Inspired by the incredible story of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary, players spend quality time with virtual dogs and maybe help real ones, too.

By Tracey L. Kelley

August 13, 2021
dog wearing a yellow caution collar at the old friends senior dog sanctuary
CREDIT: COURTESY OF OLD FRIENDS SENIOR DOG SANCTUARY

On the east side of Music City USA is a haven for good dogs. And not just any good dogs, but those with white muzzles and slightly slower gaits. Ones who’ve been around—seasoned, if you will, yet still full of hope and ready to devote their remaining time to lucky humans.

After all, love never grows old, according to the folks at Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary (OFSDS) in Mount Juliet, Tenn. Established in 2012 by Zina and Michael Goodin, the heart-led goal of the sanctuary is two-fold, according to Noël Kiswiney, the nonprofit organization’s marketing manager.

“These are animals that deserve love, care, and compassion,” she tells Daily Paws. “We take seniors of any ability, disability, and health condition. We also try to take in the hardest cases to rehabilitate them and give them sanctuary.” Approximately 100 senior dogs stay at OFSDS, and another 400 are in forever foster homes—an opportunity for dedicated pet parents to provide a permanent retirement oasis for a pooch’s remaining sunset years.

“This work does take a toll on our heart sometimes,” Kiswiney says. “But the reward is worth it.”

The Goodins got the idea for Old Friends after volunteering at a golden retriever rescue. They noticed older dogs weren’t adopted at the same rate as puppies. Since goldens are always ranked as one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S., the Goodins wondered what happened with other senior dogs. Their first sanctuary was home-based, and at one point, they had over 40 “geezers” onsite.

By opening the sanctuary, Kiswiney says, the couple has been able to reduce their “home pack” down to about, oh, 18 members or so!

“We Don’t Dwell on the Past”

With nearly 2 million followers on Facebook, Old Friends shares great tales about its pups. Like Rose, shown above, who has a bit of nervous energy but likes to run and have small dogs around her. “She used to bark at the camera, but now she actually strikes a pose!” according to a recent post.

Kiswiney says most Old Friends’ dogs come from local shelters and animal control facilities and often arrive without a lot of background. The staff might only know if the pups were found as strays or if they were owner surrenders. While people frequently ask about a particular dog’s history on Old Friends’ social media, Kiswiney says the usual reply is that they try not to focus on the past.

“We don’t dwell on what their past might have been. We all have pasts, right? Who cares about that,” she says. “We really try to focus on what they have to offer and the love that they deserve to really shine in their golden years.”

Anyone can make an appointment to visit these fine pups, and volunteers often participate in various OFSDS events that allow for great socialization and mutually beneficial cuddle time!

Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary volunteer with senior dog
Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary volunteers walking senior dogs
Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary volunteer with senior dog
Left: CREDIT: COURTESY OF OLD FRIENDS SENIOR DOG SANCTUARY
Center: CREDIT: COURTESY OF OLD FRIENDS SENIOR DOG SANCTUARY
Right: CREDIT: COURTESY OF OLD FRIENDS SENIOR DOG SANCTUARY

Now here’s the deal: you have to live within a 100-mile radius of the sanctuary to become a “Geezer Guardian” (yeah, we totally love that moniker!) and provide a forever foster home to an old friend. This is so all those good dogs continue to receive care with the in-house veterinarian at OFSDS. Additionally, the sanctuary is 100-percent donation-based, and every dollar received covers the total care for each animal, including any specific medical needs for the rest of their lives.

“This kind of takes away any concern that a potential foster parent might have about caring for a senior dog because some people don’t adopt them because of the potential costs involved,” Kiswiney says. “So our donations cover the forever home care as well as care for the dogs in the sanctuary.”

She adds that the average donation is $25, but Old Friends extends other options to animal lovers, such as tribute donations, specific dog sponsorships, and an Amazon wish list.

Want to Help Senior Dogs? There’s an App for That

Even if you live in Iowa or England or even New Zealand, you can help Old Friends another way, too.

This week, the organization launched a new app, “Old Friends Dog Game: A Game About Friendship”. The idea—initiated and developed by Runaway Play—is a narrative-driven, free-to-play adventure inspired by the rescue stories, everyday antics, and personality quirks of the real-life furry residents of the sanctuary.

“The intent is to really create awareness about senior dogs and how much fun they can be, and educate people who are hopefully players of this game what it takes to have a senior dog sanctuary and what a joy they are, real or animated,” Kiswiney says.

The team at Runaway Play, based in New Zealand, approached the Goodins with the idea in 2017. Players can rescue dogs, unlock new stories and adventures, and even bake treats for them! If they choose to build up the game with in-app purchases, a portion of the proceeds benefits Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary.

“Every single dog in the game is an actual Old Friend, and all of their stories are real,” Kiswiney says. “We simply want to encourage people to rescue senior dogs, and maybe, just maybe, think about starting their own sanctuary.”

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The Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary’s new app, ‘Old Friends Dog Game: A Game About Friendship’ is a free download for both Apple and Android devices. A portion of in-app purchases benefits the sanctuary.