Jun. 27—While working in maintenance for Clatsop County, Jacque Pressly spent many hours cleaning the animal shelter in Warrenton.
Some of the dogs would roam around with her as she performed her duties at night. She built a special bond with one of them — "Sara," a 13-year-old Rottweiler.
"She was just the sweetest dog," Pressly recalls.
One night, Pressly noticed Sara wasn't in her pen. At first, she was excited that the aging dog had finally been adopted. But she soon discovered that Sara became very sick and was euthanized.
Pressly was devastated and regretted not adopting her.
"While I was cleaning, I cried," she said. "Then when I took the trash out I was looking around and the sky was just so beautiful that night and I knew Sara was up there looking at us.
"I made a promise to her that night that somehow I would start a sanctuary for senior dogs."
She did just that. Angels for Sara, a nonprofit that cares and raises awareness for older dogs along the coasts of Oregon and Washington state, has been up and running since 2014.
Partnering with shelters, many of which are overcrowded, Pressly works to find adopters or foster homes for dogs typically 8 years and older — a group that often struggles to attract interest.
Before finding them permanent homes, Angels for Sara works to get the dogs medically evaluated by a veterinarian. If the dog is in bad shape, they will seek out a foster home where the dog can live out the remainder of its time while covering any medical costs.
"You can't save them all, but you can help a few," Pressly said.
For several years, Pressly operated the sanctuary out of a large property near Astoria. A couple of years ago, she relocated to a spot near Naselle, Washington. Although the area is much smaller, she has set up her home to make it suitable for the elderly pooches.
At her place, which she refers to as a "gated community," she has six dogs up for adoption and four of her own.
"It can be chaotic, especially around feeding time ... for the most part, everyone gets along really good," she said. "They're mellow, they're great."
While the coronavirus pandemic affected volunteer turnout, Pressly is grateful for any help she can get with cleaning the sanctuary or spending one-on-one time with the dogs.
On the first Saturday of every month, Pressly brings a senior dog to Petco in Warrenton in hopes of getting them adopted or fostered. She doesn't push people to adopt older dogs if they aren't interested, but she sees several advantages to owning one if the fit is right.
"Usually, they're house trained except for sometimes when they get incontinent," she said with a laugh. "They're not as playful so they don't chew up things. They're laid back more so you don't usually have to walk them as far."
Pressly often gets older dogs when owners can no longer take care of them, but sometimes she sees older dogs that are left behind as medical bills grow or families seek out a puppy instead.
"I think (older dogs) are forgotten a lot, thrown away, kind of ... It's heartbreaking, but at least we can give them some kind of peace and some kind of love and we're with them when they pass over," she said.