Dogs: Hospice Care
In a recent article, I learned about a wonderful hospice rescue for elderly dogs, which are not usually people’s first choice to choose to adopt when considering adopting a rescue dog. Kim Skarritt is the owner of Silver Muzzle Cottage, a rescue and hospice for homeless old dogs. It is the only type of hospice rescue located in Michigan and one of the few in the country. Silver Muzzle Cottage takes dogs left being either by choice or by circumstance, as when a dog’s owner suddenly dies and nobody else claims their dog. Skarritt began her rescue about two years ago, and she has taken in more than 70 dogs so far. Almost all of them are old, many are sick, a lot of them are near death. No matter how bad the dogs’ lives have been so far, Skarritt wants to make their last days wonderful.
“They don’t ask for much when they’re really old. They want to be loved and cared for, they want food, and they just need a warm place to lay their head at night,” said Skarritt. “At some point they were cared for, and then when they needed it most they’re not. And that’s why they really need a place like ours,” according to Skarritt.
About five years ago, Skarritt purchased an empty tool and die shop on a remote industrial road and opened Bowers by the Bay, a dog fitness, rehabilitation and cage-free boarding center. Her work was coordinated with local animal shelters where Skarritt became alarmed by a disturbing pattern.
“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?'”
As a result, Skarritt telephoned several animal shelters throughout the state of Michigan and estimated there were approximately 900 senior dogs needing homes within a 500 mile radius of Elk Raids, Michigan, where the Silver Muzzle Cottage is located.
According to some local rescues and shelters, some people do not even bother bringing the old dog inside the shelter building.
“Sometimes they dump them down our road a little bit so it’s not right in front of our building. But we do have cameras up,” said Tia Babera a kennel technician at the Cherryland Humane Society located in Traverse City, Michigan.
At the Otsego County Animal Shelter, people at times come in with a dog they claim was a stay they found, but it’s really their lifelong pet. If the staff finds out the owner is lying, they’ll make them return and take their pet back, like the guy who recently brought in a tumor-riddled 15-year-old dog, pretending he found it. It turned out to be his dog.
“They’re just looking for a scapegoat instead of taking responsibility,” said Christie Pratt, a 37-year-old animal control officer. “We are a little bit harder here. We will make them have a good reason to surrender their dog.”
These types of stories compelled Skarritt to purchase an empty storage building next door to her business, mentioned above, and opened Silver Muzzle Cottage as a nonprofit rescue solely for elderly dogs, which she defines as age 10 or older unless they’re terminally ill, in which case she’s take the dog at any age.
This is not a typical rescue — there is a large living room with couches and 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 is described as looking like a ‘normal house,’ except there is a bunch of dogs lounging on the couches. “We wanted it to be a home,” Skarritt explained.
This is a home for her, too. The dogs aren’t caged at night, which means someone has to be at the rescue at all times. Since Skarritt could not afford to pay someone to do that, she moved into a small room at the corner of the house, with little more than a bathroom and a bed.
There are about 100 rotating volunteers to take the dogs for walks or car rides, or sit on the couches with the dogs and pet or play with them.
Most of the dogs get adopted, despite a short future, thanks to Skarritt’s persistence in spreading the world about the plight of old dogs. But some are not adoptable as they have such little time remaining to live.
“For some people it’s too hard,” Skarritt said. “They really can’t handle it. But for those who can, they find it very rewarding. We have to look at it in a positive light, otherwise it would be very depressing. But it’s a win-win for us and it’s a win-win for the dogs.”
This is a wonderful project and I am hope more dog hospices develop around the country to help these elderly dogs that, inevitably and unfortunately, need a home in their final days.
You can read the article and view lovely images of the Silver Muzzle Cottage’s hospice and rescue here.
Additionally, Silver Muzzle Cottage is located at 201 EC Loomis Drive, Elk Rapids, Mich., 49629. For information or to make a donation, call 231-264-8408 or see facebook.com/silvermuzzlecottage.
The above image is via Pinterest.