Wow! We’ve come a long way this year, it’s hard to believe what we packed into the past 12 months. Here are some of the highlights.
On the first of January, we were finally beginning construction on our new home, GrandPaw’s Gardens. Formerly a garden center, we had basically a blank slate. 7200 square feet of wide open space with a few offices on the side. We also had two acres of unfenced land right in the heart of Mount Juliet. We had expected to start our buildout soon after we closed on the property at the end of October 2016, but the previous owners had over 60 years of accumulation to clear out. The building was built in 1952 and had been owned by the same family ever since. At the beginning of the year, we had approximately 50 dogs at the original sanctuary and about 30 more in boarding, all waiting to move to their new home.
February 2017 was moving month and we did it until we got it right. On February 7, our original moving day, we had everything at GrandPaw’s Gardens ready for the dogs to move in, or so we thought. After moving nearly all the dogs from the house and cabin to the Gardens, the Fire Marshall discovered that there were some electrical issues that still needed to be addressed before we could move in (we had already replaced most of the electrical in the building). We had to move all the Old Friends back to their original Sanctuary. This would later be referred to as the “Big Field Trip”. A week later, we were re-inspected and got the certificate of occupancy that we needed to bring in our Old Friends. Since we had practice, the move went very smoothly. We were introducing two groups of dogs who had never met. It was a challenge for all. Over the next couple of days, we would introduce another 30 dogs who were boarding while waiting for their new home. We had a lot of challenges in getting the dogs introduced, figuring out food and sleeping routines and getting our new employees, we had gone from 3 to 10 almost instantly, acclimated and trained.
Over the next few months, we honed our skills. We learned more about the dogs and how to work with large social groups of dogs. We made lots of mistakes and there was a lot of trial and error. No one else was doing what we do, so we were blazing new ground. By mid-summer, we had reached our approximate capacity at about 130 dogs. We also continued to place dogs in Forever Foster homes so that by the end of 2017, we would have approximately 200 dogs in Forever Foster Homes, meaning we are now caring for 330 senior dogs in our program.
We were working hard to spread the word about OFSDS and about the joys and needs of senior dogs in the world. In early July, we took a big step forward when Explore.org installed web cameras in two locations at GrandPaw’s Gardens. We were now able to allow others to spend time with our Old Friends, no matter where in the world they live.
Along with the number of dogs in our program, vet bills were rising too. By early summer our monthly vetting was running at about $25,000. This was beginning to bog us down financially and with incremental growth would grow incrementally. Vet bills threatened to severely restrict our growth. In August, Dr. Suzanne Gibson joined OFSDS as our Staff Veterinarian. Our Old Friends would now receive full time care and the expenses would not skyrocket as the number of dogs in our program increased. We were incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Gibson join our staff. Her background was perfect for OFSDS, as she has 15 years of experience in both geriatric and emergency dog care.
In October, we got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase a mobile surgery suite that would allow us to do almost all our surgeries here at the Sanctuary. Currently, we do not have surgery capabilities. We were under pressure to raise the funds necessary for the surgery unit by the end of the year and would not have been able to do it without a matching grant from Dog Bless You and Explore.org. We are now expecting to have the surgery suite, which will spend most of it’s time right here at GrandPaw’s Gardens, operational by the end of January 2018.
Here we are at the end of 2018. Who knows what next year will bring. We will continue to hone our processes and to improve our Sanctuary. If you had told me two years ago where we’d be now, I’d say you were crazy. Thank you to all our supporters for helping us to get here.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!