The bond humans forge with their canine companions is unique, as no other animal arouses the same emotions and trust in us. One study demonstrated that many dogs would prefer their owner’s company over food, and another showed that making eye contact with a dog activates the same hormonal response in us that we get when viewing a human baby. So, with that level of connection, it’s particularly gut-wrenching when either party in the relationship becomes infirm, due to age or disease. That’s where Peace of Mind Dog Rescue (POMDR) comes in.
Carie Broecker and Monica Rua are the co-founders of POMDR. “Monica and I had served together on the board of Animal Friends Rescue Project,” Broecker says. The two left that organization in 2009, deciding they needed a break. It was only a month or so later that Broecker was struck with the idea of forming POMDR. It started with an elderly friend named Alice and Savannah, her red Spaniel mix. “Alice was spending time in the hospital, and Savannah would spend time with me. Then Alice entered hospice and I took Savannah to visit her there.” She became concerned about what would happen to her beloved companion. Savannah was seven then, healthy but shy. “I told Alice that I would find a home for her and that she would be ok.”
On the walk back to her car, the idea for POMDR hit Broecker in a flash. “The entire concept, including the name, came to me in that moment. We will keep senior dogs and senior people together as long as possible. I knew it was an unfilled niche.”
“Carie called me immediately, told me her idea, and asked if I was interested in helping,” Rua says. “I loved the idea and said ‘absolutely. This sounds awesome.'” Because of past experience, it always broke Rua’s heart to see older animals in the shelter, because they aren’t adopted as often as younger ones. “I added that we should also take in and care for senior dogs who ended up in animal shelters.”
Due to their years at Animal Friends, Broecker and Rua shared a wealth of experience in running a nonprofit, and a rescue organization in particular. “We knew what worked and what didn’t,” Rua says. “At that point, I don’t think either of us had any idea that POMDR was going to blossom into what it is today.”
And what it is today is quite frankly amazing. In 2009, POMDR began with five board members and one volunteer. Now headquartered in Pacific Grove, the organization has 1,300 active volunteers and a staff of veterinarians at its own veterinary clinic in Monterey. In the intervening years, they have rescued 3,100 dogs and served 2,000 “Helping Paws” clients with financial assistance, dog walking and temporary foster care. “At any given time, we typically have around 80 dogs in foster homes,” Broecker says. “We’re lucky to have an all-volunteer board, who each dedicate approximately 40 hours a week to POMDR.”
In July 2022, Broecker was featured on national television for a “CNN Heroes Award.” “Even though the program focused on me, I feel it was mostly about POMDR,” she says. “It was an honor for me and the organization.” The award was presented by actor and animal activist Justin Theroux and the event was attended by Kevin Bacon and Naomi Campbell. “It’s given us international attention, plus new donors and volunteers.” People from around the nation have contacted POMDR, wanting to create something like this in their own communities. “So, we’re working on how to make that happen,” Rua says. “We’re starting with Zoom conferences, sharing what we’ve learned about policies and procedures.”
Both founders have scores of adoption stories relating how a person saves a dog and a dog saves a person. “The stories are endless,” Rua says. “The compassion people display for these dogs is inspirational. They look at a blind dog and don’t care. They fall in love anyway. Over and over, people say they are the lucky ones, not the dogs.”
“In our society, the elderly—humans and dogs—often are ignored,” Broecker says. “We’re here to shine a light on these forgotten populations and give them the attention they deserve. It’s imperative to us that they can move through the final phases of their lives with dignity.”
Oh, and Savannah? Broecker adopted her herself and she lived a long and happy life.
For more information, visit www.peaceofminddogrescue.org.