I show up at Vintage Pet Rescue in Foster expecting to cry. Even on my best days, ASPCA’s Sarah McLachlan commercials are a surefire way to bring me out of any room in tears, and the sight of feeble old men eating alone in a restaurant can throw me into a tailspin. . So, visiting a sanctuary dedicated to providing end-of-life care to senior and hospice puppies?
Forget that. I just hope I can be professional enough to save the crying for the long drive home.
Rescue co-founder Kristen Peralta meets me at the front door with a big smile and leads the way. Inside, we encounter a spacious and colorful environment with a retro counter, walls covered in dog-themed pop art, and floor-to-ceiling windows. The brightest spots in the room, however, are the tenants. A dozen furry little bodies come rushing to my feet, offering enthusiastic yelps and kisses. Even those who have remained in their cozy corners of the room are waving their tails in greeting.
“We live upstairs and all the dogs hang out here,” Peralta explains as he shows me around. “It was actually an Episcopal church in the 70s before it was turned into a residence. We just bought it and moved in last November.
At that time, the rescue was already in full swing. It all started when Kristen met her husband, Marc, in Los Angeles in 2013.
“My husband works for the Best Friends Animal Society and ran two shelters for them there. I was volunteering in a rescue group, met him at one of the shelters and we started dating. He had two pugs at the time, and together we took in a little old dog that we thought we’d only have for two months. We named it Rue McClanahan after one of the Golden Girls.
The couple had Rue for a year and a half. When he died, they decided to adopt another old dog in his memory. From there, it snowballed.
“We became the people who took in old dogs – we love it.”
They finally brought that love with them to Rhode Island, their home state, in 2017, settling in North Kingstown for about a year before deciding to seek out a space that better suited their needs. Between the multiple entrances to the space, the large backyard, the second kitchen for preparing dog meals, a huge tub for bath time, and tons of storage space for various supplies, the Foster location was ideal. As I write this, the rescue is home to thirty-one good boys and girls – the majority of whom are tiny little things in their teens.
“Everyone here has to be under twenty or twenty-five pounds because we have a few who are not good with big dogs. We have two upstairs, though, and we took big dogs in the past,” says Peralta. “But most of our requests are for smaller dogs.”
Since Rue, Peralta estimates that he helped save between forty-five and fifty dogs. So where do they all come from? When Peralta started, she assumed they would deal primarily with local shelters that had trouble placing senior dogs posing as puppies.
“But the shelters here are really great for finding homes,” she says. “So honestly most dogs come from owners – people who can’t take care of them anymore.”
Unfortunately, this largely stems from situations where dogs outlive their owners or cannot accompany them to assisted living facilities or hospices. Some have been abandoned, like Tia, an adorable toothless Chihuahua who was found in an empty apartment. Or there’s a situation like Roscoe, a black and white terrier mix whose owner lost his job and had no choice but to rehom him. Between shelters and landlords, the rescue receives about five or six requests a week. And while its population is often on the move between foster families, adoptions and crossings of the Rainbow Bridge, they can’t accommodate them all.
“If it’s a dog that really has nowhere to go, we take it in. But sometimes people write to us about their eight-year-old Lab, and it’s a dog that can find a home.” , she says. “I try to help everyone as much as possible, whether it’s giving advice on how to care for a senior dog, connecting an owner with a local shelter, or posting a dog on our I created a Facebook group for this purpose, we actually found quite a few houses that way.
Judging by its 8,000 likes on Facebook and nearly 9,000 followers on Instagram, the Vintage Pet Rescue has quite the fanbase. With people coming from all over the country, Peralta says social media works as a great networking resource. For local admirers, however, the rescue organizes visitation days twice a month. Peralta schedules them a few weeks in advance and encourages those interested to email them for dates and times. Puppies and visitors have fun together, and some even form special bonds.
“We are a little different from other rescues where when we take the dogs in our intention is to take them for the rest of their lives. We don’t host adoption events or Pet Finder,” she explains. “But, if you came in and said, ‘I can’t live without Jameson’, we would understand that. Our overall aim, however, is to provide a retirement home.
A retirement home with some pretty fancy digs. In addition to rescuing vintage pets, Kristen has also made a hobby of rescuing vintage furniture from garage sales, antique shops, and roadside dumps and adapting them into unique dog beds. Over the years, she’s used everything from old wardrobe drawers to suitcases to televisions.
“It’s funny, when I was in Los Angeles working full time and we only had ten dogs, we seemed to have a lot more time for that. But now the rescue takes up all my time — it’s non-stop,” she says. “I always like to do small projects whenever I can. At the moment we have a motorhome outside and I painted it to give it a vintage look. We will put our logo on the side and hopefully bring it to events.
Such events have included Pawchella, where around 300 people came to show their support last August, and an annual Halloween party – this year will be on October 20.
“People can bring their dogs and we’ll have a costume contest, a whole Harry Potter area where we’ll sort the dogs into their Hogwarts houses and a table of items from local animal vendors, like Andrea’s Custom Collars and Hope Rope Co. It’s so much fun,” warns Peralta.
Another business she looks forward to, albeit in the distant future, is diversifying.
“My husband is good friends with Jackson Galaxy – he does ‘My Cat From Hell’ on Animal Planet – and once we’re ready, we might try to convince him to help us transform this empty, closed space. here in a cattery,” she said. “But right now, we’re just trying to keep our heads above water!”
Fortunately, they have a lot of people in their corner. The rescue not only has a great relationship with the NorthPaws Veterinary Center in Greenville, but also a team of dedicated volunteers who come in once a week to help with cleaning, feeding, playing and cuddling. And then there are the contributors.
“We are a non-profit organization run 100% by donations. We are very lucky; whenever we run out of food or need food or cleaning supplies, I just post our Amazon wishlist and we’ll have twenty-five boxes waiting outside the next day,” says Peralta. “We don’t buy food or cleaning supplies – our only expenses are pretty much the vet bills, which are astronomical, but the people fundraising for us on Facebook have been very helpful. Not just yesterday someone posted one and the goal was $200. It’s already raised $650 for us in less than twenty-four hours. It’s amazing.”
While she posts wish lists every couple of months or asks for help with big expenses (like when Roscoe had six bladder stones and needed emergency surgery), Peralta is mostly focused on filling. feeds of its subscribers with the fun and adorable dogs. antics.
“I try to stay positive,” she says.
But, as is the case with territory, the task of caring for senior animals isn’t always a joyful one. A desk area in the “dementia ward” (an enclosed area dedicated to providing a safe space for people with disabilities like sight and hearing) is covered with stones on which are inscribed the names of deceased dogs. Peralta admits it can be difficult.
“I’ve got a wall up. You have to. Obviously when we lose them I’m upset, or when they’re in surgery I’m at my wit’s end. But, for the most part, I just know the good that we are doing here. A lot of them would have been shot if we hadn’t taken them,” she says. “We know what we’re getting into and we try to make them as happy as possible.”
Looking around me, I notice that they all look happy. They lead a comfortable life surrounded by friends.
“They really love their pack,” she says. “They see what other people are doing and they follow the group. Like, ‘Okay now let’s go over here and get some treats. Now we are going to sleep. It’s really cute.
Going out around 2:30 in the afternoon, I see what she means. Peralta, standing by the counter, drew a crowd of waiting faces.
“We have an early dinner here, it’s the bluebird special for these guys,” she turns to the dogs. “Right? Senior Special!” A few barks in agreement.
When I get in the car, I realize that I am smiling. In fact, I smiled the whole time.