By Lauren Wanko
Nearly two dozen dogs cuddle up to human companions, volunteers eager to ensure their final days are filled with joy and peace.
“Really, some of the care that we give towards the end is about unconditional love. As long as they’re not having breathing troubles or pain that we can’t control, we let them stay with us as long as we can. And it’s the best job I’ve ever done,” said Michelle Allen, co-owner of Monkey’s House.
Monkey’s House has become a respite for about 50 rescue dogs. South Hampton residents Michelle and Jeff Allen have been fostering dogs for end of life care for years. They were frustrated with the lack of resources available so rescues could die in a loving and peaceful environment which is why the couple turned their passion into a nonprofit. Monkey’s House is named after a stray they adopted and cared for. Now the nonprofit receives dogs from shelters and other rescue organizations.
“People say to me, how do you do that? How can you stand to do that? And I thought how can I not do that? But the truth is, what I’m given from these dogs is 10 times more than what I do for them,” explained Allen.
“I don’t care if they’re here for a week or a year, it changes their lives. And to feel loved at the end of their life, after many of them were throwaways, it’s the most important gift we can give them,” said Veterinarian Dr. Judy Morgan.
The dogs suffer from a variety of illnesses, like cancer, skin diseases and heart problems. Many are deaf or blind. Morgan creates a specific diet for each dog and performs medical procedures at a substantial discount that provides quality of life.
Morgan said, “Some of these dogs that were given two weeks to live, they’re still here a year later and they’re doing great and they’re happy.”
The nonprofit relies on donations. Sixty pounds of food is donated weekly. More than 50 volunteers feed, bathe, walk and pet the dogs. A professional dog groomer grooms these dogs free of charge.
“It’s rewarding, because you’re taking dogs that actually need a little care and a little love and you’re helping them feel better and you’re helping them look better,” said volunteer Florence Gerst.
Volunteer Peggy Greenwood drives 65 miles from Delaware.
What’s it like being with dogs on their final days?
Greenwood replied, “It’s difficult, but at the same time it’s so peaceful, because they are absolutely getting the very best they can get until they take their last breath here.”
“When they pass it’s very sad, but you put your shoulders back and says it’s a job well done. We did it right,” said Michelle.
The couple’s kitchen counter is covered with medications and bowls for the next meal. Dogs lounge throughout the house on sofas and toddler beds.
“I want this to be as good as anyone’s home is, so that they’re not missing out by not being adopted,” Michelle said.
Bob is showered with love from volunteer Dawn Cooper. She buys him dog peanut butter pies, his favorite. In August, shelter staffers said the dog wouldn’t survive a month, says Cooper.
She said, “It’s amazing. Here was a dog who wasn’t going to live more than a few days — six months later he’s loving peanut butter pies.”
These dogs seem to love snuggling up to their human companions — as much as Bob loves his pie.
“Right now, there are a lot of volunteers in the house. These dogs are going to be tired just from being loved. If there was a way to bottle the inner peace, the joy, there would be no problems in the world,” said Michelle.
Each dog’s peaceful passing strengthens the couple’s desire to expand Monkey’s House.