When I said good-bye to Frankie, I had many regrets, all related to the fact that dogs are not immortal or immune from mind-destroying diseases. One thing I never regretted, however, was the way that Frankie left this world. Spoiled and ministered to even more than usual, my sweet boy never doubted for a minute that he was loved.
You never know what’s going to inspire you. I wanted to honor Frankie and, though there were aspects of his life that could have benefited from research funds (canine diabetes and canine cognitive dysfunction, to name two), I knew I couldn’t raise enough money to make a difference. Then I realized that, just as I had given Frankie a good death, it was within my power to help other dogs have one too. The idea that no dog should end a life in fear and confusion, feeling alone, was the impetus for Frankie’s Fund.
The fund’s donations — more than $3,000 — went to the Grey Muzzle Organization, an umbrella nonprofit that thoroughly screens the recipients of its grants to senior dogs. I was pleased that the chosen recipient of Frankie’s Fund was the Death with Dignity program offered by Old Dog Haven, a network of private homes in western Washington state. I didn’t know anything about the organization or its programs beforehand, but Death with Dignity turned out to fit my vision for the fund to a tee.
I think you’ll agree.
Old Dog Haven’s Death With Dignity Program
As the organization describes the program in the grant proposal:
Too often old dogs who are close to death end up in shelters, or become ill while there. One of our priorities is to get these dogs into a home for a few weeks, days or even hours so they feel safe, wanted, loved and cared for and can leave the world gently with love around them…. It’s hard for us to understand how owners could walk away from their dog at the very end, but it happens. As sad as it makes us, we gladly step in to give the dog comfort, try to “fix” their medical issues if possible, and help them finish their journey.
Along with appreciating the difficulty of offering this last gift to old dogs, the other thing that I love about Old Dog Haven is that these often-brief encounters are not forgotten. Each dog that goes into the home of an Old Dog Haven foster caretaker is immortalized in the blogosphere — where nothing ever disappears, for better or worse.
As the director of Old Dog Haven puts it:
We do a memorial profile and picture for each dog we lose and it makes those who loved that dog feel a lot better. We DO remember these little souls.
I’d like to highlight some of the stories here too.
[Triple tissue alert!]
Sophia was brought to a shelter far out on the Olympic Peninsula by owners who said she was 18 years old and had her last puppies three years earlier. She was discovered to have very advanced congestive heart failure, and taken to local veterinary emergency clinic at Old Dog Haven’s expense, while Old Dog Haven lined up a hospice home and transport, transport not being an easy matter from this distant location.
The foster took her directly to her own vet and they did their best to pull her through, despite knowing that the chance of recovery was zero but hoping for some good days — which were achieved. Sophia passed after enjoying the best of care for 12 days, and her foster mom wrote the following tribute.
We knew that tiny Sophia would not have much time with us but we wanted whatever time to be as comfortable and full of love as possible. She came very sick with congestive heart failure and very stressed: she’d been left (at what was supposedly 18 years of age) at a shelter not knowing what had happened, then had yet another move to a new home. With medication for her failing heart and severe joint pain, as well as a lot of love and effort to help her eat, she was able to rally enough to enjoy some of the simple pleasures of her new life — like looking out the windows in the arms of her foster mom or exploring her new surroundings.
Her mom cherished the time just holding her for hours each day and she quickly responded. Her eyes began to have a sparkle to them and her stress melted away.
Our time with her though ended much sooner than any of us wanted, despite all our efforts and her willingness to fight. Her little body just could no longer carry on. Her foster mom is thankful for every moment spent with her and adds that she is always amazed how these dogs can overcome all they have been through and are still able to let go of that and accept the love they are now given. It is heartbreaking to let them go, yet the rewards of being part of their precious lives, even but for a short time, leaves a lasting impression that no one can take away. Sophia was a special angel who is deeply missed.
Note: The official fundraising is over, but if you want to donate to help other dogs like Sophia in Frankie’s memory, the best way is to send a check to Old Dog Haven and note that you want it to go to Frankie’s Fund/Death with Dignity; see the Donations page for address details.