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Meet your new Old Friends

Old Friends staff with Buddy, an 11-year-old Shitzu. Isaac Wetzel/Belmont Vision
Old Friends staff with Buddy, an 11-year-old Shitzu. Isaac Wetzel/Belmont Vision

Buddy, an 11-year-old Shitzu, was blind until two months ago when he had cataract surgery to fix his eyes.

He had to be guided around by his bonded best friend, a beagle named Sassy.

Now, Buddy has a new life.

Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary in Mount Juliet, Tennessee is where old dogs like Buddy are given another chance to be forever fostered.

“He is happy and now he plays,” Sally McCanner, a staff member at the sanctuary, said.

The sanctuary uses “forever fostered” instead of adopted because the center takes care of its dogs even after they are adopted.

“We do not do an adoption, a typical adoption. We do what is called a forever foster because we cover the vetting costs for the rest of the dog’s life,” McCanner said. “We are all about quality of life. Not necessarily quantity.”

Old Friends was created by Zina and Michael Goodin in 2012 and first ran their operation out of their home. The pair then moved to their first building in 2017.

Since the sanctuary has older or disabled dogs, there are two, full-time veterinarians who only take care of the senior dogs at Old Friends. There is every amenity a dog could need including a physical therapist with an underwater treadmill, a canine acupuncturist, a dietician who prescribes a specific food for each dog and a canine chiropractor. Many members of the staff and volunteers have their own fosters, including volunteer Emery Hartz. She just became a forever foster for a husky named Pluto.

Hartz found Old Friends over social media because she wanted to start getting more involved with dogs after her own passed away. Old Friends’ social media following is immense, and people come from all over just to visit the sanctuary, Hartz said.

Emery Hartz and Pluto. Isaac Wetzel/Belmont Vision
Emery Hartz and Pluto. Isaac Wetzel/Belmont Vision

“They have a lot of other people who have done that and come from other countries just because of the example of the organization and how successful they have been,” Hartz said.

There are seven sections in the Old Friends Sanctuary and each one caters to the specific needs of the dogs.

The dogs that need to be separated from others, either because they do not like other dogs or are too big to play with others, are given their own rooms called “Penthouses.”

They also have spaces for dogs with mobility issues or other medical issues called the “Compassionate Care.”

Another section of the sanctuary is specifically for dogs in “bonded pairs,” where the dogs will not be separated from their bond. This is where Buddy the Shitzu and Sassy the beagle live together.

Just like Buddy and Sassy, every dog is intentionally placed in a space where they can live their best lives and be happy in their years on earth.

The staff at the sanctuary all expressed their love for dogs and their excitement to be working in a place where dogs are cared for so well.

“It is very relaxing. I wake up every day excited to come to work,” said staff member Austin Quarles.

Old Friends is open 365 days a year and there is always an overnight crew to care for the dogs every day.

To accommodate its employees, the sanctuary can house staff in its apartments on the second floor of the building. Old Friends has 70 staff members, but it is always looking for volunteers.

“Primarily we want volunteers to help us with the dogs,” McCanner said. “To come in, walk dogs, some of the dogs that can be walked, sit in the compassionate care area with some of those guys.”

This article was written by Maya Burney.

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