Giving senior dogs a second chance
By Alison Rentschler
Location: New Germany, Minn.
Mission: “We rescue, rehabilitate, and provide a loving and permanent home for dogs who are deemed unadoptable because of age and health and who would otherwise be unnecessarily euthanized.”
Who they are: A 501c3 foundation that’s primarily volunteer-based. It’s associated with the Top Dog Country Club, a boarding facility described as a “club med” for dogs.
Mary Gustafson, development director, says they help senior dogs, or “ElderPups,” because they’re vulnerable, and it can be hard for people to realize they have a lot of life and love left to give.
“If you’ve ever had the privilege of being loved by an old dog, then you’re truly blessed,” says Jean Stelten-Beuning, founder. “They just want food, a warm place to rest, love and companionship. But what they give back is so much more.”
More information: Adoption information and photos of adoptable dogs are on the website. There are no adoption fees. “A great home for a senior dog is pay back enough,” says Gustafson.
By the numbers: 29 dogs adopted in 2019.
Future plans: The Top Dog Foundation plans to build and run the sanctuary “Bentley’s Place,” a facility for 100 to 120 senior dogs. “It will be a hip retirement facility for dogs. The dogs will have a great place and quality of life,” says Gustafson.
Bentley’s Place will include suites, a veterinary clinic, hydrotherapy and training services, parks and a crematory.
Stelten-Beuning explains its name: “Bentley is the little Sheltie that inspired our mission. His life was forever changed with Top Dog Foundation. He was found wandering the streets in 2001. After several weeks without a call or claim, he was scheduled to be euthanized due to his age (guessed to be 11) and health issues.” She says the kennel’s owner called and told her about this “little old dog.” She took him in, and he lived another 6 ½ years. “Bentley very quickly learned about love and trust in our home. It is Bentley’s story that inspires us each day.”
How to help: Donate, volunteer and foster. “We always need committed volunteers to transport, foster and adopt,” Stelten-Beuning says.
“We are 1/4 of the way toward digging the hole for the sanctuary and have a lead donor who has provided the land. That facility is key to our ability to make a huge impact for senior dogs and the people that love them.”
Vision: “My dream,” Stelten-Beuning says, “is a world where senior people, moved to assisted living, don’t have to permanently say goodbye to their beloved companions and best friends—with a Top Dog Foundation-operated sanctuary embedded within senior living communities nationwide.”
Alison Rentschler is a writer and editor living in Rochester, Minn. who loved her own two senior dogs, and now lives with a young dog and cat.