Gray Face Acres is a dog rescue located in Haymarket that specializes in senior dogs. Founders Bob and Debbie Gretz created the organization in 2016 after years of fostering seniors in their own home. Since then, Gray Face Acres has rescued almost 400 senior dogs.
In 2019, the Gretzes headed to Idaho to be closer to family and have begun working on Gray Face Acres West.
Treasurer Jade Nguyen, who began as a volunteer with the group, now helps to run Gray Face Acres East alongside a dedicated group of volunteers and foster parents. They say it takes a village to raise a child and the same can be said for finding homes for older dogs. Nguyen stressed that running this rescue would not be possible if not for the help of volunteers, foster parents, veterinarians and donations.
Senior dogs can be anywhere from seven years old to much older. Gray Face Acres specializes not only in helping seniors but also medically needy dogs who may need some extra care— something that sets them apart from other rescues.
After arriving, dogs go into foster care before being adopted and finding their forever home. Foster parents take a dog into their care before they are adopted, making sure they are well-loved and taken care of. Foster parents are also involved in helping to find a home that will be the right fit for the dog after getting to know them during their time as a foster.
Jani Willis has been fostering for Gray Face Acres for two years now after finding out about the rescue through a search on social media. She has fostered almost 30 animals, many of which came from Gray Face Acres.
“[Gray Face Acres] care[s] so much about their dogs,” said Willis. “They make sure that they’re well cared for, that medical needs are addressed and they do a great job of screening applicants to find the best match for the dog and the person. They do whatever the dog needs while still being fund-conscious and I cannot express the importance of volunteers and donors enough.”
She was drawn to fostering seniors in particular after seeing acquaintances give their seniors up to shelters for various reasons. She felt heartbroken for these animals and made it a priority to help them as much as possible.
“It’s a chance to change a dog’s life for the better or make sure their end of life is quality— which is what they deserve,” she said.
The rescue also works with nearby animal shelters in order to make sure seniors do not have to spend an extended amount of time in a shelter.
“Most of these dogs have never been in an animal shelter and have known one family for their entire lives,” said Nicole Bates from the Stafford County Animal Shelter. “When an animal comes in and they’re 10 years old or older, they’ve never been in a shelter so they don’t know us, they don’t know the environment. It’s much harder for them to adjust. It’s important for them to spend as little time here at an animal shelter as possible.”
Stafford County Animal Shelter has been working with Gray Face Acres for two years now. Bates said that the team has always been responsive and prompt. She said she worries about the seniors that get sent out but has an incredible amount of trust in the rescue to make sure they are well taken care of.
When asked if she had any advice for someone looking to adopt a senior dog, Bates said patience is one of the most important things.
“Patience is a huge part of adopting a senior because it does take them longer to adjust,” she said. “Some of them are mourning or stressed, they might have a medical ailment that makes it harder for them to adjust to a new lifestyle. Patience, love and a warm place to live are the top three things to take a senior. They do take a little longer than the average adult dog or puppy to adjust to your home and family. It’s just as much of a change for them as it is for you. It might take a while but it’s so rewarding.”
Nguyen said that there are no set quotas for the amount of dogs Gray Face Acres has at any given time.
“We get requests on a daily basis and if we can help then we will. We always have to keep in mind how much money we have in the bank but really, if we get a request and a dog is in need, we’ll do what we can,” she said.
The rescue makes sure that both the dogs and parents feel comfortable before, during and after adopting with their 3—3—3 check ins. Families are checked in on after three days as the dog begins to slowly settle into the home, they are checked in on again after three weeks, three months and then six months. This helps ensure that everyone is settling in and doing well.
“When you commit [to a senior dog] and then the dog passes, you’re going to feel heartbroken,” said Nguyen, who has had many seniors of her own. “You’ll be sad for a long time. What I always tell myself, as well as other people, is that the sacrifice of sorrow at the end is your final gift to them. You gave them everything you could while they were alive and you bear the heartache when they pass.”
Gray Face Acres is always looking for volunteers and donors as it is a 100 percent volunteer and donation based organization. More information, including a list of available dogs, a volunteer application and a foster application can be found online at https://www.grayfaceacres.org/. Donations can be made via Paypal at paypal.me/grayfaceacres or via Venmo to @GrayFaceAcres.