A Heart for Disabled and Senior Dogs

Rita Benavidez, founder of Hank’s Hostel Fur Hounds dog rescue, is a rare person, whose heart embraces the neediest dogs. Hank’s Hostel is a rescue and sanctuary for disabled and senior dogs, where they can live out their lives forever and receive special care and a whole lot of love.

The Heart of the Matter

Rita founded the rescue and sanctuary in honor of her beloved dog, Hank, who has since passed. Rita says,

“I couldn’t function when my father passed away. Couldn’t get out of bed, didn’t want to. But Hank brought me back. He literally gave me my life back. I had to get out of bed to care for him. He wanted to go out and play! I have so much gratitude for animals. They are capable of so much, if humans will just let them in.”

Let them in she has. Rita has let in 27 dogs, currently in her care, plus another four who are scheduled to arrive soon. Over the years, she has rescued many, many dogs. Some were adopted out to forever families, and some lived out their lives in the care of foster families.

Fifty dogs became “lifers,” living out there lives at the sanctuary before crossing the rainbow bridge. Rita has saved all of their ashes. She has a directive to mingle them with her ashes and where to spread them when she herself passes. Yes, her heart is completely devoted to these canines in her care.

How It All Started

Rita found her heart’s desire about nine years ago when she saw a Pit Bull in the middle of a street in Denver. She feared the dog would be hit by a car, so she got out of her car, blocked traffic, and escorted the dog off the road. The dog then led Rita to an industrial lot, where she found out that he was abandoned by a man who had lost his lease there. Rita took the dog to a local shelter that said they would take him if she would be a volunteer there. Thus, her true life’s work began.

As a volunteer, Rita witnessed “dog dumping” all the time, and it broke her heart. The shelter couldn’t care for “specialty” dogs very well — like senior and special-needs dogs — because of the extra care they required. So, Rita started to take them home and care for them. Her first “wheelchair baby” was Gabby. Her owner had died and she was left at the shelter. Gabby had degenerative myelopathy (DM). Rita cared for her for about nine months before she passed.

After a couple of years of bringing senior and disabled dogs home, Rita quit her regular job to devote herself full-time to the dogs in her care. Rita’s friend suggested that she become a bonafide nonprofit rescue. Rita filed the necessary paperwork in 2013. She also opened a licensed, mobile dog wash to supplement her income, but eventually, as her canine population grew, there wasn’t enough time in the day to continue with that.

Another aspect of her work is the creation of Senior Paws for Senior Peeps. This program matches senior citizens who want canine companionship but cannot afford to pay for veterinary care. So Rita matches a senior person with a senior dog and pays for any future veterinary care as long as they go through her rescue vet. Thus, a win-win circle of mutual companionship and care.

Canine Resident Profile

Cap is a disabled dog who exemplifies the work Rita does at Hank’s Hostel. Cap was initially rescued and fostered in Tijuana, Mexico. He was found on a roadside by his mother’s side; she had been hit by a car and died. It is unclear if Cap was also hit by the car, but he is unable to use his rear legs.

Cap was going to be euthanized unless they found a special-needs rescue for him. They contacted Rita, and she stepped right in.

Walkin’ Pets Care Squad donated a Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchair to Cap so he could experience freedom and independence (see photo at top of this post). Rita says,

“Cap loves his Walkin’ Wheels. You should see him when I say, ‘Want to get into your chair?!’”

Read more about Cap in an article written about his life journey in The Animal Rights and Rescue Advocate (ARRA) website.

Hank’s Hacienda on the Horizon

Hank’s Hostel Fur Hounds is currently in Englewood, Colorado, where Rita was born and raised. Much as she hates leaving it, she needs more land where it isn’t quite so expensive. So Hank’s Hostel is moving to New Mexico and will become Hank’s Hacienda for Hospice, Senior, & Special Care Canines.

The new location will be on seven acres of flat land. Rita plans to create a fenced dog park with astro turf. She has other great plans for the Hacienda as well! While she has always welcomed and relied on volunteers to help with the work of the sanctuary, there are innovative plans afoot. Rita plans to invite volunteers to live in RVs on the new property for specified times. That would allow volunteers to get a full experience of life at Hank’s Hacienda, enriching their lives while helping in the work of caring for the dogs.

Rescues and sanctuaries for special needs and senior dogs are few and far between. Walkin’ Pets wishes Rita much success with her move and extends deep gratitude for her selfless work on behalf of the neediest dogs.

Please consider making a donation to help Rita in her inspiring work! You can visit her website and make a donation online. Keep up with Rita’s upcoming move and work on Hank’s Facebook page.

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