This is our first blog post and we thought that the best way to start off our series of weekly blog posts would be to give you a quick history of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary and tell you how we got to where we are today. It’s a long and complicated story, but I’ll give you the abridged version….
Michael and Zina (that’s me) started volunteering for a local Golden Retriever rescue when we adopted Gracie in 2010. It didn’t take long to realize that the senior dogs needed help. Even being such a desirable breed as a Golden Retriever, the seniors were spending their final days in temporary situations; vet’s offices, boarding facilities, and temporary foster homes. Our first senior foster dog was Bandit, a very senior Golden/Pyr mix. He was moving for the third or fourth time in a few months and didn’t have much time left. Although Bandit was only with us for a month or so, he had many good days and we were happy to have given him the opportunity to have them. We were on the lookout for our next senior and it wasn’t long before Lucy-Lu, co-founder of OFSDS, joined our family. Lucy-Lu had come from a very neglectful past and was so ill that she wasn’t expected to survive. After being nursed back to health by some wonderful folks with the rescue, she joined our family. When Lucy-Lu hit the grass, she was joyful and bouncy and never stopped smiling. We realized then that senior dogs could leave the past behind and enjoy their new life. Lucy-Lu was with us for four years and never lost her amazing spirit.
In early 2012, we were living with eight senior golden retrievers and a few other senior dogs (and two youngsters) and had found our purpose in life. If golden retrievers were having a tough time finding homes, we knew that there were a lot of seniors never making it out of the shelters. We started to make plans for Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary (named after the Simon and Garfunkel song). Our non-profit, 501(c)(3) status was effective as of April 28, 2012. Our vision was to have a Forever Foster based rescue to greatly expand the capacity of the sanctuary beyond the physical sanctuary. OFSDS would pay for vetting and provide a safety net for the remainder of the dog’s life. They would never have to worry about ending up at a shelter again.
By the end of 2012, we had three dogs placed in Forever Foster Homes. Our plans were evolving and we were based entirely out of our home where we were living with 15 senior dogs plus two youngsters, Ginger and Gracie.
For the next two years, we grew….
In 2015, we were able to purchase a cabin next to our house so that we could hire some additional help. Our first employee helped with Foster Family coordination, Dog Transport and with the dogs at our home-based Sanctuary. It wasn’t long before we had three employees and a Forever Foster network with over 100 Old Friends placed in homes throughout the Middle Tennessee area (within 100 miles of Mount Juliet/Nashville, TN).
By mid-2016, our neighbors felt that we had outgrown the neighborhood and filed a zoning complaint against us. What started out as the darkest period in OFSDS history ended up as a blazing star. Through the generosity of our supporters, we were able to purchase a garden center only a few miles from our original sanctuary, our home. Our new Sanctuary, GrandPaw’s Gardens, is a 7200 square foot, completely level building with two acres of grass, terraced areas and trees. It is a perfect place for our Old Friends. Since moving in February of 2017, we have greatly expanded our capacity, become a presence in our community and have been able to bring on many wonderful volunteers, which wasn’t possible in our old location. We now have much more exposure and are able to spread our message, that Senior Dogs can be wonderful additions to any family and that they need our help. We now have 13 employees and many volunteers including over 100 volunteers trained specifically to help with dog care. We have recently added a staff veterinarian, Dr. Gibson, to provide the best medical care possible to our Old Friends, both at the Sanctuary and in Forever Foster Homes.
You can watch super seniors every day here!