A History of Our Rescue


Welcome to all of our new friends and hello to all of our long time friends! It's so wonderful that so many people care about senior pets and giving them a second chance! 

For those who don't know, when Young at Heart started in 2005, rescuing senior pets wasn't seen as cool, it was seen as something a little bit crazy. Before we were founded, I reached out to several well established shelters in our area with a proposal to be a self-financed support program that helped the senior animals in their shelters get out alive through a special senior-focused adoption program. But phone call after phone call resulted in being told that a program like the one I was proposing wasn't sustainable, wasn't worth the effort, or was just a "sweet thought". They all wished me luck, but had no interest in what I was proposing for the senior pets in their shelters. What to do?? Senior pets in shelters always got right to my heart. They had been loved and part of a family their entire lives - and then suddenly they weren't anymore. But there were close to zero resources for an older dog or cat that ended up in a shelter back then. And I knew that we needed to change that.

With the help of a small group of animals lovers, we set out to form a rescue that was just for the older dogs and cats. Most of the shelters in our communities rarely included animals over the age of five years old in their adoption areas because they just weren't considered "adoptable," so we started with a minimum age of just five years old. Facebook barely existed, only being founded the year before, and the power of social media was in its infancy. Chatboards were all the rage for networking pets in need. Fundraising for vet bills and other expenses had to be done in real time and face to face for the most part, as a lot of people didn't trust sending money over the internet yet - "what's PayPal?" was a very frequent question. 

With the help of a handful of wonderful people who believed in what we were doing, we scraped together $200 in donations and we set out on our first rescue mission to save two 14-year-old dogs in danger at Chicago's animal control facility. One dog would be euthanized for sneezing while we were on our way to save her, shattering our hearts. The other dog would drag me out of animal control full of joy can life and never look back. She trusted us to get her to a better tomorrow. We promised her one.

That very first senior dog rescued by Young at Heart was Peaches, and hundreds upon hundreds of senior pets have found their way to safety thanks to your support of Young at Heart since. Though our minimum intake age is 7 years old now, the average age of a pet rescued by Young at Heart is 12.5 years old - a long way from shelters telling us that any animal over the age of five years old wasn't adoptable. And just recently, we rescued a 23 year old kitty named Ora after her family abandoned her at that very same animal control facility that our first senior was rescued from. At Young at Heart, love has no age limit!™

Twelve years later, rescuing senior pets is cool - trendy even - and we couldn't be happier. It means more senior pets will get a second chance than ever before, and rescues willing to take in seniors now will have an easier time than we did than back when we started. It that means great things for homeless senior pets. But there is still so much to do, and so many more ways that we can help them. We have been working diligently behind the scenes here on some really innovative programs so that Young at Heart can help senior pets in more ways than ever before, and we cannot wait until they are all ready to launch.

Through the years, the one thing that has made Young at Heart able to save so many lives are the amazing people who have believed in and supported our mission to rescue and find loving homes for senior dogs and cats. Rescue isn't one person. Rescue isn't just me; it isn't just you. Rescue is a village. And Young at Heart has the most incredibly wonderful and generous village to help homeless senior pets. With the building of Young at Heart’s adoption center “Smokey’s Haven” underway in Woodstock IL, the very first adoption center of its kind in the Chicagoland area, we will soon be able to provide second chances to more senior pets than we ever dreamed possible. Your continued generosity and support is needed, so that more senior dogs and cats will get to enjoy the twilight of their lives, surrounded by love and family. We are so grateful for each and every one of you who believes that homeless senior pets deserve a second chance. 

Thank you for being on this incredibly amazing, love-filled journey with us, and thank you for being there for senior pets in need!

Dawn Kemper
Founder and Executive Director
Young at Heart

Young at Heart Senior Pet Rescue

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