NORTH YARMOUTH, Maine — It’s a hot summer day and dogs are snoozing all over Laurie Dorr’s house. A big husky is flopped in the living room, panting. A gray-muzzled mutt is snoring under the dining room table. In the quiet back room, by herself, rests a slightly ornery terrier. Others stretch out on the cool kitchen floor.
They’re all content, all happy. That’s just the way Dorr wants it.
“They’re old dogs,” she said, smiling. “They sleep a lot.”
Dorr, 55, has loved animals her whole life — especially dogs — and now wants to make sure canines facing homelessness at the end of their lives have a peaceful place to spend their golden years. That’s why she recently turned the modest saltbox she shares with her husband and daughter into the Finally Home Senior Dog Rescue and Retirement Home.
“The mission is to bring in as many senior dogs as I can so they can have a nice ending to their lives,” Dorr said.
Currently, she has five dogs between the ages of 7 and 12, but she would like to have more, maybe as many as 20.
“I’ve always felt bad for any dog that gets dumped by its owner. It’s really hard for them, especially a senior animal,” Dorr said. “It’s a responsibility. When you get an animal, you take care of it, as best you can, until it passes away.”
She even formed an official nonprofit board to help her raise money for the cause and stay organized.
“It would be irresponsible to take them in and say, ‘Oh, I’ll come up with the money,’” Dorr said. “I needed to come up with a plan.”
The dogs have free run of the first floor in the house. Dorr wants to make sure it stays homelike for them and not merely a kennel. There are dog beds in every room. There’s a big fenced yard and a sunny porch to lounge on. Dorr even has a pool that the husky, named Toby, likes to swim in.
Toby, 7, was already Dorr’s dog when she came up with the retirement home idea.
Other dogs in the pack include Jewels, 11, who came to Maine from Mississippi with a transport of puppies. She ended up at the Animal Refuge League. Dorr was fostering Jewels last winter and decided to keep her.
Another dog is Lucy, a 10-year-old terrier with anxiety and thyroid issues. She also suffers from chronic hind leg pain.
“She’s on three different medications,” Dorr said.
Lucy bounced around a lot before making it to Finally Home. First, she lived with a family.
“The family decided to go out and get two puppies,” Dorr said.
Lucy didn’t get along with the puppies and was surrendered to a shelter. Then she was taken in by a private rescue organization before coming to Dorr’s house.
The newest resident, an 11-year-old black lab named Sophie, arrived Saturday. She was owned by an elderly couple moving into a retirement community that doesn’t allow dogs.
Dorr said Sophie is a bit confused right now, and a little needy, but she’s doing OK. Sophie is still looking for her owners to come back for her.
“When [her owner] left, he was crying a little bit — and I was kind of crying a little bit,” Dorr said.
Patsy Murphy, executive director of the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, said her organization doesn’t have any trouble finding homes for older dogs that end up in their care.
“Senior dogs are just as adoptable as puppy dogs,” Murphy said. “There are people who come in looking for older dogs specifically.”
At her shelter, Murphy’s staff goes to great lengths to match willing adopters up with the right older dog. They also have a program for human senior citizens who want to adopt an older animal.
So far this year, the Animal Refuge League has found forever homes for 63 dogs older than 7. The total for all of last year was 109 dogs of the same age group.
Dorr still works a full-time job along with her dog duties. She is able to make her own schedule and can do part of the job from home. Her family also cares for two elderly cats and a 22-year-old horse — all rescues as well.
Dorr does not want Finally Home to be just a convenient dropoff for people bored with their old dogs. People must have a legitimate reason for not keeping their dogs. Finally Home has an official application process.
“And I don’t want to be a dumping ground for people who just want to go out and get a puppy,” Dorr said.
But word is definitely getting out about her retirement home. Recently, she was contacted by a 75-year-old man who wants to write her into his will.
“He wants to leave his two dogs to me because he doesn’t want his dogs to die when he dies,” Dorr said. “He has nowhere else where he can leave them.”
She sent him an application.
Dorr has not had to face the inevitable end with any of her dogs yet, and she is not looking forward to it when the time comes. She still chokes up a little when talking about her last dog, a lab who lived to be 14.
Until then, Dorr will enjoy the company of her canine companions and take care of them as they approach this side of the rainbow bridge.
“It makes me feel good to know that I’m helping these dogs,” Dorr said. “Otherwise, they’d be in a shelter or even be euthanized.”
Elsmere BBQ & Wood Grill in South Portland is hosting a benefit for Finally Home on Tuesday, Aug. 13, from 4 to 9 p.m.
Watch: 16 dogs saved from southern kill shelter find forever homes in Bangor