What a year 2022 was for the old dogs!
We took in five new residents (and a sixth soon after the turn of this year); helped navigate six other oldies into new homes; adopted out two of our resident dogs (something we don’t do often but the opportunities for each were perfect); said goodbye to one caregiver in April and hello to another in June; had some fun fundraisers; added six more terrific volunteers; and saw an increase from 151 to 258 in our number of donors, exceeding $100,000 in donations for the first time.
Amelia enjoyed playing the Christmas elf and then had to take a nap; Lexi, wearing her bandana, sang a bloodhound song.
We also experienced—and are still experiencing—the Great Tumbleweed Invasion of 2022-23; the dogs continued to be treated to free acupuncture and laser treatments by Dr. Kelly Hutchison of White Whiskers Aging Pet Care and her able vet assistants Emily and Kelli; and we set up a little agility course in the back dog pen for our need-many-challenges dogs (which would be spicy Amelia and leaping Tucker).
And that’s just a rundown of the fast facts.
Maggie, the elegant Norwegian elkhound, spent a great deal of time pondering all things.
But really, as usual, the best of The Old Mutt Hut are the regular-day, regular-dog moments that bring smiles to all who encounter this merry band of retirees. There’s Cocoa, the 80-pound, mother-to-all chocolate lab who, despite the large collection of big beds situated throughout the house always jams herself into the smallest bed she can find and then looks perplexed that some part of her just isn’t fitting; and Lexi, the good-natured bloodhound who annoys all the dogs with her utter lack of spatial awareness, bumping and pushing (and slobbering) her way through every canine gathering; and peppery Amelia, the dachshund mix who is the consummate cuddler and kisser and also is so eager to take on any roaming country dog or coyote she must be walked with a collar AND a harness with a leash attached to each. They’re a quirky and charming group and we’re grateful for the support that has allowed them to live out their lives with the care and the love they deserve.
Christmas is always festive at The Old Mutt Hut.
As is always the case, it was an eventful year filled with surprise challenges, incoming dogs, and generosities in many forms.
Grass and prairie fires were rampant in our part of Colorado during April, May and June, the result of an exceptionally dry winter and spring and extremely high winds. We were very worried because if a fire were to burst forth close to us (as some did) we would not be able to get all the dogs into one SUV to get them to safety. After a couple of sleepless nights, we launched a GoFundMe plea and in a week people donated more than $20,000. Heuberger Subaru found us a 2015 transit van that we could afford, and we quickly filled it with size-appropriate crates labeled with each dog’s name. It can be loaded and ready to roll in 12 minutes. We are incredibly grateful folks rallied so quickly for us.
Volunteers Susan and Craig tested out the van with Lacee and Bella.
Caregiver Kathy departed in April for a job at another sanctuary. Co-founder Sharon moved with her dog Clancy and cat Gus to The Hut for a few weeks while a search was launched. Shae became our fourth new caregiver in June. A vet tech with years of experience, she and her partner TJ, a chemist who works in town, settled in well, learning the ways of the prairie and developing lovely relationships with the dogs.
Some big medical interventions took place. Arthur, the lanky border collie mix who came to us in 2021 with a massive growth on his lower jaw that required a piece of his jaw being removed and then, a few months later, ACL surgery, got ACL surgery on the other leg in January 2022. By June he was happily running about pain free. We spent thousands of dollars on him, but he was only 10, completely healthy but for the mouth growth (non-cancerous) and two ruined knees, and we knew this affectionate boy had at least 5 more years of great life. So, it was a given that we’d invest in making him feel well again. In September, volunteer Dianne said she’d fallen in love with him and wondered if we would be willing for her to adopt him. YES!! She hikes in Ute Valley Park every afternoon after work (which he needs); she works from home (which, being a bit anxious, he also needs); and we know she will do whatever necessary to keep him happy. He went to live with Dianne and husband Bob in October, vacationed in Canada with them in November, and is very happy.
Volunteer Dana spent time with Arthur during his ACL surgery recovery; after his adoption he was known as Artie and visited Canada.
Mo, the tall hound mix who came to us with a hideously deformed foot, began developing monthly painful pressure-sore type growths on that foot. No one knew quite why, only that nothing inside that foot was normal. In May we amputated the toe that was the site of those awful sores hoping that would help. The painful growths ceased. Because the surgery site is on the bottom of his foot, it requires bandaging every week. But he’s not in pain anymore, and the bandage doesn’t seem to trouble him. When it’s wet outside and he has to wear a boot, he sticks his paw out and waits patiently for his foot gear to go on.
Mo the hound is a firm believer in the healing value of touch.
Benton the mini dacshund suffered a scary bout of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, which essentially means he was bleeding internally, and we almost lost him. But the fierce little survivor spent three days at the animal clinic, pulled through, came back feisty and happy, and was with us for six more months until we had to say goodbye when his heart condition and cascading issues caught up with him. Benny had been the pet of an oft-jailed man, lived some months in a trailer and car, and arrived at The Hut with a mouthful of horrid teeth and infected gums. Once we got his health stabilized, his teeth pulled, and his pain minimized through pills and acupuncture, he loved living at The Hut, where he would seek out any patch of sunshine and would sometimes get the zoomies after Shae massaged his creaky doxy back and little legs. He loved cuddles (and when he was cradled in someone’s arms would run off the other dogs with a couple of sharp BennyBarks), and snoozing in his heated BennyBed (that the other dogs knew to give a wide berth). It was a huge loss when this tiny boy brimming with personality left us.
Volunteer Lisa snuggled with Benton during his recovery.
The Old Mutt Hut board spent months pursuing potential new locations to purchase. After nearly five years on the prairie, we wanted to be much closer to town primarily in case of emergency care needs for the dogs, but also because of the rattlesnakes and the blizzards. We finally had to abort the site-search effort after it became clear the county was requiring of us more hoop-jumping than an operation our size could afford or manage. The city was a bit more agreeable (within outdated 1980s zoning restrictions) but planning officials were backed up due to the unprecedented burst of new construction and couldn’t consider any variance request from us in fewer than 3 months—an unacceptable duration to sellers in this market.
Our first entering resident of 2022 was Emmett, 12, a little terrier mix so odd looking he was cute. His owner had passed away and the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (HSPPR) asked us to take him because they couldn’t adopt him out due to all the mouth issues he had. We welcomed him in, he had a dentistry that included several extractions, and within days he had a completely new attitude. He wasn’t with us long. He and the caregiver, Kathy, formed an intense bond, and when she left The Old Mutt Hut in April to take a job at Kindness Ranch in Wyoming, she asked to adopt him. We agreed and off he went.
Emmett taking a mid day nap.
Bella, a beautiful 15-year-old gray and black cattle dog joined us in February. A quiet, watchful girl, Bella belonged to a Denver woman who had endured a series of awful life events over the course of a few months—covid early in the pandemic, loss of her job when a few weeks later she contracted meningitis, a car accident that totaled her vehicle, inability to find work during the pandemic shutdowns, which led to her selling her house and moving into an apartment, and still suffering lingering effects of covid. By January 2022 she still hadn’t managed to land a job. We don’t ordinarily take dogs from individuals because we don’t wish to develop the reputation as the old-dog dumping ground that irresponsible pet people regard as their years-down-the-road simple solution when they adopt a puppy. But this was a highly unusual case. It was clear this woman loved Bella and she was just trying to make sure her dog was happy and made healthier (her teeth were a mess) in her final months or years. She is a great, low-maintenance dog and few can believe she’s as old as she is.
Bella took in a little porch time on a warm summer day.
Mitzee,14, joined us on July 3–her independence day from an abusive household. She was the much-loved pet since puppyhood of a woman who was an acquaintance of one of our volunteers. The volunteer learned on July 2 that the woman’s boyfriend of 18 months didn’t like the dog, required that she be kept outside tied to the porch in all weather, had become physically abusive to the woman and the woman worried that would generalize to the dog. Maybe it already had. We’ll never know. We met this beautiful border collie/cattle dog mix in a feed store parking lot at 7:30 a.m. July 3, a secret meeting pulled off while the boyfriend was still sleeping. He didn’t like the dog but also didn’t like the woman to make her own choices so if the dog was going to come to us it had to be a sub rosa orchestration for the protection of the dog and for the protection of The Hut. Mitzee (not her name at the time) seemed timid but likely would mesh with the dogs well, so we agreed to take her. We also asked the woman to come with us so we could take her to a safe place. She would not. Tears streamed down her face as she said good-bye to her one source of honest love. Once at The Hut Mitzee was slow to warm and still has what can only be described as moments of PTSD when she suddenly becomes anxious and searches for a corner. But she has learned to love again, gives kisses and affection many days, and seems content most of the time.
Mitzee smiled for the camera during Halloween dress-up.
Next came Mel, 16, a giant yellow lab, boundlessly affectionate, a dog of the forest, having lived his whole life happily in a cabin on the back roads of rural Teller County. His 90-something owner went into assisted living in 2022, family members were all out of state and couldn’t take him, and although his hips were awful and we knew we wouldn’t have him long, we couldn’t bear the thought of him dying in a shelter. Mel instantly connected with all the dogs and volunteers, a gentle loving presence who loved to spoon and would wail briefly like some exotic African bird when he needed more pets on the head. We had him for much less time than we’d anticipated–only 66 days. His legs simply stopped working. And maybe there was a brain tumor, the vet said. On his last afternoon with us, before Dr. Rob Hutchison of White Whiskers came to help him pass away, caregiver Shae loaded him into a wagon and hauled him along the trail he could no longer walk, he lying comfortably on fleece blankets, happily sniffing the wind and watching the birds and bunnies.
Mel was with us only a short time but stole everyone’s heart.
During Thanksgiving week, we got Tucker, 12, a 50-pound high-intensity, wheat-colored, wire-haired mix from Texas who was hours from euthanasia at a shelter in high-kill Texas when he was snatched from death row by one of our former volunteers and driven the 16 hours to The Hut. He’s an affectionate doll who requires a great deal of exercise and can jump the 4-foot half wall that separates one part of the house from another. He loves belly rubs and giving paw shakes. When spring comes, he’ll be doing some agility work in the rear play pen with Shae to provide some of the activity and stimulation he requires.
Tucker celebrated Christmas with plenty of treats.
As always, our amazing volunteers were and are the mainstay of our operation. They strolled prairie roads with our old dogs nearly every morning (and sometimes speed walked those same roads with long-walker dogs who like a distance of 3 or 4 miles and a very brisk pace) and provided what we call “cuddle time” in the afternoons, giving one-on-one attention. They also orchestrated our 2022 yard sale and online auctions (always filled with terrific new donated items, including a quilted piece created each auction by a Pueblo West supporter, and a beautiful mosaic art piece from a Colorado Springs mosaic artist).
Volunteer Joe hung out in the play yard with Cocoa, Lacee and Lexi.
Our volunteers transported dogs to veterinarian visits, attended our fundraisers (mostly at breweries, hauling their friends along to raise yet more money!), and created important connections for us.
They also showed up for out-of-the-ordinary projects: volunteers Dana and Joe rounded up five of Joe’s Special Forces buddies to install hundreds of feet of rattlesnake fencing; Mark, Michelle and Rob replaced the large section of our metal deck roof that blew off during a windstorm and also installed rattlesnake fencing along the bottom of our storage shed to keep the growing number of bunnies from taking up residence and creating an even larger number of bunnies. Ten of our volunteers spent nearly a full day clearing the dog pens and fence lines of the record-breaking invasion of tumbleweeds (the result of a wet late summer, an extremely dry fall and 70 mph winds). And supporter Jeff hauled his tractor the 40 miles from Elbert, and he and a buddy spent 8 hours trying to bring more of the pony-sized tumbleweeds under control.
Emily was among 10 volunteers who spent a day battling the tumbleweed invasion.
Our supporters devised inventive ways to funnel financial support our way. A soon-to-be-married couple told their wedding guests they didn’t need gifts and asked that people send checks instead to The Old Mutt Hut. Two people sent us money and asked us to send notes to relatives telling them that their birthday gift was a donation to us. Two people made donations to us to honor the dogs of friends. And the families of two beloved relatives who passed away asked that rather than flowers donations be sent to us. We have “In Your Honor” certificates that we send out in these circumstances. We’ve also been told by three supporters that we are named as beneficiaries in their wills.
We were gifted with a nearly $2,000 medical care credit that our animal clinic, Bijou Animal Hospital, collected for us during National Mutt Day by asking people if they wanted to round up their bills to support us. One of Bijou’s client couples opted not to round up but donated $1,500 to our medical account.
So many lovely moments and generosities.
And so many forever-in-our-hearts images: Lacee sitting ramrod straight, head swiveling, watching for any signal that her presence is required; Lexi napping in a huge ray of sun coming through the window, waking after the sun has moved away, rising huffily and seeking the new location where the sun still hits; Amelia parading back and forth along the back of the sofa eyeing the driveway so she can be the first to know when a volunteer is arriving; Tucker jumping vertically in place, all four feet off the floor like a goat on a trampoline; Maggie the Norwegian Elkhound approaching the water bowl and waiting pointedly until it is refilled to the brim, as a slightly lowered level of water is completely unacceptable; and Mo always working to keep a dignified expression even under ridiculous circumstances.
Lacee all buckled in for an overnighter with co-founder Sharon; Lexi snoozing in the sun; Mo agreeably posing in a hat; Lexi, Bella and Amelia sharing couch and ottoman space.
Thank you sincerely for your faith in The Old Mutt Hut, one of only about 60 sanctuaries in the U.S. devoted entirely to old dogs, and for helping ensure these daily sweet or loving or ridiculous moments can continue.
We are grateful.
January 29, 2023
Volunteer Dave with co-founder Sharon and several of the old mutts
The Old Mutt Hut: A Look Back at 2021
This is the year that was: Three sweet old dogs joined the fold; we survived a March blizzard that kept us snowbound for three days; we lost our live-in caregiver and eventually gained a new one; several terrific new volunteers joined our already-terrific team of volunteers; and we received the enormous gift of free acupuncture and laser treatment for our oldies.
There’s lots more, so keep reading!
Life in rural Colorado … Cocoa thinking she wants to make friends with some of the neighbors and Maggie thinking it’s time to find a rabbit or two
The year 2021 started with the abrupt departure in January of the dogs’ caregiver after 16 months at TOMH. Co-founder Sharon loaded up her dog Clancy and GusTheCat and moved into the Hut while board member Robin headed up a national search. More than 100 people applied; three were brought in for in-person interviews (and lots of time at The Hut), and in June we finally found and hired the right person for the job. Kathy, who had been a vet tech for the better part of a decade and involved in dog rescue for years, had flown in for two days and nights of 24-7 oldie immersion. She concluded she wasn’t worried about the isolation, raging winds, and other climatological delights of life on the prairie, despite having lived in Florida for most of her life! She reported for duty three weeks after her interview, and after working side by side with Sharon for a week, Kathy took the reins. She connected instantly with the dogs and they connected instantly with her, and it has been a solid match!
Our first new dog of 2021, Benton, arrived in February.
Benton arrived to take up residence at The Old Mutt Hut on a snowy winter day
Benton, a tiny gray-dappled mini dachshund, was referred to us by the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (HSPPR). His person, who’d been living with the dog in his car for years, got arrested one last time, and Benton landed in the pound yet again. When the police said the man wouldn’t be getting out for a long time, the dog came to us. Benton, 14, had just five remaining teeth–which were badly infected; the usual assortment of dachshund spinal issues; and a determined sweetness. Soon the teeth were gone (and the pain as well), and he was on meds to address his backache. The little 13-pounder with a giant-dog personality, quickly developed a great love of lying in the sunshine and also assigned himself the job of waking up everyone at 5 a.m. for breakfast. He’s known by those who love him as Bennie, BenBen or Big Ben.
One bed is never enough for Amelia
Amelia, a 14-year-old jet-black dachshund mix came soon after Benton. She’d lived for years with an oft-arrested homeless young woman who finally got into big trouble. The mother of the girl took the dog for a year or so, then wanted her gone. Amelia had some cracked teeth, a giant lipoma that was impeding movement, and some odd fur loss. In quick order, we got the mass removed and the teeth yanked. With decent nutrition and less stress, the hair loss problem took care of itself. She has become the house clown, ever cheerful, a girl who walks three miles at every opportunity, uses the retaining wall as a balance beam, and dances on her hind legs for meals.
No one at The Hut can resist Arthur
Then came Arthur, 10, a tall, lanky border collie mix. He was dumped at HSPPR by his family, who were moving. Arthur was beyond panicked. He pancaked himself to the shelter floor for 72 hours, refusing to eat and refusing to get up, even to urinate. Drugs didn’t help. HSPPR called us, aware he was suffering, knowing it would be cruel to let this go on much longer. We went to get him, volunteers (and vet techs) Kelli and Katrina spent hours cleaning him up and shaving his urine- and feces-soaked mats, and in hours he was a normal dog seeking love, chasing balls and exploring. He had a huge growth in his mouth that had been left untreated for years and had displaced three teeth, and that had to go. Part of his lower jaw went too as the growth wasn’t cancerous but was invasive. He recovered fast, made friends with the other dogs, and is a typical nose-in-everything, constantly-on-the-move part border collie. Then his ACL and meniscus went. Another surgery…in early January at the specialty center. He’s recovering nicely.
There were some other interesting medical matters. Chocolate Lab Cocoa had an exacting surgery to remove couple of vaginal polyps that, if left, would have caused recurring urinary infections; big hound Mo’s poor deformed foot (the result of some injury many years ago that was never addressed) swelled up with some sort of abscess of unknown origin, and after rounds of antibiotics, that returned to as normal as his foot ever gets. And bloodhound Lexi had a growth excised from her eyelid that could have scratched her cornea. But all in all, given that the dogs of 2021 ranged in age from 10 to 17, there weren’t many medical surprises. Almost all of them are on daily pain meds, one also has thyroid meds daily, but we—and they—have been lucky that they’ve remained quite robust in their elder years with regular vet care, good nutrition, lots of exercise and buckets of love.
Lacee, Lexi and Amelia always enjoy a Sunday afternoon football game
Also in 2021, there were great, if routine moments of the old dogs of The Hut doing what they do best…being funny, and loving, and outrageous and just themselves:
Maggie the lazy Norwegian elkhound scrambling under the table when the leashes come out, hoping to make herself invisible so she doesn’t have to go for a walk. Lexi draping strings of hounddog slime down board member Sue’s arms and lap while eating frozen baby food and groaning with delight during acupuncture. Cocoa pacing the fenceline endlessly, exhausting herself, trying to kill every giant grasshopper leaping from the tall grass (not realizing that on the prairie during two months of the year there are more grasshoppers than raindrops in a swollen cloud).
Mo on the back deck, on full alert, warning us against the horses in the next field, who for unknown and unknowable reasons have begun galloping at full tilt, a clear and present danger in Mo’s mind. Tiny Benton being blown across the icy play yard by 80 mph winds during the blizzard, his long ears like little wings (a fun ride that delighted him but not us, so we carried him to a sheltered corner to do his business, and that displeased him). Cocoa offering her signature love bites—gently nipping a loved-one’s arm from wrist to elbow like a child eating an ear of corn.
Other highlights of 2021:
–We helped find new families for 17 old dogs we were contacted about but couldn’t take in. Two of them found great new homes with two of our volunteers; one went to a couple who’ve given homes to many abandoned dogs over the years, including three from Hurricane Katrina; and most of the rest went to breed rescues with whom we’ve developed relationships.
Cocoa always has a little extra bounce in her step after Dr. Kelly Hutchison’s acupuncture sessions
–We received the great gift of additional pain relief from White Whiskers Aging Pet Care, a mobile veterinary practice which specializes in old-dog care. Dr. Kelly Hutchison provides free acupuncture and cold laser treatment to all of our oldies–well, all of them except Amelia, who has the typical dachshund reaction to the notion of interventions and refuses the needles (but she loves the cold laser treatments). The other dogs have had no such reservations, becoming dreamy eyed and sighing happy sighs when the needles go in. Every month they welcome Dr. Kelly with wagging tails and smiling faces. All but Amelia, who sits ramrod straight on the couch staring daggers until it’s clear we all remember that needles are unacceptable. The treatments have had a big impact on their old-dog aches and pains.
–Garry Butcher, involved since the beginning, left the board to spend time with his growing number of grandchildren. He painted and cleaned during our rehab of the old house that became The Hut, created fliers and other printed materials, and participated in scads of fundraisers and yard sales. We miss him!
–Sue Ager, who has decades of marketing experience, including time with Wag N Wash, and a great deal of dog experience, joined the board and instantly began spending many hours a month with the dogs and launching new projects.
–We hired our first-ever summer intern in an effort to expand interest in and knowledge about old-dog care experience. The young man lasted only two weeks, as he was far from his New England home for the first time. But we remain devoted to the idea of nurturing greater interest in old dogs among the generation coming into adulthood so we’ll try again. And somewhat related: we aim to start a Young Ambassadors program among middle-schoolers through which we will offer education and let them spread the seeds of providing extra love to dogs with gray muzzles. We expect to start that in 2023 if resources are available.
Volunteer Dana is Arthur’s chauffeur for a post-surgery vet visit
–We added several wonderful new volunteers to our fold, including some in a new category we call “dog cuddlers” who come not to walk the dogs as our morning volunteers do, but who arrive in the afternoons to give the dogs one-on-one time and attention. The cuddlers are great additions to our loyal corps of dog walkers, many of whom have been with us since almost the beginning, and who walk miles, bathe the mutts, trim nails, transport them to the vet, and also give plenty of love.
–We began a search for a new home for The Old Mutt Hut. The coiled rattlesnake on the front deck in October four feet from the door was a pretty strong motivator. (Caregiver Kathy killed it with a kitchen spatula, worried that if she took time to go to the barn for a shovel or rake, the snake would disappear and we’d have to keep the dogs inside for the rest of their lives.) Ancient zoning rules make the City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County (which have different regulations) unwelcoming places for a sanctuary—there are very limited possibilities for us. We’ve invested nearly $2,000 so far in jumping through the hoops required by officialdom (tough for a penny-pinching group like ours), and know there will be more if we are to make a move happen. But we think it’s important to find a location that will allow us to get quicker care for our old residents when that’s necessary and easier access for our volunteers.
–We were showered with many generosities–supporters sending us dog food, donations of money, and lots of paper towels and garbage bags, some tearfully presenting us with cases of canned food ordered before their beloved dogs passed away. One supporter gives us 10 pounds of chicken breasts just before Christmas every year so the dogs can have special holiday meals.
Some annual Christmas photo sessions are easier than others
Another sends us a gift every year to honor her dog who passed away. One of our volunteers orders monogrammed Christmas stockings for our recently arrived dogs to join the stockings of the others that hang on the fireplace mantel; a volunteer couple hires someone to mow our field a couple of times each summer to reduce prairie fire risk; and another volunteer purchased a pulsed electro-magnetic field therapy mat for the dogs to help with their aches and pains. Long-time supporters Liz and Jerry Cobb turned over their skybox suite at the Air Force Academy twice so we could treat our volunteers and a couple of our supporters to an afternoon of football. There are dozens—hundreds—more gifts from the heart too numerous to list. We treasure every one.
We know how incredibly fortunate we are to have such support.
Sadly, we lost three of our much-loved dogs during the year.
Charlie, our little blind shih-tzu, died in January after living with us for two years. He had arrived from Texas filthy, bedraggled, sickly, and worried. Poor nutrition and obvious lack of care had resulted in mouthful of rotten teeth and overall poor health. Weeks passed before we could get his aching mouth taken care of as we waited for his organ functions to improve. Months passed before he stopped snapping at anyone reaching for his face, still assuming, even after the extractions, touch of any sort would hurt. Yet, although he was blind, he was brave, willing to follow anyone along prairie trails at the end of the leash, confident that no one would let him fall into a ditch or walk into dangers he could not see. He was small but he was inventive, maneuvering carefully under the bellies and around the stretched-out legs of dogs 8 times his size. We couldn’t completely overcome his years of neglect, and his body gave out on a sad, sunny winter day.
Joey, our goofy beagle with a teen-age-boy-level appetite and a penchant for launching into the zoomies, passed away in February. He was 14 and had been with us for almost three years. Joey (aka Jo-Jo and Little Joe) never had a single issue with anyone, being a roll-with-the-punches kind of guy. He had a brief affair with our other beagle Mollie (but Joey being Joey couldn’t keep focused on the activities of maintaining a love connection long enough to suit her), and he amused everyone with his odd sleeping positions (legs in the bed, body outside it; body stretched across two beds with belly on the floor; head in the bed but no other body parts in there; the list went on and on). He developed in his final weeks what the vets and we thought might be doggie dementia and we tried a drug for a month. Turns out it was a brain tumor. He was not in pain. He was confused, and losing his ability to process things. On his final night he could no longer find and chew food. Also on that final night, this completely self-contained dog who was always friendly but never cared for snuggling or much attention, allowed himself to be nestled next to Sharon in bed, and there he stayed, relaxed and content, until the next morning when the vet came to TOMH to help him leave this world.
We also said good-bye to Kaya, 17, a cattle dog/Labrador mix who had been with us for three years. Kaya was a bold and independent girl who loved butt scratches; food of any kind, including fruit, chips, and broccoli; and roaming the play yard seeking out overlooked nuggets of dog poop to eat. That last characteristic was unpleasant, of course, and it required us to race with a cleanup bag toward any dog finishing his or her business if we were to beat Kaya to the deposit site. She loved posing in outfits and would shove dogs out of the way whenever the camera came out, looking directly at the lens, shifting herself this way and that like a runway model. She also loved car rides on dirt roads, sitting shotgun, absolutely erect in the backseat, gazing at the cattle and the hawks. In her final months, arthritis made such trips difficult so we had to stop them. She wasn’t sick when we let her go. She was worn out, had trouble getting up on her own, and sometimes slid out of her footing when she was standing up. On the morning of her passing, she had an acupuncture treatment, which she loved almost as much as food, and left this world munching on special dog food loaf that supporter Jodi sends regularly.
So many memories–of those who have passed on and those who are still with us.
We can’t thank you enough for making it possible for these wonderful old creatures to live out their years in the manner they deserve.
January 16, 2022
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.
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:
- We welcomed several new dogs into the fold — most requiring fairly significant medical interventions to ensure that their final years could be as comfortable as possible — bringing the total number of residents we’ve being caring for at the hut to 10.
- Molly the irrepressible beagle celebrated her SEVENTEENTH birthday with us (we know her birth date because she spent her life before TOMH with one man and one veterinarian in Trinidad, Colorado). Molly dressed up, partied like crazy, dove nose first into a doggie birthday cake, shared nicely with her fellow canine buddies, and posed prettily with the volunteers and board members who gathered to celebrate her.
- We helped link up adopters with at least 15 old dogs — dogs we couldn’t take for a variety of reasons (mostly because they had histories of not dealing well with other dogs, or, in some cases, people).
- We coached 8 people through practices and resources that allowed them to keep old dogs that they had previously believed they would have to give up.
- Volunteers donated the materials and time to construct a second fenced-in area (and ramp to access it) so that new arrivals, who we always keep separate from the other dogs for two weeks to ensure they are infection free, have an outdoor space for exercise and play. Volunteers also replaced the grout in the shower we use for dog baths and put up gutters (which we got donated).
- The Old Mutt Hut was chosen The Spirit of the Season nonprofit by the Festival of Lights parade committee. Old mutts Kaya and JayCee got to ride in a classic convertible down Tejon Street as 60,000 people cheered them on (actually, those people were cheering all of the parade participants but the dogs were sure everyone was there for them).
- We held three fundraising yard sales, three online auctions, and fundraising events at pubs, eateries and malls.
- We installed our Fond Memories Garden, a beautiful collection of pavers that people purchased to honor dogs who have passed on.
- Volunteers and board members dedicated more than 2,000 volunteer hours to The Old Mutt Hut during the year. They walked and bathed dogs, cleaned things, constructed things, worked on fundraisers, created literature, located resources for free or discounted dog food, transported dogs for vet visits, forged relationships with retailers and rescue groups, and handled scores of other tasks. Some volunteers came to the facility every week, some a couple of times a month; some volunteers, such as a group from the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office and the athletes from the Pikes Peak Derby Dames, came for a single day to do a special project, with plenty of dog hugs and kisses added.
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.