Sometimes the saddest face that you see at an animal shelter is that of the senior dog. This dog has had a family to share his or her life with for ten or more years, a warm bed, lots of treats and possibly a few canine or feline best friends to hang out with. These dogs lose their homes for many reasons that often have nothing to do with the dog’s behavior. Sometimes the family can no longer afford their care, they move, they want a younger dog, there are changes in work schedules, the owner dies… there are all sorts of reasons. The dog paces and paces, wondering where their owner is and when they are coming back. They never forget their past lives. You know this is true when you watch a reunion with a dog and a returning soldier after a year or more and the dog goes crazy happy upon it’s return. Senior dogs always wait for their owners to come back and get depressed in a noisy, shelter environment when that doesn’t happen.
Silver Muzzle Cottage (SMC) in Elk Rapids was started because of the passion and compassion for homeless senior dogs felt by founders Kim Nelson (of Bowsers by the Bay) and Daryl Dew. All too often, these dogs are dumped in area shelters and quickly euthanized because their age and disabilities make them less likely to be adopted. For them, euthanasia is inevitable. SMC recognizes that these dogs once gave their lives to someone – or perhaps a family – and, for a variety of reasons, were disposed of in a strange, scary shelter environment or set free and eventually found as a stray. SMC feels they deserve more – that they shouldn’t die alone in a cage. These seniors deserve love and dignity in their final days, months and years. SMC is a 501©3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the rescue, adoption and lifelong care of these senior dogs.
The Silver Muzzle Cottage project will provide both a sanctuary and offer adoption options for senior dogs. The sanctuary facility will be located at the Bowsers By The Bay site for dogs who are disabled or in need of hospice services. Additionally, SMC will have foster homes and provide adoption opportunities for senior dogs who are deemed to have a ‘good’ quality of life in the years remaining but may be less likely to be adopted out via a shelter. SMC dogs will receive weekly massages by a registered canine massage therapist, will receive any/all medical care by local veterinarians, and will remain with SMC until it is deemed that their quality of life has deteriorated to such a degree that euthanasia is best.
Many people overlook adopting a senior dog and don’t understand the benefits of having a new senior best friend. Unlike puppies, seniors don’t demand the energy and patience it takes to train a new puppy and usually already have good habits and are well trained to fit right into a family. Some people are afraid that they will only have the senior dog for a short time and will go through a painful loss soon after adopting, but the love and gratitude from a senior dog makes every day special and every moment worthwhile – and most of these seniors still have many years of fun and love to share with their new families.
Prospective pet owners are also concerned about the cost of caring for a senior pet, however there are often care plans available at your local veterinarian including senior care plans. Companion Animal Hospital in Traverse City offers a Senior Dog Preventative Care Plan for dogs six years and older (and one for cats too!) that includes discounted options on a year of services. You can check out the services offered on their website at http://cahtc.com/care-plan.php or call 231-935-1511 for more information.
The SMC board members include: Daryl Dew, Kim Nelson, Roxanne Werly and Julie Warren. They are currently working to establish fundraising strategies in addition to current fundraising activities underway such as online auctions on the Facebook page. Donation boxes are established at many local veterinary offices and businesses in the area to help pay for food and medical care of SMC dogs. These boxes are set up at Elk Rapids Animal Hospital, Torch Lake Veterinary Clinic, The D.O.G. Bakery, Suttons Bay Animal Hospital, Charlevoix Animal Hospital and the Northern Michigan Animal Hospital. PayPal accounts and an online fundraising site will be set up soon. In the meantime, you can donate by check to: Silver Muzzle Cottage, c/o Bowsers By The Bay, 201 EC Loomis Dr., Elk Rapids, MI 49629. Besides monetary donations, current needs of the organization include donations of labor and materials for remodeling. Fundraising will be ongoing for this project. In addition to private/public donations, grants will be applied for. All monies raised will be used to remodel and maintain the hospice cottage, provide medical care for resident hospice dogs, and to provide basic care needs (food/medical) for those who are being fostered outside of the cottage.
The SMC facility is currently in need of remodeling. In it’s current state, it is a large warehouse garage that is being used for storage but, when completed, it will house four to five dogs at a time and will be staffed 24/7. The remodeling needs are: physical connection to the main building, doors/windows, flooring, trim work, kitchen/bath facilities, etc. Estimates for the completion of the remodeling are in the $50K range. Once completed, SMC will be the only facility of it’s kind in the state of Michigan. Other rescues may provide special fostering services for this senior population, but SMC is unaware of any that provide an actual hospice sanctuary.
SMC currently has 15 volunteers who are ready to participate once the fundraising begins or when the on-site cottage is up and running. Volunteers will be utilized for any and all upcoming fundraising events and will also assist in the care of resident dogs in the hospice unit. SMC welcomes any volunteers who want to help the organization provide hospice services and adoption opportunities to the senior dogs in their care. If you’d like to be a foster home to a senior dog or have any other skills or ways in which you’d like to help SMC, please contact Kim at the phone number below.
Silver Muzzle Cottage
Contact Kim Nelson
Bowsers By The Bay Location
201 EC Loomis Dr.
Elk Rapids, MI 49629