Pacific Grove, CA
Owning a dog has been shown to improve the quality of life of older people by increasing their activity and socialization. But what happens as seniors age and it becomes more difficult to care for their pet?
Carie Broecker learned about this problem more than a decade ago while helping care for an elderly woman’s dog. Broecker and the wife, Alice, had met five years earlier, when Alice adopted the dog Broecker was fostering. After Alice developed emphysema, she turned to Broecker for help.
Broecker took care of the dog, Savannah, while Alice was at medical appointments. When Alice was later transferred to a hospice, Broecker would bring the dog to visit him. During Alice’s final days, her biggest concern was what would happen to her dog after he died.
“I said I promise I’ll make sure Savannah finds a good home,” Broecker said. “I was so relieved to be able to make that promise to her.”
After leaving that visit with Alice, Broecker had an idea that would become his life’s work.
“I remember it clear as day,” Broecker said. “I came up with the whole concept of Peace of Mind Dog Rescue: the name and that we would take in elderly people’s dogs who were dying.”
Broecker co-founded the nonprofit with Monica Rua, who also worked in animal rescue and added the idea of rescuing senior dogs from shelters. In 2009 Peace of Mind Dog Rescue was born.
The organization takes in dogs from elderly people who can no longer care for them, have entered a nursing home or have died. Many times, it is family members who contact the organization to surrender their aging relative’s dog.
“Often, the dog can be your last connection to that person,” Broecker said. “You’re giving away a part of this person who was so special to you. So it can be very difficult.”
Peace of Mind Dog Rescue finds these dogs new homes and follows up with the dog every year for the rest of their lives.
“We’ve seen time and time again that dogs can adapt after losing their person and becoming part of a new family,” Broecker said. “You wish they could be together forever, but when that’s not possible, we’re very happy to be here to be a safety net.”
Usually, an elderly person does not need to surrender their dog, they just need help. As part of the organization’s dog walking program, a volunteer will go to a senior’s home to walk their dog for 30 minutes or an hour.
“We can preserve that human-animal bond and make that person’s life better and brighter through our services … it’s about honoring the elderly,” Broecker said.
The nonprofit also helps senior dogs find forever homes. It can be a challenge for overcrowded shelters to give senior dogs the care they need, so Peace of Mind Dog Rescue is reaching out to local animal shelters to see which senior dogs they can take out and help them adopt.
After a medical check, the dogs are placed in shelters. The organization has more than 160 shelters that allow the dogs a comfortable place to stay and the adopter to learn how the dog behaves in a domestic environment.
Then the dog is put up for adoption. Broecker says they are upfront with adopters about any medical issues, as many senior dogs have some degree of medical needs.
“It amazes us time and time again how someone will fall in love with a silly-looking blind chihuahua with his tongue sticking out and all kinds of medical problems,” Broecker said.
To date, the organization has helped 2,000 seniors and found homes for nearly 3,000 dogs. For Broecker, this work is about allowing the elderly to go through the final phase of their lives with dignity.
“In our society, sometimes older people, whether it’s older people or older dogs, are ignored,” Broecker said. “We really want to love all our lives.”
CNN’s Meg Dunn spoke with Broecker about his work. Below is an edited version of their conversation.
CNN: Your organization has recently opened a veterinary clinic. How has this helped your work?
Carrie Broecker: About 10 years into running Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, we realized we needed our own veterinary clinic. We used to have contracts with about 15 different veterinarians in the area. And they were all wonderful, they gave us a discount, but it was a lot of administrative management of medical records, and it was prohibitively expensive. But now, with our own veterinary clinic, we can rescue even more and save a lot of time.
We have our own veterinary staff so all dogs are given a full exam, heartworm test, senior blood panel and urinalysis. Many times they need X-rays or ultrasounds for various things, biopsies of any type of mass.
CNN: You’ve also expanded your program to help more than just seniors.
Broecker: We have our Helping Paw financial assistance program. So low-income pet sitters, and a lot of seniors are in that low-income category, if they have necessary veterinary care and they can’t afford it, we have $500 grants every year because people just lawful And sometimes it’s just an ear infection, sometimes we’re paying because the dog has a broken leg and we contribute $500. But this is how we help keep people and their animals together.
CNN: Why do you think people should adopt an older dog?
Broecker: Adopting an older dog has many benefits. They are usually calmer and have some form of training. They usually understand how life works, and it’s very rewarding for the person. I know it sounds kind of cliché, but I really feel like they’re grateful and know what they’ve been through, and there’s a sense of relief when they settle in.
When they finally curl up and lie down and sigh, you just feel like, “Okay, they just realized they’re home.”
Do you want to get involved? Take a look the Peace of Mind Dog Rescue website and see how to help.
To donate to Peace of Mind Dog Rescue via GoFundMe, click here