OldDog benefit walk not just for old dogs

Published on Thu, Sep 21, 2006 by ara Nelson

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Old Dog benefit walk not just for old dogs

By Tara Nelson

Birch Bay resident Julie Pruitt is convinced you can teach old dogs new tricks.

Pruitt, a volunteer foster parent for senior dogs, has organized a benefit walk for dogs of all ages on Saturday, September 23 at Birch Bay State Park to raise money for Old Dog Haven, a non-profit dog adoption agency in Arlington.

“This is not just for old dogs walking, this is for any age dog walking in support of old dogs,” she said.

Pruitt said she and her husband Charley had always loved animals and decided to begin fostering when they saw a news report for Old Dog Haven on KOMO television last May.

“We had said a few years ago, ‘When we retire, let’s foster disabled or old dogs because nobody wants them… but we do,’” she said. “And then we happened to catch the news report on KOMO.”

The organization, founded by Judith and Lee Piper of Arlington, serves as a hospice center and adoption agency. The center also assists current owners with adoption placement. Together, the agency financially supports as many as 50 dogs at any time.

Priutt and her husband have adopted two dogs through the agency since May – Jessica, an abandoned lab mix who was recently adopted by a Blaine veterinarian, and Smyrna, an 11-year-old lab-shepherd mix currently awaiting adoption in the couple’s home.

Pruitt said because her previous owner taught her commands in Russian, she was forced to retrain Smyrna in English. Smyrna’s former owners were forced to give her up when the family moved to a sailboat.

“She didn’t know all of the standard commands that dogs learn if you teach them, so we had to teach those to her,” she said, adding that Smyrna had learned basic commands such as “sit” and “stay” in as little as two weeks.

“She didn’t even know what a ball was, let alone go fetch one; now she does.”

Although many of the older dogs have moderate health problems, most of the medical expenses and food costs are covered by the organization. Smyrna, for example, suffers from Cushing’s syndrome, which causes dogs to pant constantly, and has a benign tumor on her spleen.
Smyrna’s medical bills totaled more than $800 in the past two months, but Old Dog Haven covered all the expenses, she said.

“We provide the home and the TLC and they provide the rest,” she said, adding that the organization is one of only a few in the western states who focus solely on old dogs that have been abandoned. “Ours are just one drop in the bucket in terms of dogs that need to be fostered.”

Pruitt said she hopes the walk will raise money for the center’s expenses, which covers food, and medical bills for all dogs in foster care, and possibly recruit some new foster “parents” in the Blaine and Birch Bay area.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a few more people open their homes and their hearts,” she said. “Right now, we are the only ones aside from one other lady in Bellingham who are fostering dogs in Whatcom County.”
The walk is scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon, beginning in the park’s day use area. The route is approximately one mile and includes a mid-way stopping point.

Priutt said the suggested minimum donation is $10 and proceeds will go toward food and medical expenses for more than 50 dogs currently being fostered in Western Washington from Blaine to Olympia. All donations are tax-deductible.

For more information about the walk, call Pruitt at 371-0241 or visit www.olddoghaven.org.Those interested in adopting a senior dog should call Old Dog Haven at 360/653-0311.

Adoption fees are usually $95 but may be less in certain cases. All dogs are spayed or neutered and in reasonable health, according to the organization’s web site. Donations can also be made to Old Dog Haven, PMB A-4; 621 State Route 9 NE, Lake Stevens, Washington, 98258-9400.