Sharing Stories of Everyday Good

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Older dogs need love, too

Carie Broecker had been taking a break from animal rescue work when she received an urgent message from a friend who was dying. She was concerned about her dog and contemplated having her put down.

“Alice was getting ready for hospice care, and she probably wasn’t going to live more than a few weeks,” Broecker recalls. “She didn’t have any friends or family who could take her spaniel, Savannah, a seven-year-old healthy but skittish and shy dog. Alice was afraid Savannah would be put down. I said ‘Do not worry. I will make sure she is okay.’”

Alice did end up in hospice for about a week, and Broeker made sure Savannah could stay with her. “Savannah stayed in her bed with her right up until she died, sadly licking her face, and her family asked me to come and get her,” Broecker says.

That experience got Broecker thinking. After working in shelters and rescues for the previous 12 years, Broecker knew that older dogs, surrendered to shelters often under heartbreaking circumstances, did not do well, and they were often put on the euthanasia list.

“I kept coming back to that last conversation I had with Alice, when I promised to take care of Savannah, and the peace of mind it gave her. That (gave birth) to the concept and the name Peace of Mind Rescue,” Broecker says.

That was nine years ago, and Broecker along with her co-founder, Monica Rua, started with one foster volunteer and a very active five-person volunteer board of directors.

Today, the California-based rescue has five paid staff members and 700 volunteers. Peace of Mind not only takes in dogs surrendered by owners in dire circumstances, but the rescue volunteers help seniors and others who suffer from bad health or financial straits to keep their dogs.

two women holding five dogs Monica Rua (left) and Carie Broecker (co-founders of Peace of Mind Dog Rescue) with Hershey, Bernie, Zeta, Buddy, and Bullwinkle (Photo: Peace of Mind Dog Rescue)
The circumstances that cause families to surrender their loved ones’ dogs are diverse. Sometimes, the family members who could take a dog in already have a dog who doesn’t get along with other dogs. Other times, family members travel too much for work, or they have children, and their parents’ dog doesn’t get along with children.

“They don’t surrender a dog lightly,” Broecker says. “Most of them are animal lovers, and often, we sit there and cry with people who are surrendering their mom’s dog."

"Over and over again, we hear from people, ‘We have such peace of mind that this dog is coming to you.’ When we take a dog in, we make a commitment to the lifetime of that animal, and we track them for the rest of their lives.”

What that means is that adopters get three phone calls the first year they’ve adopted the animal, and then they check in every year. If someone dies or undergoes financial problems, Peace of Mind is ready to take the dog back immediately.

“We recently had a situation with two really cute pixie poodles,” Broecker says. “They were adopted locally by a lady, who then moved to Florida. She became very ill, and we had a volunteer on the plane the next day to pick them up and rehome them.”

About half of the dogs they rehome come from shelters, and about half of the dogs are surrendered directly to the rescue.

“I feel that the senior dog rescue is the next wave of rescues,” Broecker says.

“Almost every community has a rescue organization these days, and now what’s popping up are people who specialize in senior dogs, and I think that’s going to continue to be a need. But I don’t know of any other group that focuses on senior people and making sure they are supported, to help keep people and their dogs together. Our volunteers will walk the dogs, take them to vet appointments or to groomers, and there’s also financial support.”

In less than a decade, they’ve placed 1,600 dogs in new homes, and helped more than 800 people through their “helping paw program" and "volunteer brigade."

Kathryn de la Fuente is one such senior who was helped through a paw brigade. Last November, de la Fuente was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent surgery in December, and then she had chemotherapy and radiation starting in January.

“I was absolutely bushwhacked,” de la Fuente says, adding that she could not walk her two active, young dogs, Cookie and Myla.

“I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep them, and it would have happened at a point in my life when I really needed my dogs,” de la Fuente says.

Instead, a paw brigade was set up, and a volunteer came every day to walk Cookie and Myla. “They were everyone from a caddy at a golf course to a surgeon’s wife,” says de la Fuente. “We became very good friends, and the whole thing worked very well.”

These volunteers walked her dogs for about seven months until de la Fuente’s doctor told her that she now could and should return to walking her dogs herself for her wellbeing.

“It may not sound like much, especially for a healthy person, walking a dog for 30 or 45 minutes, but it means a heck of a lot to a senior citizen,” de la Fuente says.

older woman with two dogs on couch Volunteers from Peace of Mind walked de la Fuente's dogs for about seven months until she was able to return to her normal activities. (Photo: Peace of Mind Dog Rescue)

“As a senior citizen myself, I feel this is such a blessing, especially in a community like Monterey where there are a lot of dogs. These dogs could be a person’s family, and they deserve better treatment than being isolated in a shelter.”

Peace of Mind has raised $1.7 million of a $2 million capital campaign to build and staff its own veterinary clinic, which will save the rescue money in the long run, cutting its annual medical expenses of $500,000 in half.

The rescue is always looking for additions to its paw brigade in the Central Coast of California, as well as foster homes and people who can check out foster homes across the country.

Savannah, the very first dog Broecker fostered, ended up being a foster fail: Broeker adopted her, and today, she’s a healthy, active 16 ½-year-old.

“She’s just the love of my life,” Broeker says.“We did put her up for adoption, and then we decided to keep her. In the last nine years, we’ve fostered 78 dogs, and we’ve only kept five of them. I think that’s pretty good odds.”

- story by Jeanette Hurt

Our mission is to be a resource and advocate for senior dogs and senior people on California’s Central Coast. We find loving homes for dogs whose guardians can no longer care for them and for senior dogs in shelters.

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