanted a pet she could take on walks.  She discovered Sparky on Petfinder, an online site where Old Dog Haven and other animal shelters list adoptable pets.

“I started looking for a nice, mellow dog that would be able to spend time at home or out with us,” she said.  “Eventually, I just came to the conclusion that an older dog would be a right fit.”

For dogs like Sparky, Old Dog Haven provides a chance for them to find a peaceful refuge after a long life.  According to the non-profit’s website, “[old dogs’] chances of adoption are almost zero” at shelters, due to age and medical problems.  Old Dog Haven gives special attention to these dogs through fostering and adoption programs that ensure a peaceful end of life.  The website states that “ODH’s mission is to give these dogs a loving family and good quality of life in their final months, years, weeks or even days.”

Since Old Dog Haven does not operate a shelter, the dogs live in foster homes until they are adopted.  Potential adopters can visit foster dogs and see firsthand how they interact with a foster family.  “The foster parent can tell you how the dog is in the environment of a home,” Professor Yasuda said.  She also noted that Old Dog Haven covers foster dogs’ veterinary expenses, which may be high due to illness and advanced age.

Her current senior dog, a black lab mix named Jack, relaxes on a dog bed in her office.  When Jack accompanies Professor Yasuda to Seattle Central, they like to walk along Broadway, where Jack charms passersbys.  Professor Yasuda adopted Jack from Old Dog Haven soon after Sparky passed away at the recommendation of Old Dog Haven’s founder, and Jack has been part of her family ever since.

The most rewarding part about adopting a senior dog?  “How sweet they are, how much they love you…all the animal cares about are simple things…  [Owning a pet] is a very rewarding part of life,” Professor Yasuda said, smiling down at Jack, who looked up from his dog bed as if he knew he was the subject of our conversation.

Besides adopting dogs, Professor Yasuda attends Old Dog Haven fundraisers, and hopes to become more involved through volunteering in the future.  Those interested in helping Old Dog Haven can donate or attend a fundraiser, like the Walk for Old Dogs.  Professor Yasuda stresses Old Dog Haven’s need for foster homes to care for dogs until they are adopted permanently.  Information about fostering and adoption programs can be found on Old Dog Haven’s website, http://olddoghaven.org/ .  Professor Yasuda also recommends Petfinder to people looking to adopt an animal, young or old.

Old Dog Haven gives a second chance to dogs who are overlooked because of their age.  Adopters looking for a gentle pet can give sanctuary to dogs who only want simple and comfortable final years.  Just ask Jack, whose calm contentedness shows he is happy in his permanent home.  WC 588


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