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How a senior canine sanctuary connects pooches with people in need
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Kristin Moroz, left, holds Ice-T during an event benefiting Frankie and Andy's Place, a dog shelter in Barrow County that rescues senior dogs from other shelters and puts them to work as therapy dogs, on Thursday, Sep. 6, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

At a dog rescue in Winder, senior dogs live in cabins, sleep on couches and eat homemade meals, but the dogs give back as well.

The dogs at Frankie and Andy’s Place go to schools, senior centers and adult day centers to provide companionship for people who may need it.

“I always dreamed of a place where we would not only bring them in and bring them into something that was a home environment, but also we would give a dog a purpose,” founder Penny Miller said.

Miller got the idea for Frankie and Andy’s Place when she encountered Frankie, a Great Dane, at another shelter.

“I came across this Great Dane with crooked ears and the craziest combover you’ve ever seen, and he was about to be put down. ... He was the one that made me realize shelters could be different,” Miller said. “He was on a cold, hard floor. There was no bed for him.”

Miller helped Frankie get healthy, and then he was adopted by Penny Andrews, who quickly became a friend and joined Miller in her efforts.

Frankie and Andy’s Place takes in dogs from shelters and houses them in two cabins with a wooded yard that Miller said aims to recreate a home environment. The dogs are all temperament tested to make sure they get along well with each other and with people.

The organization has several regular volunteers who have also bonded with each other, Miller said.

“They’re there to love on the dogs, but they also love on each other and they make friendships. In service to the dogs, we’re all a family,” she said.

One volunteer, Pat Mitchell, is a dog trainer herself and has always loved animals. She said the home environment at Frankie and Andy’s Place helps older dogs thrive.

“It’s like paradise for senior dogs,” she said.

Both the dogs and the people they meet can benefit, Mitchell said.

“They’re saving these senior dogs, they’re giving them a life, but then these little dogs are going out in the community through outreach programs and helping to heal people,” Mitchell said. “It’s just amazing. It’s the way I wish every single rescue could be run.”

Walter Boomershine, a local philanthropist and Mitchell’s father, is also lending his support. An event at his home Sept. 6 helped raise awareness for the rescue among people in Hall County. Some of the dogs, who are named after celebrities, also attended.

“They get people together with the dogs, and that’s where the therapy and the healing takes place. They do such a wonderful job of healing the people,” Boomershine said. “They go through a catharsis. ... The dogs are taken care of, and the people are taken care of.”

Miller said one outreach program the organization wants to expand is its collaboration with schools. Teaching children how to care for and respect animals can create lifelong values and trickle upwards to the parents, she said.

“Loving a dog is a lifetime commitment, and the responsibility starts with every member of your family, not just Mom and Dad, grandma or granddad,” Miller said.

And the children can learn about acceptance by learning how to love an older dog that may look different or have some physical challenges, she said.

“We’ll say, ‘Do you think the dog looks beautiful even though he’s got areas with no fur or his tail looks a bit wonky or maybe he’s got warts all over him? is he still beautiful?’” Miller said. “They go, ‘Yes, we do.’ Take a look around you, everyone around you is different, all your friends are different, can you see how beauty doesn’t have to mean one thing?”