Old Dog Haven , one of the largest senior-dog rescue organizations in the country, provides homes for dogs age 8 and up who have been abandoned or will become homeless. Judith Piper, pictured below, founded the nonprofit with her husband in 2004 in their Arlington home, and they have since placed hundreds of Western Washington...

Old Dog Haven , one of the largest senior-dog rescue organizations in the country, provides homes for dogs age 8 and up who have been abandoned or will become homeless. Judith Piper, pictured below, founded the nonprofit with her husband in 2004 in their Arlington home, and they have since placed hundreds of Western Washington dogs in foster or permanent homes to spend the remainder of their lives as part of a family. She answers questions this week about her organization and the special qualities and needs of aging dogs as part of our series on the health issues facing senior dogs.

judithonphonephoto.jpgQuestion: How many dogs have been part of Old Dog Haven?

Answer: Since 2005, we’ve taken into our homes 1,434 dogs. We’ve also worked on finding homes — very often successfully — for 1,003 more dogs on behalf of their owners, other rescues or shelters.

Each year we’ve increased the number of homes and dogs. In 2005, we took in 76 dogs; in 2010, 250 dogs. In 2011 through September, we’ve taken in 188 dogs. We have 226 today.

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Question: What is so special about an old dog?

Answer: Wisdom, grace, stability of personality, calmness of soul.

Question: You’ve been a business administrator, taught horseback riding and owned a horse-equipment store. Why did you decide Old Dog Haven (ODH) was something you must do?

Answer: I started dog-walking at a shelter and met a woman through horses who did dog rescue. My husband and I took in two dogs at the very end of their lives through this woman. We got a great deal of satisfaction from it and decided that it was needed and that we could do it and therefore we should. We had NO clue where this would lead us!

Question: How consuming is the project?

Answer: The office is my kitchen, but several others are very involved in the effort. I spend at least 12 hours a day, pretty much every day, at this. Even with the help of many wonderful people, it is a never-ending effort.

We are a 501c3 nonprofit corporation with a small volunteer board of directors who all take on major responsibilities. In 2010 we spent 93 percent of our money directly on caring for the dogs, with 82 percent of that on veterinary expenses, including medication. Our vet bills in 2011 are averaging about $40,000 per month.

Question: How much of your work now involves people voluntarily relinquishing their dogs? The owners either are too old to care for the animals or have died or the expense of taking care of the dog has become a burden on the family.

Answer: Of the dogs we’ve taken in during 2010-2011, 21 percent have been from owners — that is a big increase from pre-recession years when we seldom took dogs from owners and concentrated on dogs in shelters.