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Meet the OFSDS Staff!

This is especially for our friends who watch us on the Explore.org cameras every day. You’ve met our Old Friends, but sometimes you probably wonder who the folks are who care for and work with our Old Friends. This week, I introduce you to the staff at OFSDS….

I asked our lead folks to also answer three questions….

  1. What is your favorite thing about working at OFSDS?
  2. Who are your special buddies?
  3. What has prepared you for working at OFSDS?

Let’s start with our Medical Team:


Dr. Gibson – Staff Veterinarian

Dr. Gibson says it’s hard to pick one thing as a favorite about working at OFSDS. “… as I am privileged to work with the most amazing people (staff and volunteers) that are all passionate about our seniors at OFSDS. I love coming to work everyday because I have 120 canine kids that I have the honor of caring for and making sure that they are happy and healthy.

I have one special buddy that usually can be found hanging out with me in the medical room playing with a Kong full of peanut butter until he wears out his welcome (gets in the trash) – Rocco!!

My background and experience in emergency and geriatric medicine have definitely prepared me for working at OFSDS. After losing two of my own geriatric dogs within a few months of each other, I know first hand the challenges of having a senior pet and their special needs. I have been fortunate to foster a lot of great relationships in the veterinary community over the past 20 years and can’t thank my colleagues enough for all their help in spreading the word about OFSDS.



Sarah – Certified Veterinary Technician

Sarah’s favorite thing about working at OFSDS is “to be part of something unique and worthwhile that is desperately needed, not just in Tennessee but across the country.

My special buddies are Archie, Tilly, Rosco and Memphis.

I have been a veterinary technician since 2000, working at charity and private practices.



Susan – Foster Coordinator, Shoppe and Shipping/Receiving, the first friendly face you see when you enter GrandPaw’s Gardens and much more….

Susan says that her “Fave part about working with OFSDS is uniting dogs with forever families and seeing how it enhances life for the dog and the people.

Special buddies –

COWBOY & SASSY, Jingles, Tigger, Charity, Molly and poor sweet Max

Working at GrandPaw’s Gardens was an easy transition for Susan as she had worked for Moss’ Flower shop, in the same location, for nine years before OFSDS purchased the building.

“I do work with lots of people in this job; donors, potential and current volunteers and fosters, staff, curious public, tour guests …. and I have worked with all ages of the public for years, so I can pretty much roll with any personality (for a little while at least).

Until I can’t. (Cue the JAWS music….)”



Sally – Volunteer Coordinator, Tour Director, Board Member, and Dog Caretaker

What Sally enjoys most about OFSDS, “I enjoy educating folks about the joys of living with older dogs and spreading the word that they should be celebrated – not pitied. I love talking with visitors about OFSDS’ mission and showing through our unique facility.

I’m a large dog person and I love the big guys; Francis, Howard, Wally, Nelson and Miss Maybell. I also love little Maxx and Daisy.

I raised 24 guide dog puppies for the blind and just about the time that I was getting “puppied out” I agreed to foster an older golden retriever with medical, mobility and behavioral problems. Handsome Holden was the dog who got me hooked on senior dogs and I’ve never looked back. I met Zina and Michael while the three of us were associated with a local golden retriever rescue and I remember Zina’s first efforts to put together a program to adopt our senior golden retrievers to senior citizens. I’ve been active with OFSDS since their beginning and have fostered 17 Old Friends.


Next, we go to the Dog Care workers, the largest part of our staff.



Kat – Manager of Dog Care

Kat’s “favorite thing about working for OFSDS is that I am getting to live out a childhood dream of helping dogs. You can never have a bad day here.

My special buddies, in no particular order, are: Kirby, Maxx, Chanel, Bentley, Paris, Beau, Piper, Ralphie, Tiny, Apollo, Esther, Hurricane, Romo, Dallas, Mac, Tiger, Sharky, LittleBit, Thumper, Tinker, Jughead, Hector, Tammy, Marco, Sugar, Francis, Toy, Chestnut, Shadow, Freckles, Gretchen and MisterMister.

I have had a lifelong love of dogs. I grew up studying dogs, took animal care classes, shadowed vets and have done multiple research projects on them.”



R.J. – Lead Dog Caretaker

R.J. says that “I’m grateful to be part of a team that provides the dogs a quality of life that they may not otherwise experience. Working with them day in and day out is rewarding. We miss them when they find a foster home, but that’s what we ultimately want for all of them.”

R.J.’s special buddies are Bonnie, Wally, Freckles, Howard and Teka.

Playing team sports and working in communications has prepared R.J. for working with the OFSDS team.



Colleen – Lead Dog Caretaker

Colleen’s favorite thing about working at OFSDS is “No matter how rough a day can be, I always feel good about having made a real difference in a creature’s life by the end of it.

I love all of the buddies, but amongst my favorites are Tammy, Madison, Sheila, Buddy Boy, Chanel and Sonnie… oh and the long-body Tillie.

I grew up in a family that would always go out of the way for any animal in need, so it’s kind of ingrained in me to understand and respect animals. I’ve worked with dogs with anxiety in the past and having anxiety disorder myself helps to empathize for sure.”



Michele – Lead Dog Caretaker

Michele’s favorite thing about OFSDS is “The Dogs. They each have their own personalities and quirks and I enjoy watching them interact.

My special buddies are Dallas, Izzy, Gizmo, Wally , Tigger, Duchess, Mac, Betty, Kirby, Babs, Memphis, Beau, Paris and Bosco.

I’ve always been super interested in dogs and have enjoyed reading and learning about them. I feel like my knowledge helped me coming into this job.

Our Dog Caretakers:










And last, but not least…



Michael – Co-founder, head of maintenance, construction and special projects. Involved in everything OFSDS.

Michael’s favorite thing about OFSDS is working with contractors, his wife (usually), the great employees and the wonderful dogs we have saved through the years.

His special buddies are Little, Francis, Melvin, SuzyQ, Lucy…. Ok ALL of THEM! Michael lives with the Home Gang and many of the original Old Friends.

Michael was prepared for working at OFSDS by living with his crazy wife (Zina) for all of these years. He has loved dogs for his entire life. Along with Zina, Michael volunteered heavily with a golden retriever rescue for a few years before starting OFSDS.



Zina – Co-founder, Sanctuary Manager, Fundraising, Marketing…. A little bit of everything.

OFSDS has given me my purpose in life. It has enveloped every aspect of my life. It is what feels right. It is not a job, it is a lifestyle. I do not consider it “work” (well, except for the accounting stuff)

My special buddies at GrandPaw’s Gardens are Francis and Howard and anyone in the Reception area. When I am not at the Gardens, I spend my time with the Home Gang who are all very special to me.

I feel that everything in my life has prepared me for what I am doing with OFSDS. I have been an engineer and a retail store owner. I wear many hats at OFSDS and have a little bit of experience with many things to help me along the way.


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