MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) – Ten years ago, Zina and Michael Goodin embarked on a journey to give senior dogs a second chance at their forever homes.
While volunteering at a golden retriever rescue organization, they noticed the older dogs had trouble being adopted. Golden retrievers are among the most popular breed of dogs in the country, which worried the Goodins. They thought, if senior goldens were not adopted as much as their younger cohorts, then what kind of trouble were other senior dogs having being loved?
Thus, the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary was born. The Goodins received their official 501c3 status April 26, 2012 and began boarding boatloads of senior dogs in their home, taking care of their medical expenses and working to get them adopted.
“At one point they had over 40 dogs in their house,” said Noel Kiswiney, Assistant Director of Marketing for the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary.
Ten years later, the sanctuary has grown and expanded beyond the couple’s wildest dreams, as they are about to break ground on a wholly new arm—or paw—of dog care.
Flo’s Front Porch, a “perpetual care community for dogs,” is set to begin construction later this year, with an estimated opening date in August 2023.
Named for Florence, a rescue dog who came to the sanctuary after being displaced by Hurricane Irma in 2017, the new dog community will feature 11 three-bedroom cottages with individual yards, indoor/outdoor access, a living room, covered porch, kitchen and dedicated caretakers for special dogs who will be cared for long after their owners can no longer do so.
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Flo’s Front Porch will be the first leg of the sanctuary dedicated to housing dogs directly from their owners.
Currently, the sanctuary only works with specific shelters and rescue operations for the senior dogs in its care, but Zina said they frequently have pet owners ask about caring for their pets after they no longer can.
“People who want to ensure that their dogs are cared for when they’re no longer able to, whether that’s because their dogs outlive them, or if they have to go into an assisted living facility that doesn’t accept pets.” Kiswiney said, “They can reserve a spot, basically, for their dog, and we will care for them when they are no longer able to.”
The community will be set up like a standard human neighborhood, with a central courtyard for walks, a large play fountain for water fun, and several “pup”-scale amenities, according to Michael.
Those amenities include the same high-quality veterinary care all the sanctuary dogs receive at no cost to owners, on-site grooming, 24-hour supervision and more.
“We just had final approval from Mt. Juliet,” he said. “We’re going to be breaking ground in August, and it’s probably going to be about a year before we complete everything.”
The community will also include a 4,000-square-foot administration building as well, he added.
With 11 cottages to fill, Kiswiney said, Flo’s will be able to house up to 55 dogs, as each cottage will be filled with between three and five dogs depending on their size.
Creating a brand-new dog-centered community does not come cheap. Michael told News 2 the entire endeavor is around a $6 million project but one that his team feels is worth the expense.
While firmer details are still being ironed out among the staff, they told News 2 they hope to begin opening enrollment in the program next month.
Spaces are limited for the Front Porch, and there is an enrollment fee that will be required in order to reserve a space.
Enrollment for Flo’s Front Porch begins at $5,000 for one resident dog, plus another $2,500 for an additional pup. The initial enrollment fee is non-refundable; however, should a dog cross the Rainbow Bridge prior to their arrival at the Porch, it is transferable should you bring another dog into your family.
After enrollment, you must have a trust from which the remainder of the program fee is due for the rest of your dog’s life, according to the sanctuary. The fee amount will vary depending on how many dogs a family enrolls and whether they would like their dog to remain at Flo’s for the rest of their life or if they can be adopted out later.
While the sanctuary is fronting the construction costs and the resident dogs’ trusts and fees will fund the program, there are other ways for people to get involved if they would like.
“We do accept donations for the sanctuary on our website, ofsds.org, and for Flo’s Front Porch, the enrollment fee and trust will pay for that,” Kiswiney said. “But if they want to donate to Flo’s Front Porch, they can. People can give through Facebook as well.”
The sanctuary’s foster program is also a way people can help and get involved.
“We have dogs of all sizes and temperaments, so we’re always looking for geezer guardians, which is what we call our forever families,” she said.
Of course, the sanctuary is only open to senior dogs, but at what age a dog can be considered “senior” is largely dependent on their breed.
“We aim for 8 and up; of course, that varies by the breed,” Kiswiney said. “Larger breeds might be considered seniors at an earlier age, like 6 or 7. Smaller breeds might not be considered a senior until 12 or 13.”
No matter where the sanctuary dogs are, the organization takes care of 100% of the veterinary costs.
“Most of the dogs that we get in have major medical problems,” Michael said. “That why when we started this, we said [we] had to pay for the medical, because that’s the most expensive thing that we pay for.”
Fosters must live within 100 miles of the sanctuary, Kiswiney said, in order for the sanctuary to continue seeing their “old friends” for vet care.