Helping the most vulnerable
Helping the most vulnerable
The Old Mutt Hut is a sanctuary for old dogs located about 35 minutes from Colorado Springs. The dogs, all of whom are over the age of 10, and all of whom wound up homeless for one reason or another, live with a full-time caregiver, receive the best medical care and have several couches and beds for lounging. They are never crated or put into kennels.
The state-licensed, 501c-3 facility is supported entirely by donations from individuals.
The Old Mutt Hut has a limited capacity, and therefore the organization maintains lists of people who are looking to adopt older dogs and rescues who have old dogs, and puts them in touch with each other.
Godfrey, a bearded collie, 12 years old, endured three awful living situations. After the last one (he wasn't groomed, his long curly fur matted and knit his legs and undercarriage together, leaving him unable to walk, left for dead near a creek) the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region contacted us. Can you just let him finish out his life with love, they asked?
That's easy. Despite his horrid background, Godfrey is a gentle, loving soul who makes no demands and appreciates every little gesture. It took some time for us to help him rebuild his muscle mass after all those months of not being able to walk correctly due to matted fur, but now he loves his walks and listening to the birds as he lies on the deck on the bed we put out there for his afternoon naps.
He quickly makes friends with everyone who joins The Old Mutt Hut, and now has gained the confidence to actually request a pat on the shoulder or a kiss on the nose.
FOR OPERATING YEAR 2020
What a year, right?
And yet, even the very tough 2020 brought some brightness to The Old Mutt Hut. We took in three additional old dogs —t he ever-cheerful Lacee, a 12-year-old Aussie/border collie; Lexi, a good-natured bloodhound, about 10 years old; and Cocoa, 12 or 13, a perpetually smiling chocolate lab. Lacee came to us after her person developed fast-moving dementia and had to move into a care facility. Lexi and Cocoa came from The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region.
We also adopted out a dog for the first time: JayCee, a high-energy border collie, 11, who was with us for six months, needed someone of her very own, and we located the perfect person with the help of a supporter.
During this last 12 months we’ve learned a great deal more about how to keep old dogs engaged and stimulated; welcomed a few more devoted volunteers; and gained support for our merry band of oldies from as far away as Maine. Other highlights: The local NBC affiliate did a really nice story on us. We celebrated the 18th birthday of our remarkable beagle, the Magnificent Miss Molly. And in addition to the dogs we took in, we helped facilitate the re-homing of nine other old dogs who could not come to us because they don’t get on well with other dogs.
The year started off normally enough — walks with the dogs through the snow, chopping ice in the back dog yard, routine vet visits and vaccinations for everyone, and preparations to get rattlesnake boosters in the spring (a requirement in our area, which is located far from vet care and, sadly, quite the haven for rattlesnakes).
And then we, like everyone else, were gut-punched when the pandemic hit and lingered, the many implications grew more clear, and the lockdown went into effect. Soon it became obvious funding for the oldies could diminish to worrisome levels. We had to cancel the spring and summer fundraisers we had scheduled, of course. And we had to find ways to adjust. More online auctions. Yard sales once those were considered safe. We applied for and received federal PPP funds for our one paid employee, fulltime caregiver Tami. Board member Robin researched how to get our property taxes excused (because of our nonprofit status) after they suddenly jumped from $300 annually to $1,200, and she successfully navigated the 40 pages of documentation required to get that savings approved for us. Volunteer Dorothy scored donations of dog food from Bentley’s (and she also scoured the town for almost non-existent paper towels to add to the few rolls we shared so Bentley’s could do the cleaning required after each sale to remain open).
Every person and every group was struggling, of course. We were able to donate some crates to a local group that transports cats to get free and low-cost spays and neuters, as well as some to a dog rescue; and we located a rescue group that needed puppy food that was donated to us and that our oldies can’t eat.
We were thrilled to receive an unexpected $1,000 from the American Humane Association to help with food and medical care expenses during this awful time. Board member Garry created “In Your Honor” certificates so people could donate in someone else’s name for birthdays and so on, and the honored person received the certificate in the mail. These have proven to be very popular. Board member Robin, who had sewed hundreds of free face masks for first responders during the Great Mask Shortage early in the pandemic, concluded once the shortage had passed and masks were once again in strong supply, that hand-made masks could be a good fundraiser for The Old Mutt Hut. We sold hundreds of those masks through various means.
While all these efforts were unfolding, our supporters came through for us. In huge ways. Many, once they figured out their new financial situations, began sending us $10 or $15 or $25 – whatever they could spare whenever they could spare it. Some sent much more. Four sent us a portion of the stimulus money they received with notes like this one: “I’ve lived on my retirement funds for a few years now and really don’t have a deep need for the stimulus money, so I’m sending you and a couple of other charities I believe in a piece of it.” And people who had been contributing to us since almost the beginning continued, sometimes in a bigger way than usual, knowing that every nonprofit was facing financial challenges. We shed some tears as people coping with their own uncertainties remembered the oldies.
People we’ve never met (and some people we have) mounted birthday fundraisers for us on their Facebook accounts; artists and quilters donated some of their creations for us to sell at our auctions; supporters sent us gift items to sell online; folks donated supplies such as paper towels, Cosequin for joint health, trash bags and dog beds; Pet Smart at Broadmoor Towne Center gave us hundreds of overstock dog jackets, life jackets and other supplies.
Volunteers Michelle and Mark bought us a new dryer after ours broke, and then they bought the materials and built a new half wall to make isolating newcomer dogs easier during their quarantine period. Volunteers Susan and Jerry paid for someone to come and mow the fields closest to us to help reduce fire risk and also to keep the rattlesnake population down. Our small but mighty band of loyal volunteers, who walk the dogs hundreds of miles a year, give them baths, brush them and clip toenails, also put another coat of paint on the porch railings so we can get through yet one more wood-punishing winter before having to think about replacing them, installed a clothesline for the months we didn’t have a dryer, and hauled in a tractor to plow up a second hiking trail through the prairie for the dogs.
To say we have felt loved and lucky is a massive understatement.
The year ended with sadness. We had to say goodbye in December to sweet Godfrey, a gentle boy who came to us from the Humane Society after he was seized as a cruelty case. He wasn’t expected to live more than six months when we took him in as he had been so neglected for so long his liver, spleen and kidneys were beginning to fail. We got to have nearly 18 months with him, good months of contentment, during which he was never hungry, knew he was loved, and spent most pleasant-weather afternoons in his happy place — lounging about on a big blue bed on the front deck — soaking up the sun and listening to the birds.
We also lost, just a few days later, our amazing Molly, strong and irrepressible, who lived 18 years, 6 months and 22 constant-momentum days – more than 26 months of them with us. She was The Old Mutt Hut’s first dog, a gentle leader who was respected by one and all. She was smart and independent. She was perfect.
We are heart-broken over the losses, of course. It’s an obvious part of what we do, but that doesn’t make it easier. We know they had been happy with us. And they passed at their home, at The Hut, with the help of Dr. Judith Lee, while we sang to them.
In 2021, we’ll be doing more of what we’ve been doing for nearly three years, and perhaps this will be the year we can launch new plans and expansions.
We appreciate all you’ve done in all your various ways to ensure that we can continue our mission of caring for old dogs who need a warm, safe place to spend their final months or years. We are very grateful to you all. And we know Kaya, Charlie, Maggie and the other dogs are too.
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THE YEAR IN REVIEW, 2019
What a year 2019 was for The Old Mutt Hut! Huge thanks to all of the donors, supporters, and hard-working volunteers who helped us make life terrific for several old dogs who previously had no hope. They’re living the good life in the little blue house on the prairie.
Here are some highlights from the last 12 months:
It’s been just 16 months since we opened our doors to our first dog — the incomparable, fiercely independent Molly — and just a few weeks later to adorable little Chihuahua Pinto (Bean), a sunny guy despite years of neglect and a terminal illness. Each new dog and every new day surprises and delights us. First-time visitors often comment that they had expected that a house filled with old dogs would be a little, well, depressing. Instead, they observe, “it’s like Disney World for dogs!” There are sun-splashed decks where dogs lounge about watching the rabbits and birds, beds of every size and shape (perpetually cheerful beagle Joey, 13, always chooses to nap in ones that are a little too small for him so he can spill over the edges), and regular raw-carrot or apple-slice treats.
Some of the dogs choose to sleep together from time to time; a couple have developed especially special relationships with other dogs or some volunteers; and they all love their daily walks across the plains, rain or shine, especially when they flush out quail (with the exception of Norwegian Elkhound Maggie, the Nordic beauty who is quite possibly the world’s laziest dog and who often hides under the table when the leashes come out).
There were, of course, some unpleasant surprises during 2019. For example, we’ve always known that rattlesnakes are part of life on the prairie. We did all the mitigation the vets and the rattlesnake wrangler (yes, there is such a job title) suggested, including having the five acres closest the house mowed three times a summer). We also had rattlesnake vaccinations administered to all the dogs. This vaccination doesn’t mean a dog will survive a bite, it merely gives an additional hour or so to get the dog to treatment, vital time for us, as we’re 40 minutes from our vet and 45 minutes from the nearest animal ER.
One morning last summer a rattlesnake made its way into the back dog pen. No dog was in that pen at the time (though Mo was on his way out before he was abruptly pulled back by the caregiver). By the next morning, snake mesh had been purchased, and two board members and one volunteer, loaded weapons within arm’s reach, installed that around both dog pens. There have been no additional rattlesnake sightings near the dog enclosures since but we’re always on guard.
Another unpleasantness was that we were forced from the property by the “bomb cyclone” that hit Colorado Springs in March. The warning about how bad it was likely to be arrived just a few hours before it hit. We loaded up the dogs and the caregiver to spend three days in town with the co-founder. When the storm had passed, we discovered there wasn’t much damage to the house—a few shredded screens and some water damage to ceilings from snow blasted into the vents by the 90 mph winds. But the driveway was blocked with solid-as-concrete drifts for the better part of a week, and the power went out for a time, so we were glad we made the decision to evacuate.
Sadly, in September, we lost sweet Pinto (Bean), the determined little Chihuahua who lived five times as long — with end-stage congestive heart failure — as the vets had predicted, largely, many say, because for the first time in his 15 years he experienced love. He was a cast-off rescued from the side of a busy road by a good Samaritan who saw him struggling to breathe and rushed him to Bijou Animal Hospital. The vets there got the fluid buildup in his lungs under control, treated his eye ulcer and began to fatten him up, then entrusted him to us. We treasured every day we had with that perky little guy, who welcomed every visitor with a happy dance and a request for a snuggle. When we had to make the sad decision to let him go, four women who barely knew one another — board member Robin, co-founder Sharon, a veterinarian and the Bijou office manager who had fostered him while he fought his way back to life months earlier — held him and wept together. It’s the very sad part of providing this sort of sanctuary. It’s also testament to the magic of animals, that a 5-pound discarded dog could generate this kind of connection among strangers. The memory of Pinto reminds that what we do is important. He was happy in his final months, and he left this world surrounded by love.
We are grateful that the support we have received has allowed us to save old dogs at our sanctuary, help guide several other old dogs to new homes, and promote the joys of life with old dogs. People have brought us dog beds and cans of dog food and huge jugs of detergent. They have bid on our auction items, thrust $10 bills toward us at events, and sent us $30 checks in the mail. They have shared our Facebook posts and told us about old dogs that need saving. They have been our lifeblood. They are you. And we thank you.