When I got to , I thought I was at the wrong place. Kim had told me she bought a house for her dogs, but I didn’t take her literally. I expected it to look like a typical shelter, not a ranch home with a big porch and a bigger backyard. I had also made a mistake by thinking that Silver Muzzle was already a shelter when in fact, it’s a sanctuary, and for those who don’t know, only shelters and foster-based rescues adopt out dogs. Kim wants to be more than a rescue and is taking all the steps necessary to make it possible for her rescues to get a second chance in a happy home
Silver Muzzle has been saving elderly dogs from spending their last years alone in a shelter on a fast track to euthanization since 2015, although she has been a 501c nonprofit since 2014. Kim knows the story behind each dog living at the cottage.
“Dogs come out of shelters and they’re ‘found as strays,’” she said disdainfully. “They’re dropped off by their owner as strays, and everybody knows. First of all, the dog clings to them. Dogs respond to energy, and if it’s a large shelter, there are 80 to 100 other terrified dogs.”
She knows that many old dogs that get turned into shelters are abandoned by a family or an owner who no longer wants to care for them.
“Right now, we have a dog downstairs in quarantine. Most of these dogs that come in have parasites, and they could contaminate the air that all the other dogs are in. All these dogs are on flea and tic meds.”
She quarantines each new dog for 10 to 15 days before introducing him to the other rescues. She does this to ensure that the new dog won’t infect any of the others with some kind of sickness and because it’s a regulation set by the Department of Agriculture.
Each dog is quarantined and if a sickness is found, it’s tended to.
“Marge had a very large cancerous mass on her. It wasn’t like a bubble that came out. It was literally hanging off her leg. So she had it removed, but based on the lumpy bumpies around that same area, it could come back. She’s special needs and will stay here.”
Marge will bite if she feels her food is threatened and because of that, Kim wouldn’t feel comfortable adopting her out if she gets her shelter license. However, there are plenty of dogs that would be fit to go to a loving home, and all they need is a little extra care and attention.
“One of our girls has to get a hormone pill every three days or she will pee anywhere, and it’s volumes of pee. Like a never-ending river, give her the hormone pill, and she’s fine.”
Kim covers the cost of medical procedures, food and medicine through money donated to Silver Muzzle Cottage. Care can cost her anywhere upwards of $5,000 a month.
As a rescue, she has to care for her sanctuary dogs. But as a shelter, she can let those dogs go to a new home.
“This is a sanctuary,” Kim said. “It means that the dogs never go anywhere. They don’t get adopted or go to foster homes. They stay here. But they also look at them as my personal dogs.”
The Department of Agriculture has been cracking down on shelters though and for good reason.
“I’m glad they’re doing it. Sometimes people start a rescue with the very best of intentions but they don’t understand the ins and outs, not just regulation-wise but they don’t understand the need for the regulations. It’s really easy to get caught up in saying yes to everything because you can’t say no.”
She’s been working on transforming the rescue’s basement into her future shelter and it’s been no easy task.
“I went a little over the top. It’s a full finished floor level. New floors, drywall, new ceiling. Everything was beautiful for a month and a half.”
A leak in her foundation was found and now it all has to be re-done again. Kim is frustrated but not deterred. She bought and had separate vent fans for each room installed, so they don’t share air space with each other, thinking that was a shelter regulation.
“Come to find out, that’s not even a requirement. But I’ve got it.”
She’s also got areas for grooming and of course, for crates. The walls, floors and surfaces throughout the shelter are non-porous, another requirement, and she’s getting together a will for the shelter.
She has also made sure that she has a will made up stating what would happen to the dogs in case something happens to her.
“They wanna make sure if I drop dead tomorrow, all of a sudden the public system is not going to get flooded with a whole bunch of dogs.”
It may sound odd that someone has to get their affairs in order for the sake of dogs, but Kim is more than happy to do it. Her love and compassion towards the graying and left behind dogs of northern Michigan is nothing short of inspiring. In this new chapter of Silver Muzzle Cottage, she hopes to share the kind of love and affection that only an older dog grateful for a second chance can give by making them adoptable.