It all started with Kelsey . . . .

2024 marks the 20th anniversary of Old Dog Haven! Not only is this is a remarkable achievement for a regional nonprofit organization but we’ve become the largest senior dog rescue of its kind in the U.S.

To celebrate this significant anniversary during the course of this year each month we’ll present a blog that focuses on the answers to this question: What is it about Old Dog Haven that makes it so successful?  Why are we still able to help so many dogs twenty years after opening our homes and hearts to homeless old dogs?

Before I talk about the answers to the question of our success, here are the numbers for those of you who like to keep track of these things:

From 2004  (end of 2023)
3,734 dogs were taken into care.
4,705 dogs were courtesy posted on our website to help others.
8,439 total dogs were helped.

At the end of 2023 we had 341 dogs in care, the highest ending census ever.

Ok, enough introductory information, let’s get to the point.


 We begin this series by telling you about the first official Old Dog Haven dog for a reason. Kelsey is representative of the 3,734 dogs that have been taken into our care in the past twenty years.

Kelsey was rescued from the Everett Animal Shelter by our founders, Judith and Lee Piper. When he was surrendered to the shelter by his human companion, shelter staff were told that Kelsey always got a cupcake on his birthday.

When Judith heard that bit of information she said, “that made me cry and I said ODH would take him. He was an absolutely wonderful little dog with great manners. We were able to adopt out homeless old dogs that were in reasonably good health in the early days so Kelsey was adopted and even did a bit of agility.” Judith says that Kelsey was responsible for her becoming a “giant cocker fan.”

Those of us involved in ODH believe that old dogs are wonderful teachers; they have so much to teach us on many levels: resilience, optimism, adaptability, trust, patience, sensitivity, forgiveness, and even having fun.

The “dogs as teachers” concept is one reason why ODH is so successful. When dogs come to us, regardless of the reason, our staff, volunteers and foster families understand that even though the dogs may be damaged, they aren’t treated as victims. Dogs are encouraged to be the best versions of themselves they can be at this time in their lives. “Poor baby” is replaced with “You can do it!” The humans in an Old Dog Haven dog’s life are cheerleaders, not the Greek chorus of pity and sadness.

If our dogs could talk, they’d probably say this:

1. We are valued family members.

We don’t live in cages or shelters. We aren’t possessions. We aren’t tied up in yards. We don’t live outside in dog houses or in garages. We live in homes with people who love us and share their lives with us. Sometimes they even share their beds, but if they don’t, we have special beds just for us. Always close. We eat good, healthy food. We have toys, which we sometimes share with other dogs. We take rides and sometimes go on vacations. We are included, and our presence is welcomed. We are loved.

2. Our medical needs are taken care of by Old Dog Haven.

We go to the vet for regular check-ups, and if something is bothering us, the vets help us feel better. The pain and discomfort we felt before we came to Old Dog Haven is treated and monitored. If we can’t walk very well, we’re given medication and sometimes strollers or carts to help us move around.

3. We share our animal hearts with our humans.

We tell them in our own ways how we feel about them, and they do the same for us. This kind of connection is a forever thing because when it’s time for us to leave our bodies, we leave a part of our hearts with our families, and they do the same. That way hearts aren’t ever broken; they’re whole and complete.

4. We don’t judge. Ever.

We know that our families are doing what’s best for us, and whatever kinds of lives we led before we came to Old Dog Haven are relegated to the past. When we join an ODH family, we experience new beginnings that cancel out negative past experiences.

5. We live in the moment.

Today is important. This hour, minute or second is filled with positive thoughts and feelings.  We look for and find joy where you might least expect it.

We celebrate the many dogs that have passed through our doors during the past twenty years and thank them for what they’ve taught us.

Next month we’ll talk about the mission of Old Dog Haven and why it contributes to our success.
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