Nearly 700,000 dogs are euthanized in shelters nationally each year, according to the ASPCA. Jeff and Michele Allen are trying to change that, by bringing senior rescue dogs into their home and hearts.
The Allens run Monkey’s House, a nonprofit dog hospice and sanctuary, from their Burlington County farm. There, they care for about 25 terminally ill or senior dogs at a time, letting them live their last days in an idyllic setting.
“Monkey’s House is the happiest place on earth,” Jeff Allen said. “You’ve got dogs living in harmony. They’re not like people. They live in the moment.”
The organization started with the Allens’ lifelong love of animals. They began fostering terminally ill dogs in 2010 and were able to help Monkey, a dog with chronic heart failure expected to live just a few weeks, add 17 months to his life.
“It really put the spark under us to do something,” Allen explained. “Still today, there are very little resources for hospice dogs or terminal dogs in the shelter system.”
The Allens feed Monkey’s House dogs a nutrient-rich diet of raw or prepared foods, holistically and medically treat their illnesses and take them on regular field trips to the beach in their senior dog bus.
“We try to give them experiences and moments,” Allen said. “Sometimes it’s just having the sunshine on their face. Sometimes it’s big moments like going to the beach.”
The husband and wife duo went viral on the Monkey’s House Facebook page, where they post updates on the dogs. Their more than 65,000 followers created a community to receive support when their own dogs are ailing or have died.
“Many people have reached out to us and said by following you, I’ve taken a chance and I’ve adopted a senior dog with medical issues, because I’ve learned how to do it,” Allen noted. “We’re trying to get the word out there that hospice dogs still have a lot of life. They have a lot of love to give.”
The Allens wrote a book, “Where Dogs Go to Live: Inspiring Stories of Hospice Dogs Living in the Moment,” filled with tales of the more than 100 dogs they’ve cared for since opening Monkey’s House. The book also offers insight into caring for a dying dog, including a chapter on “sofa medicine,” what the Allens see as attainable care for senior dog owners.
“You can do a lot of things on your sofa,” Allen said. “It gives you more comfort knowing that you’re doing something positively with your dog. And lets you enjoy your dog more in those final moments.”
Beyond Monkey’s House, Jeff and Michele Allen help Forever Fosters care for senior dogs in their own homes. There are currently eight dogs housed with families outside of Monkey’s House.
“They’re just giving them the love, but we still control those dogs in their veterinary care and health,” Jeff Allen said. “We can’t we can’t take any more dogs here, but if we build our Forever Foster program, that’s how we grow.”
Monkey’s House always seeks donations and volunteers to keep the farm running. More information is available at www.monkeyshouse.org