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Sherri Franklin: Rescuing the Least Among Us

Muttville: Finding new homes one frosted face at a time.

It’s all snuggles, hugs, and love at first sight when a brand new puppy becomes the latest member of a family. As the years pass the furry family member has seen the kids grow up, go to college, and then embark on their careers, while mom and dad contemplate over their new empty nest. Ideally, Fido can live out his days in the loving care he has always known.

But for some, they are turned out to pasture, or rather, dumped or sent to a shelter. Imagine in your old day being permanently separated from those you love and the comforts of home. The reasons are plenteous, sometimes a pet outlives its master, or age-related veterinarian bills become unaffordable, or an owner is no longer able to care for their beloved pet. It’s a sad ending for one who brought years of unconditional love, loyalty, and devotion to its human counterpart. But this is not the ending that Sherri Franklin will let happen to those furry seniors that cross her path.

A Heart for Animals

Sherri Franklin has always loved animals and her interest in rescuing them started when she worked as a volunteer for SFSPCA (San Francisco Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). In the early 90s, her volunteering took a deeper turn when she started taking dogs home that were considered unadoptable. A special fondness grew within her for broken and senior dogs that were generally passed up for younger ones and ended up getting euthanized.

“I would see these dogs arrive at the shelter with so much hope and joy in their eyes, and watch as it slowly disappeared. I am not one of those people that can just watch something and not do anything about it, so I knew I needed to get involved,” she says in an interview with DRIVEN for Women.

She sought and completed training enabling her to adopt them out to forever homes. An opportunity arose to serve on San Francisco’s Commission of Animal Control and Welfare, she applied and worked there for six years.

Her desire to help more animals compelled her to learn how to run a nonprofit, fundraise, and operate an animal shelter. By 2007, Franklin founded and is the executive director of Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, a San Francisco-based nonprofit offering rescue, adoption, cage-free sheltering, foster care, and hospice service for senior dogs —the first of its kind in the state of California. By 2012, the organization moved from Franklin’s house into larger accommodations within the San Francisco area.

In a CNN interview, Franklin says, “From the moment they arrive at Muttville, if they’re in pain, we’re going to do something about it. We want our dogs to experience the most health and happiness they can have. Some of them are not going to be as healthy, and some of them we can’t completely fix. But we’re going to give them the best quality of life that we possibly can.”

A Labor of Love

Muttville receives 150 requests a week from shelters and individuals to take their senior dogs. The shelter works with approximately 100 foster homes in the San Francisco Bay area. Nearly all the senior dogs find permanent homes, but at times, a few are euthanized but only for quality of life reasons.

Funding is obtained through private donors, foundations, and fundraising events like the annual Moolah for Mutts, Senior Prom, Girl Scout cookies drive, Haute Dog fashion show, and adoption events.

Most funds go toward vet costs which are provided onsite by a full-time vet tech and a full time veterinarian. The shelter is run by a full-time staff along with 300 volunteers.

Muttville offers special programs where senior dogs continue to do what they do best – share love and offer companionship. In the Senior for Seniors program, families who have a lonely or elderly family member bring them in to meet with specialized counsellors who match up a senior dog with the senior adopter. Most older dogs come from elderly owners and are used to being calm and cuddled, it’s a very good fit that benefits the elderly person mentally, physically, and socially.

The program, Muttville’s Cuddle Club, allows senior citizens to visit the facility and spend time with senior dogs in a home-like atmosphere. Many elderly are not able to adopt a dog but enjoy the wags, kisses, and cuddle time the loving dogs provide.

Another program offered is for hospice dogs, dogs that are determined to have inoperable or incurable illness can still live in a loving home and have a wonderful last chapter and Muttville covers the cost of palliative care.

Laying the Groundwork

Muttville’s pioneering approach has not gone unnoticed. Franklin has been in contact with shelters wanting to follow her blueprint in starting or adding on a senior animal rescue program. She says in an interview with MissionBox, “I love seeing that a lot of shelters now are putting their senior dogs up for adoption rather than just automatically euthanizing them. I think that we’ve influenced the way the country is dealing with an aging population of animals.”

Muttville has won multiple Beast of the Bay Awards, among them: best rescue organization and best animal cause. The organization also was named San Francisco’s Favorite Charity by 7X7 magazine. In 2011, May 10th was declared Muttville Senior Dog Rescue Day by the Mayor of San Francisco. In 2012, Muttville was selected as one of eight recipients of its 2012 San Francisco Heroes Award by The Bay Area Chapter of the American Red Cross. In 2016, Franklin became a Top 10 CNN Hero.

Over 6500 happy senior placements later, Franklin continues to be a force for rescuing senior dogs and hopes more shelters will follow in the pawprints of her success.

Learn more about Muttville at Muttville.org where you can discover valuable information on senior dogs and how you can help them.