Petaluma senior dog sanctuary Lily’s Legacy a lifeline

Alice Mayn was born a dog lover. At the age of 5 she started bringing strays home.

Decades later, she founded one of the few major dog rescues in the United States, Lily’s Legacy, on a sprawling Petaluma farm, and served as managing director. She later launched an annual online campaign called Saving Senior Dogs in the last week of October, which resonated across the country.

“I have this recessive gene somewhere,” Mayn said with a laugh. “My parents were very patient and let me keep my first stray dog. When my husband and I got married we had to have a puppy. And I’ve had dogs ever since. “

Lily’s Legacy offers a second chance for dogs over 50 pounds and 7 years and older. Almost all of them, who come from animal shelters or are handed over by owners, have experienced trauma and are loved by Mayn’s veterinary partners Drs. Aaron and Marybeth Wentzell, who practice in Fairfax. All incoming canines are medically examined, their teeth checked, the nails trimmed and bathed. They’re showing up “new dogs,” Mayn said.

Then they live in large metal kennels in the back of a large red barn and are led, petted and fed by 40-50 volunteers. The front part of the barn is a living room. Most of the time, the dogs, from the German Shepherd to the Labrador Retriever, have a free hand, their kennel doors are open.

“Our goal is to get these dogs as close to home life as possible,” Mayn said during a recent tour.

One German Shepherd, Lady, 9, was a little shy; She was recently rescued by a “backyard breeder” who had little socialization.

Saving Senior Dogs Week, which runs through Sunday and was launched by Mayne three years ago, is a partnership with other U.S. rescue organizations that aims to educate the public about the benefits of adopting an older dog – they are ripe, trained in the potty and calm – as well as bringing in donations.

The site has a “Dog Stories” section that tells of Buddy the blind dog who now leads a quiet life with two cats. And Barkley, a German shepherd who was evicted from the streets of a rough neighborhood in Richmond and had no hair left on his body, transformed completely and found a home.

The number of pets being dropped off at animal shelters and emergency services has increased during the pandemic as people have lost their jobs and homes.

“We got a bunch of dogs because of COVID,” Mayne said. “One family had dogs whose health was too bad to move back east. We took them to a hospice home and they had a good six months. “

Her journey to Lily’s legacy began in 2007 as she was preparing for retirement. She had bought an old farmhouse that she was planning to convert in Forest Knolls, west of Fairfax. Her grandchildren lived down the street. She thought she was done.

Then Mayn found out about a 12-year-old golden retriever who was found sick, roaming the streets of Santa Rosa, and staying at the Sonoma County Animal Shelter. As a volunteer on a Golden Retriever rescue, Mayn went to her for an exam and found that Lily was frail, had a nasal infection and a tumor on her eyelid. That day she went home with her.

Lily was treated by Aaron Wentzell and responded well. She spent many happy hours with the three other Goldens in the family and enjoyed taking naps in the tub. But within four months, Lilly died of a blood disease.

After having Lily and knowing that older dogs, especially large ones, are often abandoned, Mayn decided that she wanted to create a refuge in her home just for her.

“Lily changed my life,” said Mayn, 76. “Who would have thought that? It is an extremely rewarding thing to do. “

She met with Wentzell to work with her on a discount basis and set up the nonprofit organization, taking in her first dog in 2010. The dog was a mixed breed named Miracle “and we’ve been seeing miracles ever since,” Mayn said.

As the number of dogs she took in increased, she decided in 2012 that she needed a bigger space. After searching, she rented a 15-acre home in Petaluma, where the sanctuary was thriving. But in 2013 a donor called to say, “We’re going to buy you a seat,” she said.

With the help of other donors, they bought a large house, barn and 5 acres of sequoia trees in rural Petaluma. It is equipped with a video camera so Mayn can see what the dogs are doing in the stable. There is a dog pool. A wooden rainbow bridge and memorial stones adorn the front yard.

In 2013, Petaluma’s senior volunteer Lisa Azevedo looked for a new dog after the family dog ​​died. Although she couldn’t find the right partner, she found an exciting volunteer opportunity.

Acevedo handles administrative tasks in the “bunkhouse”, where a desk and computer are set up next to kennels for dogs recovering from medical treatment. She also cleans kennels and scoops up feces. “Everyone does that,” she says.

The volunteers work in shifts from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“We don’t know what happened to them before; All we can do is make them feel safe … and loved so that they can move into a new home a little more balanced than they came in, ”said Azevedo.

In 2014, San Rafael’s Kathy Dougherty participated in a fundraiser for Lily’s Legacy. She turned to her husband and said, “You are doing really valuable work here and I have to volunteer.”

“I knew people abandoned older big dogs,” she said. “Senior large races really need someone to speak for them. When I see the gray and white snout, it just tears my heart apart. “

Since then, Mayn’s house dogs have come and gone (she now has a Golden Retriever named Angie and two German Shepherds named Cooper and Lily) and some dogs have stayed until her death, but not many. Mayn said: It’s a myth that older dogs are difficult to adopt.

“What I love is that they just exude gratitude,” she said. “People who have adopted one of our dogs say that their children learn to respect an older being. I think that’s a very valuable lesson. “

You can contact Kathleen Coates at

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