Before the Bridge

Judy Smith-Hill lives in Stony Mountain, Manitoba and is the Executive Director and Founder of Before the Bridge Senior K-9 Rescue. For nearly five years, she, her volunteers, and foster families have all been an important part in the rescue of close to eight hundred senior dogs. Before the Bridge is a registered charity for senior dogs that have been relinquished, neglected, thrown out, or who have unfortunately ended up in pounds. Many of these dogs would have otherwise been euthanized.

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Before the Bridge is not a shelter. They do not have an actual facility for the rescued senior dogs, but rather the dogs are placed with loving foster families until a “forever” home is found for them to live out the remainder of their lives. Relinquishment forms and adoption applications are available on the Before The Bridge Senior K-9 Rescue website. The charity also has a Facebook page.

In addition, the adoption process includes many questions for the prospective adopter, and Before the Bridge also reserves the right to refuse anyone deemed unsuitable. Judy’s goal is that all their senior rescue dogs receive the love and respect that they deserve.

In addition to their food needs, medical needs and all that makes their lives more comfortable and happy, these precious senior dogs are also “Rescue Protected.” There is a two week trial period when the dog is placed with a foster family. If, for whatever reason, the dog does not fit in the family that adopted it, Before the Bridge will take the senior dog back and refund the adoption fee — less a $25 administration fee.

Before the Bridge has Adoption events every two weeks. In March and April, Before the Bridge will have adoption events at PetSmart and PetValu; other event dates are on their website.

In speaking with Judy, she explained that the estimated cost of each senior dog is between $250 to over $600 to update their shots, as well as addressing dental and medical needs. And, with most dogs having something that needs medical attention, be it a surgical procedure, x-rays, or ultrasounds, it pushes up the cost of care.

Before The Bridge has both a website and Facebook page where you can learn more about the rescue organization, see dogs available for adoption and fostering, and find out how you can help them in their endeavours. To visit them on the web, visit:

They can also be found on Face- book. Search for: “Before The Bridge Senior K-9 Rescue Inc.” Donations to the organization can be made via their website, or via e-mail money transfer to:

If you prefer to donate online, cheques or money orders can be sent to: Before The Bridge Senior K9 Rescue, c/o Box 11, Stony Mountain, MB R0C 3A0

But for Judy, it is all about these senior dogs living as comfortably as they can for the rest of their days, and she works diligently to make that happen.

I asked Judy how she manages all that is involved with Before the Bridge. She explained that she presently has fifty fosters and about ten volunteers that help out with vet appointments, etc.

Judy is pleased with the care that Dr. Luc Versavel provides at the Equi-Tech Veterinary Clinic, in Stonewall. “He is a fabulous vet,” she said.

I also asked her how the charity is able to provide the needs of the senior rescue dogs. Judy emphasized: “We are not a rescue that asks for money. I always believe we should give the public something back and not just stand there with our hands out.”

Further, she explained that Before the Bridge Senior K-9 Rescue was her choice, not the public’s therefore: “We fundraise, fundraise, fundraise!”

Being a registered charity, a receipt is issued for any donation over $10. In February of this year, Before the Bridge held a Rib Fundraiser dinner, in Stony Mountain, Manitoba, at the Summit Cafe.

The establishment was featured last year on the TV show “You Gotta Eat Here.”

Tickets for the event were $40 per person, with a cash bar, raffle prizes and a silent auction, which resulted in a very successful fundraising event that raised $2,000 for the charity.

Before the Bridge also has a Wish List which is on their website for the senior dogs’ foster needs, but in brief includes, preferably black leashes, dog beds, blankets and toys. Items do not have to be new, but used items should be in good condition for the senior dogs.

PetValu and Pet Smart donate high-end dog food, which Judy feels they are very fortunate to receive, especially when they have anywhere from twenty to forty-five senior dogs in foster homes at any one time.

Presently, Before the Bridge has forty-five senior dogs they are caring for. At the age of seven years, the dog is considered a senior.

Judy has lived in Stony Mountain for many years. “I love it here, it’s quiet,” she said and emphasized that if she did move, it would not be far from where she lives now.

Judy is a senior herself, but you wouldn’t know it in talking with her about the energy and time she has devoted to her charity.

I spoke on the phone with Judy for about an hour, throughout which I learned that she had two dogs of her own, both rescues, one of which is epileptic and both of whom have seen a multitude of other dogs pass through her home.

On the evening of our telephone interview, she had nine senior dogs in her home.

I asked Judy why she founded Before the Bridge, and why senior dogs?

She told me that she had fostered fearful dogs prior to founding Before the Bridge. Then, one day, Sally Hull of Hull’s Haven Border Collie Rescue in Manitoba asked her to foster a very old dog who they believed was about fifteen or sixteen-years-of-age.

The dog was skinny and scrawny — a real old gal — a Schnauzer-Cross without a name.

Judy admitted she was reluctant to take the dog for fear the dog would not live very long. Through Sally Hull’s encouragement, Judy took the dog and she was dubbed Asker.

Judy recalled that Asker was one huge mat when she got her, but after four months and being groomed, Judy said how wonderful Asker looked: “She was beautiful, beautiful, when her coat grew in. What I got and what she was like when she passed were two different dogs.”

Asker passed away just four-and-a-half months after Judy took her in.

“I was devastated. She ripped my heart out, and I knew she would, but the bond is worth the pain to a have a senior dog,” she expressed. And, it was Asker that was her reason for founding Before the Bridge.

“She was the push I needed, because for years, I had talked about doing it, but I just talked. Asker will never be forgotten, as she is the logo of Before The Bridge. Also, Sally Hull was also very supportive of me starting up.”

Judy is non-judgemental of those that neglect, abuse or dump their senior dogs.

“There is no sense in judging the humans because it is all about the dog,” she said, relating that her time and energy is better put into the dog that needs the care and love.

“I wish we could be as forgiving as senior dogs. I like dogs more than I like most people,” she confided with a chuckle.

Judy continued to share more of her experiences, and told me the following story about Flash, a Bassett Hound who was found on a highway. At first they thought he had been hit by a vehicle, but a vet believed the dog was kicked in the face as a puppy which pushed his nose from the normal position.

Flash was about seven-years-old when he came to Before the Bridge. He dragged his back end… he couldn’t walk. He had two broken vertebrae, which very likely resulted from him being kicked.

Through generous giving, Flash received an operation for his back in Saskatoon. The operation cost thousands of dollars. Flash is now twelve-years-old, and showing signs that he is getting up there.

Judy mentions a few senior dogs by name, like Oliver Twist who is sixteen-years-old, as well as Oscar, Stanley and Frank. And then there is Nigel, who is twelve-years-old now. He was adopted two-and-a-half years ago by a 96-year-old senior.

Judy has also worked with rescues in Los Angeles to bring Chihuahuas to Before the Bridge, due to thousands of this popular breed of dog being abandoned, roaming city streets, being put in pounds and often euthanized.

I asked Judy how does one or how does she cope with the loss of dog that is loved so dearly?

Judy calls those kind of dogs your “heart dogs.” Regarding senior dogs and their passing, she explained: “It is about quality of time not quantity.”

Further, she explained, “somebody needs to take these senior dogs and I love senior dogs… but it is the pain we’re afraid of… saying goodbye isn’t easy but we have to get past that if we can.”

Only a person that has devoted the amount of time like Judy has towards senior rescue dogs, can help us better understand.

“The bond between a senior dog and somebody loving them until the end is amazing. It is worth the pain of losing them… they are awesome, awesome dogs. I cry all the time. I have my heart ripped out of me so many times but I keep going with so much responsibility with the other dogs,” she said.

Judy also knows that Before the Bridge and her love for senior dogs is her calling, and she is sure she that she received divine intervention to meet the call.

When I asked Judy to give me two reasons or more as why someone should adopt a senior rescue dog she stated the following:

“They are wonderful, quieter, most of them house trained, and they are companions that just want to belong, to be loved, and want to be treated with respect, and they deserve that.”

Judy has retired to devote 100% of her time to the rescue. However, she still has a dream to fulfill, and I am sure she will accomplish it.

She wants to build a sanctuary — not a huge one — but a sanctuary for the pets deemed unadoptable. It will have a home environment and an open floor plan. Judy plans on having couches and beds for the dogs in the sanctuary.

For Judy, the comfortable number of dogs in the future sanctuary will be twenty-five. However, she will not likely retire from Before the Bridge, and will continue rescuing dogs and finding their forever homes.

Bless you, Judy for your relentless love for senior dogs! //

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Comment on “Before the Bridge”

  1. This is such a noble cause. These dogs live their lives for their people, yet many are merely cast out when they are old and start having health issues. We adopted a senior dog a few years ago and she lived out her remaining years with us. It was the very least we could do for her. Well done to Beyond the Bridge!!!

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