This Organization is Making Sure Senior Dogs Enjoy Golden Years Filled with TLC


Senior dogs find themselves homeless for numerous reasons — most of which have nothing to do with their capacity for loving. Chicagoland-based Young at Heart Senior Pet Adoptions is a 501(c)(3) organization making sure these loyal companions enjoy golden years filled with TLC.

Adopt a Senior Dog
Photo: Young at Heart

Related: Activities for Senior Dogs

Young at Heart currently works with shelters across multiple states to help rescue homeless older canines. Founder and Executive Director Dawn Kemper says her team is focused on highlighting “how special each senior pet is — helping people get to know them and see beyond their age.”

The organization spearheads nurturing programs like Furever Loved, which gives aging pups a safe haven if their owners become seriously ill or pass away. It also performs various health-related exams to provide more comprehensive adoption snapshots.

Dawn created Young at Heart in 2005. At that time, she recalls, “there were zero options” for homeless senior dogs in her immediate region. She recruited local animal lovers, got licensed and started spreading the word. These efforts eventually culminated in the Young at Heart sanctuary and adoption center, which opened in 2019.

Young at Heart works with shelters to help rescue homeless, older dogs and find them loving homes. Photo: Young at Heart

According to Dawn, this unique refuge reflects years of research into senior pet needs. The cage-free environment gleams with natural light. Mature pooches enjoy comfy couches, play areas and a cozy fireplace. At the holidays, canine residents unwrap their own gifts during a special pet-themed party.

Dawn’s team is intentional about providing home-like comforts. “But our ultimate goal,” she explains, “is to place every senior pet that walks through our door with a loving family.” That’s why most dogs are available for adoption. To avoid creating undue canine stress, Dawn says that all meet-and-greets “are done by appointment” once an application is approved. Young at Heart even helps match prospective pet parents with a pooch well-suited to their lifestyle.

Dawn estimates that she and her dedicated volunteers care for “approximately 24 senior dogs at any given time,” plus several elderly cats. Even more hounds reside with hand-selected foster families. The organization relies exclusively on donations, grants and fundraisers in lieu of government assistance. Event-based initiatives have rapidly adapted to COVID-19, becoming virtual where necessary.

Dawn predicts that the pandemic will cause even more senior canines to wind up at shelters, when guardians “can no longer afford care due to loss of income or housing.” That’s why she reveres her organization’s animal-loving supporters. “Rescue work,” she emphasizes, “doesn’t stop.”

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Featured photo: Young at Heart

Read Next: 6 Things to Love About Senior Dogs

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