How Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary Saved This Dog Duo

By: Howard HardeeUpdated:

old friends senior dog rescue
Photos courtesy of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary

How Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary Saved This Dog Duo

Like most bonded pairs of pets, Rose and Ebenezer, two dogs at Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, do pretty much everything together. But that doesn’t mean they have much in common.

“They are a very odd couple,” laughs Cherie Shannon, an assistant manager at the sanctuary. “They definitely balance each other out.”

Rose, a 6-and-a-half-year-old, 60-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback, is both high-energy and high-anxiety. She’s fearful of strangers, but jumps up and down and barks for attention around loved ones, and twirls around excitedly before going for a walk. Once she knows a person, she’ll happily lay across their lap.

Ebenezer, on the other hand, is an 11-and-a-half-year-old, 20 pound beagle who fits the “grumpy old man” stereotype to a tee. He prefers to find his own private place to lie down, thank you very much—and don’t even think about asking him to go for a walk, or you might be met with his distinctive, loud howl.

No one knows for sure how these two became inseparable BFFs. But staff at Old Friends say they’re not just besties—they’re soulmates who simply can’t live without each other.

Ebenezer arrived at Old Friends on Jan. 31, 2020, thanks to the efforts of the Rural Animal Rescue Effort, which had removed Ebenezer and Rose from a hoarding situation. But he arrived alone, and the staff could quickly tell that something wasn’t right. Ebenezer had no confidence and was skittish on a leash.

“A couple of days later we got a call [from a shelter] and they said, ‘We have this other dog who’s too young for your program, but we think they were bonded because she’s freaking out without him.’” That other dog, of course, was Rose.

Old Friends is dedicated to helping senior dogs; their residents include older dogs with serious illnesses and mobility issues who require extraordinary care. But staff knew that it’s not unusual for dogs to bond in the tight quarters and traumatic day-to-day reality of living in a hoarder’s house.

So, they made an exception to reunite Rose with Ebenezer, taking in 6-year-old dog—and instantly improving both their lives.

“Once we got them together, the confidence difference was so amazing,” Cissell says. “They’re definitely a bonded pair.”

With each other’s support, both dogs began medical and behavioral therapies to help them get healthy and learn to accept love.

Rose, for example, was terrified of walking on leash and even wearing a collar. Today, she’s able to walk on leash in private with a person she trusts, though she’s still working on getting comfortable in public. She also remains shy around strangers, though she becomes extremely affectionate once she gets to know you.

“She’s come a long way,” Shannon says. “She’s to the point now where somebody might come along and say, ‘This dog is a little hyper and a little nervous, but if you have patience and understanding, then she’s simple.’”

Ebenezer, for his part, has had his own struggles: Since he arrived at Old Friends, he was treated with chemotherapy for a mass on his prostate, and underwent surgery for a torn cruciate on his right hind leg.

His recovery from both was excellent, staff say. He’s now in remission—and no one at Old Friends would argue that Rose’s presence is at least partially responsible for his good health.

Energetic pup Rosie is thriving with Ebenezer by her side.
Old Friends staff describe Ebenezer as a lovable "old man."

Rose and Ebenezer are just two of Old Friends’ many success stories.

Between 110 and 130 senior dogs live at Old Friends’ facility at a given time, and more than 400 are living with “Geezer Guardians” (aka aka pet parents who take in senior-age dogs and make sure that whatever time remains is comfortable) within a 100 mile radius of the sanctuary.

Like many of the rescues at the sanctuary, each had medical or behavioral issues that would likely have made it difficult to find a forever home. In fact, some of the lifetime residents at Old Friends would likely be euthanized due to behavioral issues if they hadn’t been taken in, Shannon says. Most resource-scarce shelters are forced to prioritize the most adoptable dogs.

Old Friends, on the other hand, accepts dogs for life. Their network of “Geezer Guardians” helps them save as many senior dogs as possible. Old Friends provides and covers the cost of these fosters' medical care and offers ongoing support throughout the fostering process.

“We’re able to keep track of the dogs in a partnership,” Cissell says. “They get to keep the dog forever and we also keep in touch; they go to see our vets, they see our physical therapists. They’ll get all of the resources they need to take care of that dog.”

That means more dogs like Ebenezer and Rose get to live long, happy lives, with all the love and support they need.

Today, Rose continues to cope with anxiety, but she’s making progress and overcoming her fears every day. Now, she can even enjoy short periods apart from Ebenezer—though the two are always excited to be reunited afterwards.

With Rose by his side, Ebenezer’s demeanor is confident, maybe even a little cocky. But he hasn’t lost his grumpy old man edge. His legendary bay starts low and crescendos to a piercingly high pitch that echoes throughout “Barkley Suites,” aka Old Friends’ doggie living quarters, letting everybody know he’s feeling a bit prickly.

“I’ve never heard anything like it,” Shannon says. “Everybody in the facility knows what he sounds like.”

Both have come so far in their rehabilitation that they’re up for adoption—together, of course.

Ebenezer and Rose, together forever.

 “They just need that little bit of comfort from each other,” Shannon says.

Thanks to Old Friends, no matter what the future holds, Rose and Ebenezer will always have each other by their side. It’s hard to imagine a happier ending to their love story.

Make a Difference for Senior Dogs

Rose and Ebenezer are just two of the thousands of senior dogs across the country who are looking for forever homes. If you’re inspired by their story, consider adopting or fostering a senior dog in your community. You can search for adoptable senior dogs at shelters and rescues in your area.

Interested in adopting Rose and Ebenezer? Find out more about the pair here.

How You Can Help

Shelter and rescue organizations depend on support from pet lovers to intervene when animals like Rose and Ebenezer need their help. But here's the good news: You can support the life-saving work of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary with just a few clicks.

You’ll find a list of all the supplies they need on their Chewy Wish List. Just add to cart, check out, and we’ll ship everything straight to their doorstep!

Shop Old Friends' Wish List


By: Howard HardeeUpdated: