Giving Senior Dogs a Second Chance and Finding Our Family
Shortly after moving from New Jersey to California last July, I was at the farmers' market wandering the many tables of local organizations. It was 'Nonprofits Day,' and many organizations were out tabling for volunteers and donations. I've never been able to resist a puppy when I see one, and Lulu's sweet face was just calling out to me from across the way. This beautiful eight year old Newfoundland-Sharpei mix laid in the shade quietly with a green bandana around her neck next to this table filled with pictures of happy dogs and signs saying 'Adopt Me.'
When I first began volunteering for Lily's Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary, Lulu's body was still patchy, missing large amounts of hair all over. She had medicated wipes and ointments in her eyes every day, and was on a strict diet, but her demeanor was happy as ever. When she had first come to Lily's Legacy, her stomach was like leather, just completely hairless. Over the months, I watched as she went from completely uninterested in walks or exercising to waiting by the door for her chance to get outside and explore. I watched as she began to regrow hair and as her eyes slowly got better. 5 months later, I watched as her new mom took her to her new forever home.
Lulu had lost out on many potential adopters because she was a senior large breed dog; her food and medicine were not cheap and she still needed someone to give her the wipes and ointments every day to keep her in the healthy shape she had grown into since being taken in at the sanctuary. Senior large breed dogs are perceived to be the most unadoptable kind of dog. Large breed dogs require more financial investment than smaller breed dogs; older dogs don't have as much play in them; a puppy will be around for longer; the reasons go on.
Lily's Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization located in Northern California that is dedicated to helping senior large breed dogs. Lily's Legacy was founded by executive director Alice Mayn in memory of Lily, a 14-year-old golden retriever she had fostered. Lily was found wandering the streets of Santa Rosa and brought to the Sonoma County Animal Shelter in November 2007. She had a host of health problems, including a very bad nasal infection and a tumor on her eyelid. Over the next four months, Lily and Alice together battled and survived the tumor removal, the infection, canine bloat, and even a seizure. When she passed away after developing a blood disorder in February 2008, Alice saw the sanctuary as a mission from Lily; a place where many of the senior dogs who are lost, abandoned, or otherwise find themselves homeless, will have a safe haven in which to live out their days, or stay until a loving adoptive home is found, and where they will receive the love and care they so richly deserve.
Some of our dogs are owner-surrenders; others are last-minute rescues from shelters who don't have room and don't think the dog is adoptable - we take in these dogs before they are put down by the shelter. Aside from daily care and TLC, Lily's Legacy provides regular veterinary care and anything else needed to nurse a dog back into health.
Cruz, the border collie in the photo, was also at the sanctuary when I started volunteering at Lily's Legacy. He was friendly, playful, and so smart. The volunteers were warned not to pull him or grab him by the collar, as he had issues with people touching his neck. His last owner had also been warned of this, but neglected to keep this in mind when handling him, and ended up returning him after Cruz got tired of it. One too many times and Cruz scraped his arm a little bit. But we didn't mind. We were always mindful of Cruz's reactions to us and his interactions with us.
Cruz was the dog that convinced my husband to get allergy shots, but we were not able to adopt him because our lease did not allow pets. When we went back to New Jersey for Christmas, Cruz was adopted again. We were sad we did not get to say goodbye to him, but things happen for a reason and we were happy for Cruz. When Cruz’s adopter passed away this spring, we jumped at the chance to adopt him ourselves. We moved to a bigger house, but by this point, Cruz had two more almost-bite run-ins - all 3 were circumstances because someone was trying to pull him by the collar off a bed or couch - and was about to be put down.
We simply could not let this happen. We asked Lily's Legacy to put a hold on everything while we convinced them and our new landlord to let us adopt Cruz. One of the stipulations of the adoption was that we work with him and a trainer on his issues. To this day, Cruz has been nothing but amazing with us. We never yell at him for barking or growling, because that's how he tells us he's uncomfortable or scared. And we never yell at him for playing with us or giving us kisses, because that's how he tells us he loves us and trusts us. He just doesn't get couch or bed privileges.
Cruz has become such a big part of our family; we can’t imagine our lives without him. He is the sweetest dog and is always ready to cuddle or play ball with us. Cruz fit into our hearts like a missing puzzle piece. More than that, the Lily's Legacy group has become the family and community we needed after moving 3000 miles across the country. They provided the support and courage for us to step up to the plate and take Cruz in. We are truly thankful that we have found such a wonderful organization that cares so much and inspires us to be the people our dog thinks we are.
Review from #MyGivingStory
I found Lily's Legacy when I first moved into the area at a local event and fell in love with one of the dogs. Once I heard their mission and what they do, I couldn't help but want to be involved in some way. In the few months I have been volunteering at this nonprofit, I have seen amazing dogs come in from various situations and receive the basic and medical care they were in need of and, of course, the love they all deserve. I've had the pleasure of witnessing several of the dogs find their forever home as well as their effects on the other volunteers. I am proud to volunteer for such a great organization, and am continually inspired by the work of Alice and all the volunteers every day.
I live in a small, rural Northern California community. I have volunteered and worked at the local animal shelter for many years. Placing large, senior dogs has always been particularly challenging. My heart has been broken, many times, watching a perfectly good dog euthanized because it could not be placed - or have the opportunity to spend it's final days in a hospice setting. Lily's Legacy has helped me out at times when there was no space available anywhere else. Alice Mayn somehow found space! The facility is incredibly clean, peaceful and abundantly staffed with friendly, dedicated, knowledgable volunteers. If I ever move back to Sonoma County, I will spend my time volunteering at Lily's Legacy.
As a visitor to Lily's Legacy on multiple occasions, I found that the amount of love that goes into caring for these dogs and finding their forever home to be astounding. The volunteers that run this organization truly pour their hearts out for these abandoned or surrendered dogs. This nonprofit fulfills a vital role in making sure that dogs of all ages are treated with the love and affection they deserve.
I was blessed the day I found Lily's Legacy, I found what I was searching for when looking for the right fit for volunteering. The dogs who land here have hit the jackpot, just as I have. If you are looking for a wonderful dog to share your life with, consider a senior "pup", they are the best, and will appreciate and love you unconditionally.
I originally discovered Lily's Legacy while searching for a possible rescue dog. I was so enamored with the sanctuary that I almost immediately began volunteering there a couple of days a week. It fills a mutual need for both Lily's Legacy and myself. My time and my heart are filled with wagging tails and dog hair, and I help out in whatever way I can. Sometimes it's helping in the office, sometimes it's walking or cuddling with the dogs, and sometimes it's helping with the occasional fundraiser. I admire Alice Mayn, the Executive Director of Lily's Legacy for her dedication to the "old dogs" and her vision for giving them a place to be cared for until they find their forever home or in some cases, to live out the rest of their lives. I am lucky to have found Lily's Legacy, I feel appreciated and I often get as much out of spending my time there as I am giving.
Lily's Legacy gives dogs a second chance at life. These dogs have been abandoned, surrendered, or forgotten. Lily's gives them another chance to give and to receive love. Just proves you're never too old to find happiness. Thank goodness for Lily's Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary.
Lily's Legacy is awesome! It is so sad that our society sees older animals as disposable. Often being dumped like yesterday's trash by the only humans they have ever known, left to die alone on a cold concrete shelter floor,with little hope of ever making it out, these sweet souls wait and pray for angels like Lily's Legacy to come to their rescue. This is exactly the case of the two beautiful senior boxers that are in my care on behalf of Lily's. A small village of boxer lovers came together and enlisted the help of Alice and her angels and these beautiful souls were literally snatched from the jaws of death. Lily's has been instrumental in taking care of the medical needs, which have been quite costly but necessary for quality of life of this mother/daughter pair, as well as all of the other pups in their care. Without the awesome community support, Lily's would not be able to do all that they do, and my sweet girls would not be living the good life today. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts Alice! Gina Heitkamp Mills, foster to Macy and Gigi ♡
I love Lily's Legacy! I have had the pleasure of both being a foster home for Lily's dogs as well as adopting one of their sweet old boys (who is currently getting a belly rub courtesy of my feet). I have never worked with an organization full of such wonderfully caring people. The passion for old dogs truly runs deep at Lily's Legacy and it's wonderful to see a sanctuary for these old animals that makes them genuinely feel at home despite the turbulence they may have experienced. The volunteers are very supportive to their foster and adoptive families and love each dog that comes through the doors of the sanctuary. With Lily's Legacy, you find dog-people and people-people all rolled into one (a combination that's sometimes difficult to find). We need more places like Lily's Legacy!
As repeat "foster failures" we have been blessed to adopt three wonderful Lily's Legacy pups! Alice and her team of dedicated volunteers do a wonderful job for a usually overlooked - and far too large- group of dogs! Oldies are the best! Thanks to all!
Prior to recently retiring, I worked in pet animal welfare (Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, then ASPCA) for 15 years managing both animal and customer service operations. I appreciate the challenge faced by homeless senior pets. When I moved to Sonoma County I checked out where I wanted to volunteer my time and donate resources. Lily's Legacy was a perfect choice for me. The team demonstrates compassion and takes excellent care of the dogs they intake. As the business plan progresses enabling LLSDS to save more lives, I am delighted to volunteer to walk dogs (hug them...that's the best), maintain kennels....whatever the team (2 and 4 legged) needs.