A little peace, and quiet, and love, and attention — they’re all any of us really want in life.
And maybe even more so when death is on the way.
For humans, hospice care is now big business, but the opportunity for sick and elderly dogs to die in peace and dignity isn’t always there.
And often, their last days are less than peaceful — especially for those whose owners, hoping to avoid the expense of veterinary care, abandon them to shelters or worse.
Seeing that happening too often — seeing them get abandoned at the time they need someone the most — a northern Michigan woman started the Silver Muzzle Cottage, a rescue and hospice for homeless old dogs.
The Detroit Free Press on Sunday took an in-depth look at the organization and the woman behind it, Kim Skarritt.
Silver Muzzle Cottage takes in dogs left behind either by owner choice, or by circumstances, as when a dog’s owner suddenly dies and no one else can care for it.
In two years, she has cared for more than 70 of them. It remains the only such hospice in the state, and one of the few in the country.
“They don’t ask for much when they’re really old,” said the 56-year-old former auto engineer. “They want to be loved and cared for, they want food and they just need a warm place to lay their head at night.”
Five years ago, Skarritt opened a dog boarding and fitness center called Bowsers by the Bay. Through that work, she noticed the pattern of elderly dogs being abandoned in their final days. After calling animal shelters throughout the state, she estimated there were about 900 senior dogs within 500 miles of Elk Rapids needing a home.
Skarritt researched the issue, finding many area shelters were taking in old dogs whose owners had surrendered them, sometimes just leaving them tied outside the shelters at night.
“I kept seeing these 14-year-old dogs and 13-year-old dogs in shelters and needing homes, and I’m going, ‘What is that? Who does that?'”
So she bought an empty storage building next door to her business and opened Silver Muzzle Cottage as a nonprofit rescue just for elderly dogs, which she defines as age 10 or older, or terminally ill but not suffering so much they need to be euthanized.
The Free Press described the inside of the rescue as a “big living room with couches, throw pillows, a fake fireplace with decorations atop the mantle, end tables with vases and a coffee table with a thick photo book about dogs atop it. It looks like a normal house, except there’s a bunch of dogs lounging on the couches like they own the place.”
The dogs aren’t caged at night, which means someone has to be there at all times. Skarritt moved into a small bare bones room adjacent to the living room and sleeps there at night.
About 100 rotating volunteers visit the dogs, take them for walks and car rides and pet and play with them.
Despite their old age, many get adopted — both by volunteers and by those among whom Skarritt works to spread the word about both the plight old dogs face, and the joys of having them around.
If you ask me, the world could use more places like this — for dogs and humans; places that aren’t about being poked, and prodded and prolonged but about being treated with some love, dignity and compassion when the end is near.
Silver Muzzle Cottage is at 201 Industrial Park, Elk Rapids, Mich., 49629. For information, call 231-264-8408, or visit the Silver Muzzle Cottage Facebook page.
(Photo from Silver Muzzle’s Facebook page)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 18th, 2017 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abandoned, adopt, adoption, animals, compassion, death, dignity, dog, dogs, dying, elderly, elderly dogs, elk rapids, hospice, kim skarritt, michigan, old, old dogs, pets, rescue, sanctuary, shelters, silver muzzle cottage, surrendered
Before having his sick and elderly whippet put down, a UK man scheduled one last walk on the beach with his dog, and invited the world to come along.
The world responded.
Hundreds showed up to accompany Mark Woods and his 18-ear-old dog, Walnut, on the walk Saturday. Later that morning, Walnut was euthanized.
“Sadly I am having to have Walnut euthanized on Saturday 12th November and so we will be having a last walk together on his beloved Porth Beach at 9.30am,” he wrote.
“I would love it if dog lovers/owners and friends would join us for a celebration of Walnut on his favourite Porth Beach,” Woods continued. “He has had an incredible life and having reached the grand age of 18 is ready for his final sleep.”
Supporters, many with dogs, showed up in droves. Words of encouragement came from around the world, some from people who took a long walk with their own dog in honor of Walnut.
“Thank you to the hundreds of people that attended the walk this morning and to all those that had their own walks with their beloved pets at 9.30am all around the world,” Woods later wrote on Facebook.
“I also want to thank the wonderful people of Newquay for their support which I will never forget as long as I live.”
Posted by John Woestendiek November 14th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, beach, death, dog, dogs, dying, elderly, facebook, invitation, loss, mark woods, newquay, pets, sick, tribute, uk, walk, walnut, walnut's last walk, whippet
Spunky always loved the snow.
But when the German shepherd-husky-chow mix and his owner moved from Wisconsin to Texas in 2008 that — with flakes being rare in Austin — became a thing of the past.
Ashley Niels, who works as a behavior and enrichment specialist at the Austin Animal Center, says she promised Spunky, who she’d adopted in Wisconsin, that he’d see snow again someday.
When she learned earlier this month that the 12-year-old dog was dying, and made the appointment for him to be put down, she regretted that promise would go unfulfilled.
They rented a snow machine and brought to her home.
Last week, Spunky got his snow.
Niels sat in her front yard with Spunky and experienced one last snow storm — albeit an artificial one. He didn’t frolic in it, like he used to, but Niels thinks he enjoyed it.
“To be honest, he was like ‘I’m not really sure what this is.’ It wasn’t cold snow. I think he could see how excited I was, so he thought it was pretty cool,” Niels told Inside Edition Tuesday night.
“I think he felt all the love we were trying to show him.”
Spunky’s appointment with the vet the next day was canceled, and Niels hasn’t rescheduled it yet.
“As long as he’s happy, I don’t really want to take that from him,” she said. “It makes me happy to be able to spend more time with him.”
She adopted him from a local shelter in Wisconsin when he was a puppy. They lived there for four years before moving to Austin.
As of late last week Spunky was still hanging in there, according to Ashley’s Facebook page, and she was doing her best to not think about his death and savor the time together they had left.
“I try not to think about it because he’s my boy,” she said. “I get to spend this extra-special time with him.”
(Photos: Courtesy of Ashley Niels and Austin Animal Center)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 26th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, artificial, ashley niels, austin, austin animal center, bond, bucket list, death, dog, dogs, dying, flakes, pets, promise, promises, snow, snow flakes, snow machine, snow making machine, snowfall, snowstorm, spunky, texas, video, wisconsin
If you are in between dogs — if you’ve recently lost one and can’t quite make the leap to bringing home another — here’s something worth reading.
Allie Potts, a North Carolina writer, puts into words all those hard to pin down feelings that bounce around in one’s head when one is simultaneously coping with grief, dealing with the void of being dog-less, and wondering if getting a new dog is somehow disrespectful to the dear departed old one.
To deal with that, Potts, upon getting a new dog, wrote a letter to her old one.
“Another four-legged creature joined the family and needed a place to sleep. I think you would have liked her. She’s a mix of Lab, like you, but Boxer too, which was always your favorite playmate. But she’s not you.”
Potts recounts the feelings that arose as she sat with the new dog on the couch, much like she did with the old one.
“I felt so guilty. Guilty that I was enjoying her warmth by my side. Guilty that we couldn’t do more to keep you there longer. Guilty I am happy to once again see a bowl on the ground.
“But she really is a good girl and I was the one to suggest we bring her home. In fairness to her, I am trying to remember all your flaws as much as I recall your virtues. How you could clear the room after a meal. The books of mine you destroyed. That incident with the bunny.
“The trouble is, I loved you with your flaws as much as you loved me with mine.”
Having had ten dogs come into and go out of my life, I’d agree with her that comparing dogs is hard to avoid — and at the same time a useless pursuit.
“She’s not you, true, but she’s herself; a dog who is sweet and mostly well-mannered. A dog who deserves to be loved for who she is rather than considered somehow flawed for who she’s not…
“So please forgive me if I eventually allow my heart to stop comparing, as difficult as that seems now. When I scratch her behind her ears or throw her a ball to chase, it doesn’t mean I miss you any less. It will just mean I’ve finally allowed my heart to grow more.”
(Top photo from Fort-morgan.org, Potts photo from Alliepottswrites.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 8th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: allie potts, animals, bond, comparing, death, dog, dogs, dying, essay, grieving, loss, mourning, new dog, north carolina, pets, writer
A homeless veteran whose dog wandered off when he fell asleep on a southern California beach earlier this month has been reunited with his beloved Olivia.
Harry Brown, 53, diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given a year to live, was visiting Long Beach, California to say goodbye to friends family when Olivia, the young brown and white pit bull he describes as his service dog in training, disappeared.
He searched for her for a week, visiting animal shelters and placing a lost dog ad on Craigslist:
“Her name is Olivia and she is the life to me,” the ad read. “…Please help even if you see her just running by. She had a pink service vest, new leash with pink collar … I would offer reward but I am a disabled veteran, have nothing but that little girl. So please, if you can help unite us, I would be forever in your debt.”
“We spent as long as we could trying to find her,” Brown told NBC 4. With an arranged ride for the next leg of his trip, to Phoenix, Brown had to move on.
It was there he got a response to his Craigslist ad: “Your girl is in L.A. County, go get her,” it said.
Olivia had been found wandering the streets of Long Beach, and taken to an animal shelter.
An animal rescue group called Captain Care raised money to pay for Brown’s ticket back to Long Beach and cover the fees required to secure her release.
Brown, who calls Eugene, Oregon home, picked Olivia up Wednesday.
“She’s my life,” admitted Brown, who says he suffers from PTSD and has had problems with alcohol.
Brown has his own Facebook page, and has used it to thank all those who helped him, especially Captain Care.
Donors provided him with a hotel room, new toys, treats and food for Olivia, and a hammock they can share while on the road, according to The Examiner.
Extra donations will be used to help spay and feed Olivia, and help pay for Brown’s continuing cross-country journey to say goodbye to family and friends.
Donations for Brown and Olivia can be made to Captain Care Intervention at mycaptaincare.org.
(Photo: Courtesy of Harry Brown)
Posted by John Woestendiek August 14th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, california, captain care, craigslist, dog, dogs, dying, found, harry brown, homeless, homelessness, long beach, lost, olivia, pancreatic cancer, pets, pit bull, ptsd, reunion, reunited, service dogs, terminal, veterans
The British press, which is very good at speculating, is suggesting Isis, the Labrador retriever in Downton Abbey, might soon be departing.
And all because of her name.
Lord Grantham’s dog, Isis — named after the Egyptian princess — could be taken off the show to avoid any further association to the jihadist group ISIS.
Downton Abbey’s fifth season is currently airing in the U.K., and in the most recent episode Lord and Lady Grantham made reference to the dog appearing “terribly listless.”
“I wonder if she’s picked up a germ” says Lady Mary at one point. “Maybe she’s eaten a squirrel.”
According to The Independent, an ITV rep said in a statement that the dog’s name is an “unfortunate coincidence.” The terrorist group was not yet using that name when writers began working on season five, the representative said.
But the rep wouldn’t comment on whether Isis may be leaving the cast.
While the show is in its fifth season, it has covered a 12-year time span. And given the dog was an adult when she first appeared, her death — the death of her character, we mean — wouldn’t be that out of the blue.
It wouldn’t be the first television program to make changes since the terrorist group came on the radar.
The FX series “Archer” got rid of its spy agency ISIS, “Doctor Who” edited a beheading scene and Fox apologized for a poorly timed “Sleepy Hollow” ad campaign.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 30th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: death, death of isis, dog, downton abbey, dying, group, isis, isis the dog, ITV, jihadist, leaving, lord grantham, television, terrorist
It’s no secret that a sad dog story, properly promoted on social media, can bring in some pretty huge donations — for an animal shelter, a rescue organization, or an individual.
Whether your dog needs life-saving surgery, or even an intense diet regimen, you don’t have to be a nonprofit organization to ask the public for help — and you shouldn’t have to be.
But with the rise of social media, and online fundraising tools like GoFundMe, IndieGogo, and all those other I-would-like- some-of-your-money-please websites, there are likely more bucks than ever before being donated directly to individual dogs in need.
With all that unmonitored money pouring in, what ensures that it’s going to the rightful place — namely, helping the dog in question? What ensures any surplus won’t end up going to the dog owner’s kitchen remodel? What’s to guarantee that the sad dog story is even true in the first place?
In a word, nothing.
Just as the Internet has made us all published journalists, photographers and autobiographers, it has given us an easy route to becoming professional fund-raisers.
What gets lost in that transition is knowing who we can trust.
We can only cross our fingers and hope that those engaging in outright fraud get caught, that those soliciting funds to help a dog don’t get too greedy, and that money sent in by good-hearted people seeking to help a dog actually goes to helping a dog.
It’s a fuzzy area — legally and morally. What accounting, if any, does a private citizen raising money to help a dog owe those who contribute?
In Oregon, at least, the answer seems to be some, at least in the view of the state Attorney General’s Office.
Since January, the office’s charitable activities section has been looking into how Nora Vanatta spent, and is spending, all the money sent in to help Obie — the 77-pound dachshund she adopted and whose weight loss program became a much-followed story.
Vanatta, a veterinary technician who lives in Portland, never purported to be affiliated with a nonprofit, but she did seek and accept thousands of dollars from people around the world who were inspired by Obie’s story.
Vanatta initially fostered Obie, after reading about him on the Facebook page of Oregon Dachshund Rescue.
After Obie’s story went viral, the rescue sought to get the dog back, and filed a lawsuit. The case was later settled, and Vanatta was awarded permanent custody. (Obie is down to 22 pounds.)
Meanwhile, money — Vanatta won’t say how much — continued to come in, $15,000 of which Vanatta says was spent on lawyers she hired to fight the custody battle. Some of it went to pay for $80 bags of specialty food Obie required, and a $1,500 skin-reduction surgery.
Since January, Vanatta has been answering questions from the Attorney General’s office, which began looking into the matter after receiving complaints about how she was spending the funds, and is now in the process of working out an agreement with her.
“They wanted everything – copies of every penny in, every penny out,” she told the Oregonian.
The Attorney General’s office won’t identify the source of the complaint, and it says no wrongdoing was found in how Vanatta has spent the funds so far. (Apparently, nobody in that office full of lawyers had any problem with all the money that went to lawyers.)
But the office does disagree with how she plans to spend the rest. (Obie’s PayPal account was closed last year.)
Vanatta says the office objects to her using the money to help individual dogs with medical needs, which is maybe a little ironic given the money was raised to help an individual dog with medical needs. The Attorney General’s office frowned upon her giving $2,000 to a family she met at the Tualatin veterinary clinic where she works to help them pay for their dog’s back surgery. Instead, the office wants her to give the money away to established nonprofits, and wants to set a deadline.
The case raises lots of interesting questions, and some disturbing ones.
We’re all for the attorney general keeping an eye on such fundraising drives; slightly less for that office dictating what good causes should receive the remainder of the money, and when.
We agree with Vanatta’s reasoning on that: “I strongly believe you do not have to be a nonprofit to do good,” she said.
What bothers us most, though, next to Obie’s previous owners letting him get so morbidly obese, is how much of the money donated has gone to lawyers — $15,000 on the custody case, another $11,800 for lawyers to represent Vanatta in the attorney general’s investigation.
Obie may be becoming a slimmer dog, thanks in part to donations from the public, but, as always, lawyers — gobbling up the bulk of the donations — just keep getting fatter.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 19th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abused, accounting, adoption, animals, attorney general, campaigns, charitable, charities, crowdfunding, dachshund, dog, dogs, donations, dying, foster, fraud, fundraising, gofundme, internet, investigation, money, monitoring, nora vanatta, obie, oversight, pets, raising, rescue, sick, social media, surgery, trust