Special shelter in Muncie gives older, disabled dogs a place to call home

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MUNCIE, Ind.-- Finding a loving home for a dog can often times be difficult. It can be even harder if the dog is older or disabled. In Muncie, the Muncie Animal Rescue Fund (ARF) saw the need for a special place for those animals and now it’s become a reality – it’s called Jeff’s House.

It was named after Jeff Ross, he passed away about two years ago from cancer. His parents and Ross were big supporters of ARF and they wanted to honor his memory by helping build a special shelter for animals.

“Jeff’s House stemmed from the idea that we needed a space for animals that were scared or had abuse issues in the past or maybe not properly socialized, where they don’t do great in a shelter setting,” said Nikki Kirby with Jeff’s House and Muncie ARF. “There’s new people in and out looking for dogs, kind of looking into kennels, putting their fingers into kennels and they’re scared of new people. They needed a quieter building where there were less people in and out all day and more consistent people that they knew and trusted.”

Kirby says with ARF being a no-kill shelter, the kennels fill up very fast. Before Jeff’s House, there was a concern that not every animal was getting the chance to be adopted.

“These dogs that are more fearful and less adoptable to your average dog owner - it kind of takes away from your ability to help more adoptable dogs,” said Kirby. “So, you have to have a balance between dogs that are more readily available for adoption and also balance with dogs that need more time for adoption.”

“The dogs that are here in Jeff’s House are dogs that ultimately, we would like to see adopted – some of them, unfortunately, probably won’t be adopted either because of medical issues or behavioral issues,” said Lisa March, the adoption coordinator at Jeff’s House. “Some of them have not been socialized properly and so they’re afraid of new people and new situations. So, the fact that we can have them here and in a little bit more of a quieter setting, calmer setting, than over in our adoption center.”

Jeff’s House is a separate building on ARF’s property. It’s smaller with a set group of volunteers and even a snuggle room. This allows the dogs to get to know who they’re dealing with and build the trust that many of them have lost.

“With our Jeff’s House volunteers, we ask for a two-hour time commitment every week at the same time, so the dogs actually get used to the people,” said Kirby. “They know that they’re not going to hurt them, and they know that usually they come bearing hot dogs or other treats, so they actually get very excited to see the volunteers.”

Each dog in the shelter has a unique story. Some were surrendered because their owner had passed away and family members couldn’t take care of them. Others came from horrible situations.

Benni is a little pup who was rescued from a puppy mill. She came to the shelter two years ago.

“She was bred her entire life to continually have puppies to be sold,” said Kirby. “But Benni got very little socialization, probably than being fed every few days.”

Benni never really learned to trust people, so the staff and volunteers at ARF really had to take their time with her. Today, Benni is still fearful but she’s developed a trust with some of the staff, including Kirby.

Jelly is considered the poster pup for Jeff’s House. She came to the shelter back in 2012 – pregnant with heartworm and a broken hip. The staff at ARF helped her deliver her puppies and get healthy again. When she was ready, she was adopted pretty quickly but things didn’t go as planned.

“She did have severe separation anxiety,” said Kirby. “So, when her owners would leave her home, she actually destroyed a lot of the house. She chewed up a new couch down to the springs, destroyed a brand new rug, chewed baseboards, chewed door frames. So, they did bring her back, just because it was decided that her anxiety was just too much to handle.”

Jelly was adopted a second time by a volunteer who took care of her at the shelter, but she again had some separation anxiety.

“I think she thought we were actually getting rid of her every time we tried to adopt her out,” said Kirby. “So, then we decided to just let her go ahead and retire and this would be her forever home.”

And so, Jelly is not only the poster child of Jeff’s House but also the resident cuddler.

But it’s not just the cuddle room that makes a difference to the dogs at Jeff’s House. Senior and disabled dogs need special care.

“We definitely think that all animals deserve a forever home and they deserve to be treated with love and respect, and know that they’re never going to be hurt, they’ll be hungry, and they’ll never be cold,” said Kirby. “So, having Jeff’s House is wonderful because it gives them that security.”

“So many of them are under-socialized or they have issues where they have to learn to trust people all over again,” said Marsh. “So, the one-on-one attention that they get here enables them to learn to trust again and know that people are good and kind, and there is a person out there for them that potentially could give them their forever home.”

So, while dogs like Jelly and Benni may not get adopted – the staff and volunteers at Jeff’s House consider themselves as part of their forever family.

“So, this gives them a place to come, where they’re going to be loved and we do love them all, just like they were our own,” said Marsh. “They’re going to be cared for, they’re going to be given everything that they need – if need be, this will be their home forever.”

Jeff’s House and ARF are always in need of donations.

Here’s what they need:

  • Dog beds
  • Blankets
  • Sheets
  • Towels
  • Canned dog food
  • Hot dogs (for medication)
  • Cleaning supplies like bleach, laundry detergent, Lysol wipes

You can drop off donations at Muncie ARF or Jeff’s House when they’re open. If you’d like more information about donations or volunteer opportunities click here.

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