A place for unwanted, old dogs to make new friends

LANDISBURG, Pa. -- Think of it as assisted living for dogs.

Paw Prints Dog Sanctuary, which opened last month on five acres in Spring Township, Perry County, caters to senior dogs from rescue groups.

The idea, according to sanctuary founders and former Humane Society of Harrisburg Area volunteers Laurie Lyon and Kevin McCartin, is to free kennel space older dogs take up in rescues while giving them a bucolic setting in which to await adoption or spend their final years.

"We went out and talked to all the rescues in the area because we didn't want to open up and do the same thing they do," Mr. McCartin said. And what they heard was that rescues could use a sanctuary for senior dogs, he said.

"They take longer to place," said Beth Lobato, pet placement coordinator for Canine Rescue of Central Pennsylvania. "You don't get as many calls from people looking for seniors. ... Unfortunately, a lot of older dogs are surrendered" by owners because they require medical care or are having accidents.

The rescue sponsored Paw Prints' first resident, Miss Haley, a 7-year-old "beagle on wheels" who does not have full use of her back legs. She gets around with a wheeled cart attached to her back end. She lives with the sanctuary's other two residents, Corey, a 13-year-old German shepherd/husky mix sponsored by the Huntingdon County Humane Society, and Zhivago, a 17-year-old spitz mix surrendered by his family and sponsored by Homeward Bound.

They live in a former two-car garage that has been converted into temporary living space while Ms. Lyon and Mr. McCartin plan the construction of two buildings.

The former garage has a "living-room environment," with couches, rugs, rocking chairs, recliners, windows and a radio, according to Holly Dupont, who lives in a farmhouse on the property and provides overnight care.

"We try to make it as much a home environment as possible," she said.

Ms. Dupont said she keeps the dogs company in the evening while she studies for her veterinarian technician license.

"They're old. They're just very happy to sleep, to eat. They get to exercise during the day," she said. "They still like to play, so we throw a ball. Lots of rubs and pats."

When the building project is finished, the sanctuary, which has a fenced dog run outside, will have capacity for about 30 dogs, Ms. Lyon said.

One new building will house a "Canine Corps" foster facility where military personnel can leave their dogs while they are deployed overseas. The other building will be the "Senior Living Center" for dogs from rescues.

The sanctuary will not accept dogs directly from the public, Ms. Lyon said.

Ms. Lyon and her husband, David, and Mr. McCartin and his wife, Sheila, bought the property for the sanctuary. They have applied for nonprofit status for Paw Prints and are accepting donations for the dogs' care. Rescues will pay the veterinary expenses of the dogs they send to the sanctuary, Ms. Lyon said.

Midstate rescue organizations welcomed Paw Prints' opening.

"I think it's a great idea," said Denise Durkay, founder and president of the Dogs Den in East Hanover Township "I have had some older dogs that it has taken me in excess of a year to place."

Although Michele Gibb of New Cumberland, a volunteer with Adopt-A-Boxer Rescue, wasn't familiar with the new sanctuary, she said there's a need for such a place.

"The last thing any rescue wants is a senior dog living out its last days on a hard kennel floor. We get people who just don't want them anymore," Ms. Gibb said.