As we enter the third month of our year-long 20th anniversary celebration, I’d like to talk about our foster families because they’re one of the many reasons why ODH is successful.

We couldn’t do what we do without our foster families. It’s just that simple. Even the best intentions about caring for homeless senior dogs fall short if there are no homes available for the dogs that would benefit from our care. Fortunately for the dogs that need us, for twenty years people have stepped up to provide loving permanent (Final Refuge) homes for senior dogs, and we applaud them for their dedication, compassion, patience, love, and positive attitudes.

Our approach—dogs living with private families in homes—is different than the model used by many dog rescue groups where the dogs live in a sanctuary, shelter, or some group facility. Our dogs live with people who have welcomed them into their homes and hearts for the rest of their lives. The dogs are respected and valued family members. Their mental, emotional, and physical needs are taken care of by their families and the veterinarians working with ODH. (More about veterinary care in a later blog)

Our Final Refuge families have a mental and emotional outlook that enables them to be in the moment with their dogs, to emotionally connect with them on many levels, to focus on healing, to understand that dogs want to be well and to encourage that perspective every day, to have the strength to say goodbye when it’s time for their dogs to leave their bodies, and the love and respect to grieve for them when they’re gone.

Old dogs are amazingly resilient and adaptable, but so are the people who care for them. In many cases household routines are disrupted and altered because of the needs of the new dogs, but our dedicated families do that willingly with smiles. Life with an ODH dog isn’t all about sitting around in front of the fire on a cold day; it’s also endless trips to the vet, special diets, handing out meds, and more. Lives are changed (both animal and human) and that’s not always an easy thing to do.

Perhaps the best way to tell you about our foster families would be to let them tell you themselves what the experience is like for them:

“… they’ve (the dogs) have reinforced the belief that a loving, safe end is what matters. I take that duty seriously.”

“Watching the transformation of a dog from lost and alone to happy and secure    makes it all worthwhile. Anytime I need encouragement or comfort, a dog is always near me.”

“My dogs have taught me to enjoy the present and not to dwell on the negative.”

“My dogs have taught me so much about forgiveness, love and even having fun. I have found I have more inner strength than I ever knew possible.”

“Everything our dogs need to know can be found in their hearts because that’s where we live. And they live in our hearts. It’s a shared state of mind.”

“I think of dogs as messengers; they come to us with messages and lessons for    us to learn, and they also return Home with messages and lessons they learned while they were with us. For a sick (physical, mental or emotional) dog to feel   the love of a human—even for a short time—is a powerful message. Because dogs live in the moment, how we feel about them, even if they can’t be physically with us for long, stays with them and is a hopeful message about humans that the dog delivers when he returns Home.”

“People ask me how I can take in an animal that may only have days to live, and          I always say the same thing: ‘If not me, who?’  No one—dog, cat, or human—    should die not knowing they are loved and will be missed.  No one should die          alone.  That’s why I do what I do.”

“Every day is a bonus day.“He’s brought a lot of love and humor into our lives.”

          “How did I get so lucky?”

“We love every moment of being together.”

“I tell you, these hard earned struggles beat anything.”

“Each day is a gift.”

“It’s changed our life,” It’s changed how we look at life. It’s changed how we live   our life.”

I could go on and on but you get the idea.

Fostering is a state of mind put into action. It’s walking your talk. It’s a mental and emotional state that goes beyond being just concerned about animal welfare. It’s a need to make a difference in an old dog’s life, and the ability to translate that need into something tangible.

Yes, Old Dog Haven dogs live in places, but those places are havens because of the people and other animals living there. The energy of hope, compassion, love and security infuse these places, and they become more than physical locations. Houses become homes with very strong foundations. Homes become havens.


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