Starting With the 'Why'...

The story about this senior rescue provides the perfect example of why we exist, and why what we do is so important to those senior dogs in need who have no one else to advocate for them.

Winston the dog wearing a rainbow jacket

Winston, Our Adorable Little 'Lion Dog':

There was so much we did not know about Winston when he first arrived, coming to us from another sanctuary who was unable to care for him due to overcrowding at that facility. But we knew he was all alone since the death of his owner. We estimated his age at somewhere between 12 and 15. There were some health issues—some of which would require immediate attention— including a good deal of hair loss, significant bloating, and a strange growth around one of his eyes. Despite his numerous physical flaws, medical/health challenges, and aesthetic shortcomings, he was adorable. The small amount of hair that remained on Winston’s body formed a kind of mane around his neck, and we all agreed that he resembled a small, black lion.

After the emotional trauma he had been through, we anticipated a relatively slow adjustment period. But much to our surprise, he warmed up rather quickly. Initially, a few of the other dogs were hesitant to accept him into their pack, but by the next morning, they were all becoming fast friends.

Winston loved a good romp in the snow. With each fresh snowfall, he liked to be the first to break the smooth surface, running from one spot to another in gazelle-like fashion, stopping only long enough to bury his face deep in the white, fluffy snow as if hoping to sniff out some secret, hidden treasure under the surface. It was like watching a carefully choreographed dance. Continued >

The Evolution of a Dream

Our dream of creating such a wonderful facility for senior and special needs dogs first took root in 2019, the year of our inception. In just eighteen months, that dream has already been realized. But why this dream? First and foremost, we are dog lovers. Like so many people, we understand the joy dogs bring into our lives. But we also understand the obligation we have to our canine friends to afford them the simplest privilege of living out their life with the most basic needs being met: shelter, food, water, companionship, love, and care.

Every year, at least 1.2 million dogs are euthanized, and a large percentage of those are senior dogs—the dogs few people want to adopt. The fact is that there are a number of reasons why people are hesitant to adopt a senior dog. Age is certainly at the top of that list, but there are also a variety of misconceptions about caring for a more mature dog that cause people to walk away from senior dog adoption. Something needed to be done to help dispel the myths, remove the misconceptions, and break down the false stereotypes. And with that, our dream began to grow as we pledged our commitment to help advocate for senior dogs and educate the public about senior dogs, while building the best possible sanctuary for senior dogs who need a loving and safe place to land in their golden years.

While senior dog sanctuaries have been in existence for several years, none are quite like Pepper’s Senior Dog Sanctuary, a place for senior and special needs dogs to live out the rest of their lives in a loving, caring, and nurturing home-like setting on a 50-acre ranch in Roxborough Park, a quaint community nestled in the red rock foothills southwest of Denver. PSDS is a premier dog sanctuary which serves as a model facility others will want to follow because of the unique, complete continuum of care we provide for our residents. Not only will our residents receive love, shelter and medical care, they will also receive hospice care at the end of their journey, ensuring that these wonderful creatures will know how much they are loved, every day— including their last day.

Making Progress

Colorado shelters are beginning to make some progress in increasing adoption rates of animals, including senior dogs. The Pet Animal Care Facilities Act (PACFA) is a state licensing and inspection program dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of animals in facilities throughout Colorado. PACFA’s 2019 Annual Report noted that Colorado shelters and rescues took in 69,692 adult dogs. Of those, 3,890 were euthanized, and 38,024 were adopted (while the remaining dogs found additional outcomes, including transfer to other shelters, return to owners, etc.) While these figures show improvement over previous years, it is not yet determined whether or not this is actually the beginning of a trend or just a temporary fluke. Regardless, we still have much work to do.

Donate Volunteer Capital Campaign

The Vision

Changing The Culture

While we are seeing progress being made on behalf of senior dogs on several fronts, it isn’t enough. Far too many senior dogs are still being unnecessarily euthanized every day. But the Pepper’s team is ready to make a difference. We envision, through advocacy and action, a model to change the culture of care and adoption of senior dogs. We will build upon the growing recognition of dogs that are in greatest need of hope, help, and a home. It would be wonderful if we could change everyone’s mindset so that senior dogs were adopted at the same rate as their younger counterparts. While that vision is unrealistic, we believe we can improve our culture so that, in ten years, we see a 30% increase in the number of households and families into which senior dogs have been adopted.

Through effective social impact programs, strategic messaging and targeted campaigns, we hope to influence opinions, shatter stereotypes, and debunk myths about senior dogs as household pets, encouraging people to give greater consideration to inclusion of senior dogs into their families. But we know that even with the most compelling messaging, there will still be those for whom senior dog adoption is simply not desirable. And that’s why organizations like Pepper’s exist, to provide a forever home for those senior dogs still unable to be adopted from shelters, allowing them to live out the remainder of their lives in a comfortable, caring, and nurturing home-like sanctuary. While we may not be able to completely eliminate the problem of senior dog homelessness, we will have made a significant difference in our culture and in how our society views and treats senior dogs. And we’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that many will still be alive solely because of our efforts.

A vista in the distance

The Plan

Becoming Part of the Future

Pepper’s Senior Dog Sanctuary offers a unique and dynamic solution that is all too rare in the animal rescue community: a home-like sanctuary and hospice for unadopted senior and special needs dogs. Our solution will not only transition dogs from a shelter environment, but will also provide those dogs with a healthy and loving home for the rest of their lives. As an added benefit, Pepper’s also offers space specifically designed to help other animals waiting for services. Our solution is multi-purposed, and the impact it creates is multi-faceted. It will provide countless dogs with the compassion and assistance they so desperately need for years to come.

Our plan welcomes up to 50 dogs at a time into our family. These new adoptees will receive care at PSDS for the rest of their lives, no matter how many or how few those numbered days may be. Not only are we saving the lives of the dogs we adopt, we are also making room for other dogs in urgent need. And as these dear and deserving creatures reach the end of their journey, we will fill the vacancies with new canine family members as space allows. It is important to understand that Pepper’s only adopts dogs from shelters and rescue organizations, thus alleviating some of the overcrowding at those facilities.

This is a critical element of the process, because the dogs we adopt are among those who have been identified for possible premature euthanasia simply because of their age, special medical needs, positive heartworm test, or having a disability. Unfortunately, these types of older dogs have little to no chance of being adopted by an individual or family into a forever home. Because of PSDS, they’re given a second chance.

Our Supporters and Partners Make It Possible

We are grateful to our partners like Denver Dumb Friends League, National Mill Dog Rescue, Best Friends Animal Society and Little Old Dog Sanctuary, and to volunteers and donors like you. Without your ongoing support, we would not be able to realize this beautiful and necessary dream that is designed around helping those who cannot help themselves. We invite you to become a part of the PSDS family through choosing to volunteer, donate, or give to our Capital Campaign and we thank you for being here.

“Older dogs have always needed a safety net, as they are the most overlooked and vulnerable population in shelters. The world needs more places like Pepper’s Senior Dog Sanctuary.”

—Hope Morgan, Owner of Little Old Dog Sanctuary