This Organization Helps Dogs Live Out their Lives in Dignity

Silver Muzzle Cottage is a rescue and hospice for senior dogs and is the only one of its kind in Michigan.


(Phillipe Woodhead /

Silver Muzzle Cottage gives older dogs a place to live out the remainder of their lives in peace. It was established in 2015 by Kim Skarritt-Nelson who ran a dog fitness, rehab, and cage-free boarding facility. Her work brought her into contact with local shelters where she started seeing a lot of older dogs.

“I kept seeing these 14-year-old dogs and 13-year-old dogs in shelters and needing homes, and I’m going, ‘What is that? Who does that?’” Kim told the Detroit Free Press.

Kim called surrounding animal shelters and started adding the numbers. She estimated that there were around 900 older dogs in shelters within 500 miles of her home in Elk Rapids that needed new homes.

Many of these animals are abandoned by families when they get too old or sick and need medical care. Sometimes they bring the dog to a shelter but often they are just left on roads. Some dogs are homeless because their owner died and there was nowhere for them to go. These dogs are the last to be adopted because most people are looking for puppies or younger dogs.

The stories that the shelters told Kim about these older abandoned dogs led to Kim's decision to buy an empty storage building that was next store to her business and to open Silver Muzzle Cottage as a nonprofit rescue and hospice for senior dogs ages 10 years and up and terminally ill dogs. It is the only Animal rescue organization in Michigan dedicated to older dogs.

Silver Muzzle doesn't look like a convention rescue. It is set-up like a house with a living room with couches and throw pillows and chairs for the dogs to lounge on. Kim told the Detroit Free Press, “We wanted it to be a home.” The cottage has become her home too; she lives there with the dogs.

Around 100 volunteers help with the dogs playing with them or taking them for walks or car rides. “For some people it’s too hard,” Skarritt- Nelson told the Detroit Free Press. “They really can’t handle it. But for those who can, they find it very rewarding. We have to look at it in a positive light, otherwise it would be very depressing. But it’s a win-win for us and it’s a win-win for the dogs.”

Silver Muzzle has nine dogs living there currently (five lucky dogs were recently adopted) but they typically have 15-20 dogs. This week, they will be taking their 144th dog; of those, 123 found new homes to live out their golden years in and the remaining 21 passed away or as Kim says, "we helped over the bridge."

One of the current dogs living at the cottage is Emily, a 14-year-old golden retriever mix. She is blind and deaf and is a permanent resident of the cottage. Rosie is a 13-year-old beagle/basset mix with has mammary cancer but is doing well.

Giving a second chance to these older dogs is Kim's mission. “They don’t ask for much when they’re really old. They want to be loved and cared for, they want food and they just need a warm place to lay their head at night,” she told The Detroit Free Press. “At some point they were cared for, and then when they needed it most they’re not. And that’s why they really need a place like ours.”

When Silver Muzzle opened, it was one of a small number of senior animal rescue organizations in the US but the numbers are growing as many people realize that older dogs make great pets, they just need a family to love them.

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