Monkey’s House: A Dog Hospice and SanctuaryJul 31, 2017 11:30PM ● By Sue Burghard Brooks
In bucolic Burlington County, New Jersey, is a unique six-acre haven where outward signs of near-death illnesses, serious health complications and disabilities are barely noticeable among the nearly two dozen robust-looking residents.
This is Monkey’s House a Dog Hospice and Sanctuary, a dream-come-true for Michele Allen and her husband, Jeff, and one of the few such places in the nation.
The story behind its formation is uplifting, filled with deep compassion and love.
The Allens, passionate advocates for rescue and shelter animals, have welcomed many into their lives—dogs, cats and horses—during the course of their 30-year marriage.
After the sudden death of their beloved dog, Emmy, Michele appealed to a shelter friend to select “any dog” to fill the empty space in her heart and home. The friend let her choose between two older dogs with medical issues, and she went home with both.
Michele, previously an award-wining Registered Nurse, found the experience of caring for ill dogs “healing and rewarding.”
“Homeless dogs with terminal diagnoses or hard-to-adopt disabilities—particularly seniors—are the most at-risk population in high-kill shelters. There are no provisions for sick dogs in shelters. Rescues also don’t have the funds, but would perhaps try to raise money for dogs needing extensive veterinary care.”
From that point on, the Allens chose to foster sick dogs. “As a nurse, I had always felt the best healing was done in the home,” Michele says.
Michele sought to expand her knowledge about canine wellness and natural healing, and attended a lecture by author Dr. Judy Morgan, owner of Clayton and Churchtown, New Jersey, Veterinary Associates. Morgan’s holistic veterinary approach integrates traditional Western and Eastern medicines, including promoting the benefits of food therapy (see article on page 26). Michele began studying Morgan’s methods.
In 2014, the Allens were fostering a feisty little rescued stray with severe medical challenges that never seemed to lessen his zest for life. “Monkey” brought them boundless joy. His health needs were so great that the couple adopted him so they could provide him with the expansive medical treatment he deserved. Michele also developed a food therapy program for him, based on Morgan’s teachings, and consulted with her to ensure he was receiving the best nutrition possible.
When Monkey passed after 17 months, Michele channeled her grief—and a good chunk of the family’s savings—into transitioning their home to accommodate as many special-needs dogs as they safely (and sanely) could handle. Later that year, she and Jeff formally obtained 501(c)3 nonprofit status for Monkey’s House.
As director, Michele cares for the dogs 24/7/365. Jeff devotes his time before and after work, as well as on weekends. Monkey’s House is staffed only by volunteers.
Medically fragile dogs, identified as “dog- and cat-friendly”, join Monkey’s House through referrals from established shelters, rescues, animal control groups and veterinarians. Current residents range in size from four to 100 pounds and represent a variety of breeds. All have terminal or chronic medical conditions; many have more than one. Some are also suffering from the ill effects of past abuse and neglect. Most of them were just minutes or hours away from certain death.
Michele develops a plan of action for every dog, which she adjusts as their health changes. Each dog receives proper medical care and treatment from Morgan, as well as appropriate non-traditional treatments, such as chiropractic and laser.
Twice a day, the dogs are fed raw or home-cooked meals, prepared by Michele and volunteers. Foods added may include ingredients like organic coconut oil and pumpkin, fresh beets, select dehydrated mushrooms, and herbs, all based on Morgan’s food therapy theories.
In addition to being staffed solely by volunteers, Monkey’s House is supported solely by donations and in-kind gifts.
“We have celebrated many small miracles in helping seriously ill dogs regain a maintainable quality of life,” said Michele. “If dogs can be returned to full and vigorous health, they have the opportunity to be adopted through our partner rescues—a great achievement but not our specific mission.”
For those dogs whose prognosis is poor, Monkey’s House will provide all-important, end-of-life care until they cross the “Rainbow Bridge”.
Michele is quick to note that Monkey’s House is not a franchise. She does, however, have the next phase of her mission in mind.
“My goal is to have another location nearby with space to store all of our supplies and where we can quarantine our new residents on site,” she says. “Most importantly, we’d like to have a place where we can invite other rescues and the public to learn about our approach to embracing end-of-life care for dogs.
“We want to show what can be done to help pets pass in the arms of their loving owners, and in their own homes.”
For more information on Monkey’s House, visit MonkeysHouse.org or their page at Facebook.com/monkeyshouse.org/.
Sue Burghard Brooks is a NJ-based freelance writer and published author. She loved growing up with rescue dogs, but now has a schedule more suitable for cats.