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Senior Dog Rescue | Summer 2015 Out Here Magazine

Carie Broecker, here with Barney, is co-founder of a dog rescue dedicated to finding homes for older dogs.

California dog rescue devoted to helping aging pets find forever homes

By Jodi Helmer

Photography by Laura Dickinson


If Gizmo, one of the dogs available for adoption through Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, could write his own personal ad, it might read: Senior gentleman looking for long-term relationship with a loving family. I love gourmet treats and snuggling on the couch. Even though I don’t hear very well and have some grey around my muzzle, I promise to be a loyal companion.

Because Gizmo and the other 60 senior dogs that are living in foster homes and waiting for their “fur-ever families” can’t speak for themselves, Carie Broecker, co-founder of the Pacific Grove, Calif., rescue is doing it for them.

“There is a real need to help senior dogs,” Carie explains.

Many older dogs end up in shelters because something happens to their owners; others are surrendered due to health problems associated with aging, such as doggie dementia or incontinence, she notes. No dog, regardless of its age, likes being in a shelter but the experience tends to be harder on older dogs.

“Older dogs often become depressed in a shelter, sitting at the back of the kennel, staring at the wall and waiting for their person to come back,” she says.

Keeping older dogs out of shelters — or preventing them from ending up there in the first place — is the goal of Peace of Mind Dog Rescue.

Carie came up with the idea to start the rescue in 2009 while she was caring for Savannah, a 9-year-old dog whose owner, Alice, was in and out of the hospital with a chronic illness. While Carie was visiting the hospital, Alice confessed that she worried about what would happen to Savannah after she died.

“It was heartbreaking,” Carie recalls. “I promised to take care of her.”

On the way home from the hospital, Carie called Monica Rua, a longtime friend and dog rescue volunteer, to talk about her promise — and the need to support senior dogs. Within minutes, the pair decided to start Peace of Mind Dog Rescue.

“Many older dogs enter shelters because something happens to their owners or because of health problems associated with aging, such as doggie dementia or incontinence. No dog likes being in a shelter but the experience tends to be harder on older dogs”, Carie says.

‘We Want to Keep Them Together’

Peace of Mind Dog Rescue is different than other animal rescue organizations; while its focus is on older dogs, the nonprofit also works with senior citizens who can no longer care for their beloved four-legged friends due to illnesses or financial constraints.

The rescue also operates a Helping Paw Program, designed to help senior citizens care for their pets, providing routine vet care, including transportation to vet appointments, pet-sitting during hospitalizations, flea medications, dog food, and more to increase the odds that pets can remain with their senior guardians.

“A lot of the dogs living with seniors are senior dogs,” Carie says. “The dog and their owner have grown old together and we want to keep them together whenever it’s possible.”

Peace of Mind Dog Rescue accepts dogs when their senior owners can no longer care for them; the rescue also takes in older dogs that are surrendered to shelters. To date, Peace of Mind has saved some 750 dogs.

But despite a growing awareness of the importance of pet adoption, convincing adopters to choose a senior pet over a cuddly puppy remains challenging.

Christine Derr, with furry friend Tugboat, is one of Peace of Mind Dog Rescue’s dedicated foster parents.

“Even if it’s a healthy, friendly dog, senior dogs still have a really hard time getting adopted,” Carie says. “A lot of the resistance to adopting an older dog is heartache; people want to have their dogs for as long as possible before letting go.”

But families who open their homes and hearts to older dogs experience significant rewards. While all of the dogs have a special place in Carie’s heart, one adoption stands out in her mind.

A 9-year-old pug was found as a stray. She was dirty, covered in ticks, and had overgrown nails and bulging eyes. A vet exam revealed that Missy the Pug had severe glaucoma and needed to have her eyes removed. To complicate matters, Missy didn’t get along well with other dogs. In the two years Missy was in rescue, she lived in seven different foster homes.

Despite her challenges, one of the rescue’s volunteers fell in love with the disabled pug and adopted her, providing the loving family Missy deserved in her Golden Years.

“She had a fairytale life because the family gave her a chance,” Carie says.

She’s grateful for the adopters who open their homes to older dogs. The rescue has placed dogs with terminal illnesses and dogs as old as 20 into loving homes.

“As a dog’s age goes up, we see more people adopting to make a difference in the dog’s life rather than wanting a dog to make a difference in their life,” she says. “No matter how old the dog is, we often have adopters tell us, ‘The dog gave me so much more than I gave the dog."


Jodi Helmer is a North Carolina writer.

Summer 2015 Out Here Magazine Home Page