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Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Finding new homes for old dogs

'They are so appreciative,' Camano woman says of pooches she adopted

  • Alice and Rick Eller sit with their six dogs (from left) Horace, 12, Kendall, 3, Bessie, 9, Tika, 12, Patch, 8, and Lucky, 17, at their home on Camano...

    Photos by Genna Martin/The Herald

    Alice and Rick Eller sit with their six dogs (from left) Horace, 12, Kendall, 3, Bessie, 9, Tika, 12, Patch, 8, and Lucky, 17, at their home on Camano Island.

  • Alice Eller and her husband, Rick, adopted 12-year-old Pomeranian Tika, right, and 12-year-old black lab Horace from Old Dog Haven.

    Alice Eller and her husband, Rick, adopted 12-year-old Pomeranian Tika, right, and 12-year-old black lab Horace from Old Dog Haven.

As the saying goes, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But frankly, who really wants to?
The great thing about adopting an older dog is that they are so easy to care for. They are housebroken. They are accustomed to humans. They know their names and probably some simple commands.
And they are so happy to be part of a family.
Those are all the reasons that Camano Island couple Alice and Rick Eller adopted two dogs from the dog sanctuary known as Old Dog Haven.
"The older dogs are so much less effort and they are so appreciative," Alice Eller said. "All they want to do is be with you and love up."
The Ellers stumbled on the Old Dog Haven website when they were searching for a golden retriever.
But after being interviewed by Old Dog Haven co-founder Judith Piper, the Ellers agreed to look into adopting Tica, an older Pomeranian, a breed of dog the Ellers knew little about.
When they met Tica, the dog came trotting out to greet them. Her last two remaining teeth couldn't contain her tongue. which hung off the side of her mouth.
"She washed our faces and it was all over. Rick just melted," Alice said. "She was friendly and sweet as can be."
The Ellers had such a good experience with Tica they went back to Old Dog Haven and adopted Horace, a black lab who had been unable to use one hind leg after his former owner ran him over and took him to the shelter rather than to the vet.
Horace is like a big lap dog and though he's gimpy, the Ellers take him on short little walks twice a day.
He doesn't need a lot of exercise, Alice Eller said.
"Horace -- the name just reached out and grabbed me," Alice said. "Now we call him 'our little Ho.' "
Tica and Horace joined the Ellers' four other dogs, all Papillons. And Alice Eller said she has her eye on adopting another dog from Old Dog Haven.
The Ellers call themselves "very doggie people."
"I look at that website every day. We may need to put a block on it," Alice joked.
The Ellers have time for these dogs with Rick retired and Alice working only every other week as a nurse. Still, they wouldn't consider getting a puppy -- their youngest dog is 3.
"We call ourselves 'The Retirement Inn of Camano Island,'" Alice said.
The Ellers also wouldn't consider getting a dog from any other place except Old Dog Haven.
The Ellers truly believe in Piper's ability to place the right dog with the right owner.
The Ellers also believe Old Dog Haven does the best job at finding homes for older dogs in need of a new family.
"Once you've discovered Old Dog Haven why would you go anywhere else?" Alice asked. "It's an amazing organization."
The Ellers believe in Old Dog Haven so much they have put the organization in their will. Alice Eller calls that her backup plan.
"These are our kids; we don't have kids," Alice said of her dogs. "And should anything happen to us, I'd rather our dogs go to Old Dog Haven because I know Judith will find them a good home."

About Old Dog Haven
The key thing to know about Old Dog Haven is that there isn't a public facility to go and view a dog.
Old Dog Haven is operated in the home of Lee and Judith Piper in Arlington.
Dogs up for adoption from Old Dog Haven are either in a foster home or ODH is posting a dog for another party, such as the dog's owners, a shelter or another organization.
Another key thing about ODH is that the Pipers really want these adoptions to succeed. So unlike a shelter, ODH posts a lengthy biography on each dog so potential adopters really get an insight into the dog's background and personality.
More information makes for more permanent adoptions.
"We really want these adoptions to succeed," Judith Piper said. "They've been abandoned once and we don't want that to happen again."
That's why the Pipers started Old Dog Haven in 2004 -- to find permanent homes for abandoned, neglected and abused older dogs.
Since then, the Pipers have created a network of foster homes that has grown from 50 homes in 2004 to 149 foster homes today.
The couple handled 57 adoptions last year -- a total of 117 counting the referrals. The couple deals with 23 shelters with many dogs coming from the Everett Animal Shelter, PAWS in Lynnwood and similar animal assistance centers.
Before a dog is put into a foster home, the animal gets a complete checkup at the vet, along with any necessary medical procedures. The average cost per month for vet care is about $38,000.
"We have a large number that come to us in really crumby shape," Piper said.
The waiting list for dogs in need of a foster home is 15 dogs.
"We want for them to be in a family. That's the whole point," Piper said.
And that home should be a permanent one.
Old Dog Haven has a pretty good record in regard to returns. Only two dogs were returned last year; Old Dog Haven will take a dog back even if it was adopted years ago.
In one of those cases, the dog was returned to ODH after two and half years from a woman who suddenly went blind.
There are sometimes cases of divorce, where a couple had adopted a dog but must return the animal because neither one can take it alone.
"We have to have reasonable expectations but it's hard to be sure," Piper said. "We want placements that will work out."
For more information, go to the Old Dog Haven website at or call 360-653-0311. Send donations to P.O. Box 621, Highway 9 NE, PMB, A-4, Lake Stevens, WA 98258
Story tags » ArlingtonCamano IslandAnimals

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