Monica Seaton has love for old dogs.

The operator of Pets Miracle Network in Dodge City says some shelters turn away dogs over eight years old, and her sympathy for making sure all homeless pets regardless of age or health can experience a warm place and caring hands led her to open her shelter.

Seaton wants her facility to be a refuge that ensures older dogs aren't discarded or forgotten.

"We are a sanctuary for old dogs," Seaton said. "Those dogs still have very good quality of life. They can love somebody for almost 20 years.

"You wouldn't just tell a human that they're a littler older so we don't want you. These dogs deserve to be happy still."

Seaton started her non-profit, no-kill animal shelter 17 years ago specifically to fill the gap of homes for older animals. Many times the pets they receive at Pets Miracle have owners who have aged themselves, and a severe illness or even death may cause a favorite dog or cat to be in need of a home.

"If someone has died and the kids don't want the dog, then we have to try to find the right home," Seaton said. "We do try to match dogs with people." She said her organization screens people applying for adoption - asking for home visits, veterinarian references, and shot records.

Seaton said many of the older dogs she sees have come from elderly homes and would therefore fit right into a quiet, more senior adoptive home. She said she would like to see more adoption from older people.

"I wish they would," she said, "but they always say they don't want the dog to die in a year or two. I want to say 'OK, but you might die in a year or two, too.'"

Seaton and her small staff take in any dog or cat, regardless of age or health problems. Older pets can be inherently harder to adopt or place in foster homes. Senior dogs often need medication or on-going veterinarian attention, and many times the shelter is the last home before they pass away.

That care requires steady funds and Seaton said the shelter receives no grants or government support. Boarding and adoptions provide a modicum of income, but the shelter is in a constant financial struggle. Right now, Seaton said funding for a new kennel air conditioner to keep the animals comfortable in the coming summer is in desperate need.

"Money is tight and donations aren't coming in like they had," Seaton said. "I have to feed my dogs. I can't afford a grant writer, so we rely on public donations."

The trend of cute, tiny dogs has led to an influx of chihuahuas at the shelter. Often, Pets Miracle is a home for older pets that were perfect for their owners but are wary of new people. Seaton said chihuahuas are sometimes "one-person" dogs.

"It can take us a while to turn them around," Seaton said.

Seaton said the Dodge City Animal Shelter sometimes helps out with excess dog food and people often donate old blankets for the dogs - a big need as some of the rowdier dogs can tear through blankets. Seaton said one person even stitches pillows especially for the older dogs.

"Even a dog likes to lay down on something soft," Seaton said.

Regarding a pet's life as significant and understanding the longevity and vitality of an animal is the most important step in considering pet adoption.

"Don't get a dog if you're not going to take care of it the rest of its life, or at least yours," Seaton said.

Adoptions at Pets Miracle Network can vary from as low as $25 for an animal that's been spayed or neutered already, up to $125 for sterilization and a full series of shots. Seaton said while she does occasionally have younger dogs, every animal that leaves her shelter must be sterilized.

To contact the writer email