Couple Donates $500,000 To Senior Pet Center In Memory Of Beloved Dog

A sanctuary planned for senior pets, the dream of the non-profit rescue agency, Young At Heart Pet Rescue, will soon have a new name, thanks to one family’s generous donation in memory of their beloved senior dog.

According to a press release from the rescue group, the new senior pet adoption center will be called “Smokey’s Haven.” Smokey was a beloved Labrador retriever who belonged to donors John and Rita Canning.

The Canning family donated $500,000 to help Young at Heart realize its dream of building a shelter for homeless senior pets. John Canning stated, “Young at Heart’s mission struck us at a unique time in our lives. Smokey had recently passed away, and when we learned the organization focused on animals that are seven years of age or older, their mission really resonated with us.”

Smokey had a huge impact on his family who had shared their life with him for twelve wonderful years. During Smokey’s senior years, when he began to slow down, the couple became more acutely aware of the challenges that owners can face with older pets.

The Cannings adored Smokey and their love for him inspired conversations about building a shelter for dogs after John’s retirement. When the couple learned about the rescue group’s desire to build an animal shelter specifically for senior pets, they were immediately drawn to the idea.

Rita stated, “The similarity of what Young at Heart wants to do and what we had talked about as a family really blew me away. We didn’t really think about a shelter just for the older dogs and cats,” she added,“We absolutely love the idea and are so happy to be a part of it. It was meant to be.”

“The Cannings’ gift will have an extraordinary impact on the lives of homeless senior pets, and it has inspired us all,” said Dawn Kemper, executive director and founder of Young at Heart. “We are so excited to build an even brighter future for senior pets, and to be so close to opening the doors to our very special adoption center.”

Young at Heart’s pet adoption center is set to open in mid-2017 on the organization’s eight acres in unincorporated Woodstock Illinois, 50 miles northwest of Chicago. It will house approximately 50 senior dogs and cats in a cageless environment, complete with screened-in porches for the cats, large outdoor play yards for the dogs, and heated floors for the animals in a homelike setting.

Young at Heart is in the final stretch of their capital campaign to build an animal shelter solely for senior pets, with just $100,000 left to raise. Animal lovers are encouraged to make a donation in memory of their own beloved pets. Naming opportunities are available. For more information on Young at Heart’s capital campaign, visit

Penny Eims

Penny is a freelance writer who provided content to her National Dog News column at for 8 years. She is a current contributor to Fido Friendly Magazine, as well as a newly formed website, Pet Rescue Report. Penny is married and she has two rescued German shepherds and two kids.


  1. Melani says:

    This is an incredible gift from the Cannings! My heart overflows with admiration for them, and happiness for the senior dogs who will be the beneficiaries of their love and generous donation!

  2. Van tran says:

    What a special heart, thank you so so much from the bottom of my heart to Jonh and Rita Canning . You are have done what I alway dream to do, but I can’t do because ….. But I alway pray for them every days . That they will meet a good people take care of.

  3. Joyce McCarty says:

    There is a special place in Heaven for these wonderful, kind people!

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