Juli 12, 2021 Fundraiser Update

Starts today! 40th Anniversary fundraiser…40 years, 40 days, $40 donation to $40K goal and donor match!

Meet Marquesa, Golda, Lumi, Duke, and Buddy. Marquesa just had a mass removed from her throat at a cost of $1,123. Golda was rushed to the vet when she was vomiting blood last month – $672. Lumi needs hip surgery, we do not have an exact estimate yet. Duke and Buddy both need dental surgery estimated at $600 total. These are the types of unforeseen expenses Born Free has every month. Please donate during our 40th Anniversary fundraiser and your donation will be doubled!

Special thanks to the Mark and Carol Zemmel Fund, which has offered a generous dollar for dollar match for every donation up to $40,000.

— All donations are tax deductible. —

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We are halfway through our 40 Day/40th Anniversary Fundraiser and are slightly behind our target at this time. If you have not donated yet, this is a great day to do it! Please help us keep up our momentum. Every dollar helps!

Just for Laughs!

Follow us on Facebook or Instagram to find out which Gardens our dogs will be visiting each weekend!

-Take your dog for a stroll in Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens every Sunday 8-10 am. For more information click here .

-If 8AM is too early, Pinecrest Gardens is now open to dogs on Saturdays and Sundays 10AM – 5PM. To find out more, click here.

To learn more about how to Adopt, Foster, Volunteer, or Donate to Born Free Pet Shelter, please click on the photos below.

July 1, 2021 Fundrasiser Update

40th Anniversary fundraiser…40 years, 40 days, $40 donation to $40K goal and dollar for dollar match!

We are 10 days into our 40 day fundraiser and have nearly reached our 1st milestone of $10,000.  Please help us keep up the momentum!  With your donations our goal of $40,000 is in reach.  The Mark and Carol Zemmel Fund has generously pledged to match every dollar raised up to $40,000.  Please consider donating $40 or whatever you can afford.  All donations help and are appreciated, no matter the size.
    Due to the pandemic, 2020’s annual fundraiser, our primary source of income, was cancelled.  Our last fundraiser was March 2019…over 2 years ago!  We need your support to continue.
    We only need 25 supporters a day with a donation of $40 to reach our goal.  Can you make a $40 donation to help us continue our mission of saving abandoned and orphaned dogs?  Please click on the donate button or use our Venmo or PayPal QR codes below or click here to go to our donate page.  Thank you.

Where does your donation go?

Our monthly overhead is approximately $10,000, which includes our one paid employee, who looks after the dogs 7 days a week, dog food, heart worm and flea and tick medications, insurance, taxes, electricity.  Our vet bills are on top of this.  We have many senior dogs which add greatly to our cost.  We spend an average of $9,000 per month at the vet.  Last month, Sasha (below) needed to have ear polyps removed, which could have caused her to go deaf, and cost over $5,000.  We never refuse a dog medical care because of cost. 

Just for Laughs!

Upcoming Events For July

  • Take your dog for a stroll in Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens every Sunday 8-10 am.  Look for us, meet our dogs, say “Hi!”  For more info click here .

To learn more about how to Adopt, Foster, Volunteer, or Donate to Born Free Pet Shelter, please click on the photos below.

Everyday Angels

Key Biscayner and founder of Born Free Pet Shelter, Alicia Aballi has saved hundreds of animals since 1981. Now living at her 5 acre property in Homestead, she and her team of dedicated volunteers continue to care for rescue dogs in a humane, open environment where they can exercise and maintain a healthy life while awaiting adoption or in which to live out their remaining years happily when adoption is not an option.

In 1981, after moving to Key Biscayne while working in NW Dade as a teacher Alicia Aballi began rescuing dogs from the streets of Miami and Key Biscayne. The number of dogs grew to over fifty. In 1993 upon the passing of her physician husband, Alicia took her grassroots efforts to the Redlands where she stills cares for dogs at the age of 92.

“I’ve taken care of animals since I was a little girl growing up in Cuba,” she says. “I love helping anyone in need, whether it’s animals or people; it makes me feel good. I just wanted to find a way to continue to do that.”

She is the daughter of Jorge Govantes, a Cuban ambassador to Switzerland in the pre-Castro era. She came to the United States in 1959, received a Masters Degree in Education from Memphis State. In the years following, she taught in Tennessee and in New York before moving to Miami in 1981, where she taught English and Spanish for the Dade County Public School system. Upon her arrival in Miami, Aballi settled in Key Biscayne where she continued her life-long practice of taking in animals in need.

The Key Biscayne community has always been very committed to the Shelter’s mission. Brigitte de Langeron from Key Biscayne Luxury Real Estate helped with the garage sales during the grassroots years, and the Key Biscayne Community Church continues to help with fundraising efforts. Back when Ms. Aballi lived on the Key, the Islander paper would feature dogs each week to help with adoptions. When a dog was surrendered, abandoned or lost, the Key Biscayne Police Department would call Ms. Aballi to come pick them up. There have been too many helpful Key Biscayners to name them all and that continues today through strong resident support at the annual Gala.

“Hurricane Irma hit Homestead really hard,” says Ms. Zanghi Born Free Fundraising Committee Chairperson. “We didn’t lose any dogs, thank God, and at the time we had about 125 dogs at the shelter, but we did lose a tremendous amount of infrastructure, including 25 of our dog shelters. So we were in dire need of support. So that year, at our annual fundraiser, I went to our donors and said this is a really special year, we’re really in trouble and we really need your help and raised an impressive $350,000.  Before that we were raising about $200,000, so our donors really came through for us. I was so happy about that. We were able to replace in that one year all those 25 dog shelters.”

Over the past 40 years the shelter has seen hundreds of amazing success stories, such as Mario, who was found as a stray in Homestead and arrived at the shelter in March 2019.


Mario“He was diagnosed with by the vet with a very bad case of alopecia, lesions and other skin infections,” says Lorena Barros, former Social Media Manager. “These health issues didn’t deter him from being a happy energetic two year old. ” After seeing multiple specialists, it was found that environmental allergies were the main cause of the hair loss. Mario patiently endured regular shots, medications and medicated bathes. He was fostered by two loving families who helped him get back to being a healthy dog. In October 2020, an experienced shepherd couple, who knew how to handle dogs with these health issues, stepped forward, fell in love and adopted him. It took a village of loving, caring people and generous monetary donations to make this happen.”

Toby and Flo

At 13 years old, Toby was surrendered to the shelter when his owner passed away.

“After more than a year of living at the shelter, we decided that no senior dog should live out their golden years in a shelter and took Toby (on the left) home to foster,” says Sophie Gillette, Social Media Administrator. “In the summer of 2020, we took him and his foster sister, Flo, on holiday to upstate New York where he went on hikes, saw many waterfalls, and had the time of his life. I created videos to promote Flo and posted them on Born Free Pet Shelter’s Instagram pages. On one of these posts, Lori from Georgia, noticed this sweet German Shepherd in the background and called to see if he was available for adoption. Toby now lives with a little brother, adores his new dad, and seems to be getting younger and younger. His forever mom, Lori, makes sure that he gets lots of car rides and at 14 years old, he is now loved and living the best retirement lifestyle that most dogs only dream of.” Flo was adopted only a month later and is also happy and loved. Thank you Lori and Jacob.

And there are still plenty of dogs still waiting for their own happy-ever-after.


“Elena is a one-of-a-kind wonderful dog,” says Maria DeLange, Adoptions and Volunteers Coordinator. “She is sweet, smart, loves people, and is well-behaved.” She arrived at the shelter when someone found her on the street. She had no chip, no collar, and was limping. Elena’s limping cleared up, but, unfortunately, she has spent two long years at the shelter with no adoption interest. Elena’s lack of adoption interest is hard to understand because she is a great dog and volunteers love her. Since day one in her new foster home, Elena has been very playful with her foster mom. She loves playing with her toys, especially the plushy ones, and she loves to show off her tug-of-war skills. She is an independent dog, but she also likes to snuggle with her humans. Elena is exceptionally well-behaved in the house and is house-trained. Elena would make a great addition to any family. We are hoping that special someone opens their home to this wonderful girl.

Over the summer the Shelter is holding Special fundraiser!  Our hope is to raise $40,000 over the next 40 days through $40 (or more) donations.  The Mark and Carol Zemmel Fund for Human/Animal Connection has generously pledged to match every dollar raised, dollar for dollar, up to $40,000.

“Our annual fundraiser is Dec. 4, 2021,” she says. “This is our major fundraiser, this is where we traditionally raise all of our money. Our expenses to run the shelter are about $300,000-$350,000 a year, just for operations. Most of that is for veterinary bills. We have a lot of older dogs who need annual checkups. If you’re a dog owner, you know that after they get past a certain age, those checkups for senior dogs are very expensive, and we keep dogs until they pass away if they’re not adopted, so our veterinary expenses probably run about $150,000 per year. But because we’re run almost entirely by volunteers, we’re really efficient in our use of money, so every penny that goes to the shelter, goes to the dogs.”

Over the years through volunteer dedication, donor generosity, and Alicia’s driving force, Born Free has flourished.  Please continue to support Born Free’s mission by giving generously to our summer fundraiser and help us continue our good works.

Born Free’s 4O year anniversary fundraiser

Starts today! 40th Anniversary fundraiser…40 years, 40 days, $40 donation to $40K goal and donor match!

Born Free Pet Shelter is launching our 40th Anniversary fundraiser today!

Our hope is to raise $40,000 over the next 40 days through $40 (or more) donations. The Mark and Carol Zemmel Fund for Human/Animal

Connection has generously pledged to match every dollar raised, dollar for dollar, up to $40,000. Please consider donating $40 or whatever you can afford. All donations help and are appreciated, no matter the size.

Due to the pandemic, last year’s annual fundraiser and primary source of income was cancelled, resulting in overdue veterinarian bills and delayed maintenance of our grounds and kennels.

Born Free Pet Shelter thanks the Mark and Carol Zemmel Fund for the Human/Animal Connection for their generous support; please help us celebrate our 40th anniversary of saving abandoned or orphaned dogs by clicking on the donate button below or use our Venmo or PayPal QR codes below or click here to go to our donate page. Thank you.

Everyday Angels

Key Biscayner and founder of Born Free Pet Shelter, Alicia Aballi has saved hundreds of animals since 1981. Now living at her 5 acre property in

Homestead, she and her team of dedicated volunteers continue to care for rescue dogs in a humane, open environment where they can exercise and maintain a healthy life while awaiting adoption or in which to live out their remaining years happily when adoption is not an option.

In 1981, after moving to Key Biscayne while working in NW Dade as a teacher Alicia Aballi began rescuing dogs from the streets of Miami and Key Biscayne. The number of dogs grew to over fifty. In 1993 upon the passing of

her physician husband, Alicia took her grassroots efforts to the Redlands where she stills cares for dogs at the age of 92.

“I’ve taken care of animals since I was a little girl growing up in Cuba,” she says. “I love helping anyone in need, whether it’s animals or people; it makes me feel good. I just wanted to find a way to continue to do that.” To read more, click here.

Upcoming events in June

-Take your dog for a stroll in Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens every Sunday 8-10 am. Look for us, meet our dogs, say “Hi!” For more info click here .

To learn more about how to Adopt, Foster, Volunteer, or Donate to Born Free Pet Shelter, please click on the photos below.

June 2021 Newsletter

Did you know Born Free Pet Shelter has been rescuing dogs since 1981? Help us celebrate 40 years of saving dogs by donating to our upcoming fundraiser!

Experience the joys of volunteering this summer with Born Free Pet Shelter!

Do you love animals? Do you have some free time this summer? Have you considered volunteering at an animal shelter or animal rescue organization? Consider Born Free!  You will be helping our dogs and you get to spend hours playing and working with wonderful dogs. What could be more fun?! Going to a shelter even just once a week makes a huge, positive impact on any animal waiting for a forever home, and there is nothing more rewarding than approaching a dog pen and seeing the dogs smiling and wagging their tails anticipating a much-needed walk or waiting for some love and affection.  To find out more about volunteering with Born Free, click here.

We, at Born Free, loved and cared for Kisses for 6 years at the shelter, but family after family overlooked him.  Then last month, Kisses’ luck changed…he was fostered!  When Tim and Holly saw him on Susie’s Senior Dogs, the fosters could answer all their questions to insure they were the right match for each other.  He fits great into their home with 3 other dogs and is happy and loved. Fostering works!  You can change a dogs life!  Click here for more information about fostering.


Mustafa, at 12 years old, is our oldest resident at the shelter and he is in a desperate need of a loving home. He’s a very gentle and affectionate German Shepherd that loves his slow walks even though he has difficulty walking. He’s happiest when you sit with him scratching his head and neck and giving him treats. Because of his weak legs, he sometimes has problems getting up for his bowel movement and will require assistance This sweet soul deserves to spend the rest of his life in comfort and love. If you would like to open your heart and home to this handsome boy, please contact Maria at 786-205-6865

Upcoming Events in June

  • Take your dog for a stroll in Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens every Sunday 8-10 am and Thursday 5-7:30pm.  Look for us, meet our dogs, say “Hi!”  For more info click here .
  • 40th Anniversary Fundraiser starts June 21st!  Celebrating 40 Years, over 40 days, asking $40 donations to reach our goal of $40,000.  All donations matched $ for $!  To find out more, visit our Donate page

To learn more about how to Adopt, Foster, Volunteer, or Donate to Born Free Pet Shelter, please click on the photos below.

The Real Side of Pit Bulls

Pit Bulls are big, beautiful, strong dogs. In the past several years, they have gotten a bad reputation. We are here to tell you that Pit Bulls also have wonderful qualities. They are stable, resilient, loyal, easy to mold into your life, and more than anything – they want to please their humans. They are easy to train, they follow commands, and can be sweet and lovable couch potatoes. Media outlets will report on the evil side of a particular dog, but they rarely report on the many people who have Pit Bulls as family pets and how great and loyal they are.

Sometimes when we hear “pit bull,” we immediately think “vicious dog”, but that is almost never the case. When the American Temperament Testing Society gauged the soundness of this misunderstood breed (and many others), they came to what some might consider a shocking conclusion. They tested 870 Pit Bulls and had a passing rate of 86% in temperament testing. One of the most beloved breeds, Golden Retrievers had a lower passing rate of 85.2% with the same testing! This testing shows the good side and temperament that Pit Bull type dogs can have.

Pit Bulls are the most plentiful breed in rescues and shelters and are often overlooked time and time again because of the stigma that surrounds them. We want to help erase the stigma related to the breed with stories of Pit Bulls who have been adopted from Born Free and are loved by their humans.

So, the next time you find yourself in a shelter looking for your new 4-legged best buddy, give the Pitties a fair chance; at least get to know them.  They may not be a good fit for you, or you may drive away with the best dog you ever had.  You’ll never know until you give them that chance. Here are some of our Pit Bulls and Bully mixes adoption stories.

Adoption Stories


“Adopting MoonPie (formerly King Jr) was the defining moment of 2020 – bigger than the pandemic and bigger than the election. We picked him up at Born Free Pet Shelter during a South Florida gully washer and conducted a ship-to-ship transfer NASA would have been proud of while lighting struck too close around us. Having no idea who we are, or would become to him, MoonPie laid low at first.  So much so, my wondering out loud “if we got a dog who doesn’t bark” has become a family inside joke. Uncertainty on both sides quickly melted away as we began to get to know each other.  Here is what I know now about MoonPie: He has a sense of humor. It cannot be explained, but he clearly thinks things are funny – like running through the house and kicking up every single rug. He is a gentle soul – Like all sentient beings, he is equipped for great destruction, but that is the last thing he wants. Having a dog like MoonPie comes with a societal responsibility not to put him in situations where misunderstandings can occur. Breed prejudice means that people will always view him as the aggressor. Thankfully, the few run-ins we have had with poor mannered dogs were with understanding people, but you cannot take that for granted. Even the gentlest dog will occasionally meet people or other dogs they do not like. Accept that and do not insist that they love everyone. The love our family gets from MoonPie is unlike anything else we’ve experienced with other breeds. As a once ‘never-pitter’, I have completely changed my views and cannot imagine life without this dog.”



“When we first met Ace at Born Free, he was too shy to even come out; he would hide from us, while all the other dogs jumped at the chance to meet people and barked for attention.  Ace’s eyes looked upon us with no hope of finding love, and we had to take him home!  Ace did not understand the concept of a family or a home.  When we brought him in, he simply would not leave the bathroom ‑ that was his first safe place.  After a couple hours, he moved around the house and Ace eventually came to his new bed.  It took some time for him to open up, but it has been a love like no other.  Ace has shown us his true colors ‑ his playful side that he never showed, his calmness, his love for his new family.Ace has even become protective.  He is now able to enjoy a day at a dog park with his fur buddies and he visits the dog beach.  He even jumps for joy when he sees us or our close friends.  We don’t know what happened to him or where he came from, but he has given us a love we never knew we needed.  We encourage you to look beyond the breed, look beyond what behavior they are showing you.  This is a result of what they have gone through or what they have not felt for a very long time; all they want and need is a loving home.”



“Marco came to stay with us six months ago when we decided to start fostering.  Our dog is scared of other dogs so we weren’t sure how it would go, but Marco was respectful of her and they both ignored each other and gave each other space.  After several weeks, we decided Marco had become part of the family and we couldn’t give him up.  We adopted him shortly before Christmas.  Marco spends his days laying on the couch or sitting in front of the oven during mealtime.  He is a protective big brother to our lab, and comes running to her rescue whenever he hears her bark at anyone passing by.  Marco remains respectful of her just as he did on day one, though he always makes himself a spot on the couch if she’s getting petted and he wants to join.  Marco craves love and wants to show us how much love he has to give.”



Isabela was adopted from Born Free last month after being at the shelter since 2018. Isabela was overlooked and turned down while at the shelter because of her breed and has finally now got her chance at a forever home.

“Isabela has been settling in very nicely to home life. She’s very sweet and affectionate and she loves to spend time with my grandparents. She loves the bed and is a total couch/bed potato in this case. My aunt originally was afraid of her because of her breed but after getting to know her, now loves her as well. She’s non destructive and is very polite around the house.”


How 4 Shy Dogs Became Family Dogs

Entering a shelter, rescue, or animal control looking for your special 4-legged new family member is a great feeling. There are so many to choose from that need forever homes! The dogs that always appeal to people are the excited, smiling ones who come to the front of their pen and greet you, whether it be with a wagging tail or a welcoming bark. Those are the happy, socialized dogs that always get adopted. Dogs who cower, hide, or hunker down in the back of their pens are sometimes overlooked and are deemed “unfriendly.” Nothing could be farther from reality. Those dogs need love too and most are quick to overcome their shyness or fear once they have the security and love from their new human.

Please, don’t ever let the fact that a dog is shy prevent you from adopting him or her. At Born Free we have had shy, scared dogs of all breeds and sizes. Some have had a rough start in life and that is why they are skeptical of humans. Some are just born that way; dogs, like humans, all have different personalities and comfort zones. Anyone who has adopted a shy dog rarely regrets it; they all say once the dog gets comfortable in their new life, they are happy!

So, the next time you’re browsing the shelter for that special dog, don’t discount the shy “unfriendly” ones – go in and meet them, because they may be exactly what you were looking for.

Below are some shy dogs adopted from Born Free:


“Ask anyone to name one person, including themselves, who at some point in their life hasn’t been either frightened, confused, or anxious, and I am confident that they would be unable to do so. Now think of the love and respect that you felt, or ever still feel, for the person who accepted you or adorned you with patience and presence, or encouraged you towards a better way while allowing them to see you at your worst. There is an unmistakable bond formed in this type of cultivation of a vulnerable relationship, and it is no different than with a misunderstood animal, such as my girl, Matilda. Some might even say that the best friendships are ignited in this way!”

~ Nicole


“We were looking for a dog for two months. We didn’t know what kind of dog would be a good fit for us and our lifestyle. At first, we were looking for a specific breed, then the next day for a younger dog, the next day for a puppy, the next day for a high-energy dog.

We were looking at the shelter’s website and when we saw Leia, it was a love at first sight. We called immediately so we could get to know her as soon as possible. When we met Leia, she was scared, stressed, distant and she had sad eyes. Her ex-owner left her at the shelter, and she had a broken heart. After one hour talking to her to gain her trust, we finally gave her a treat and we made a connection. In that moment, we realized that we were looking for a dog we could help and give a second chance to, and to support her so she could heal and become a happy dog.

The next day we filled out the papers for the adoption and we brought Leia to our home. She stayed in the opposite room from us, she was scared, and she didn’t understand where she was or who we were. At night when we went to bed and the lights were off, she woke up and started walking around to discover her new home. This gave us the signal that the walls were broken down.

After 3 months, she still is shy with strangers, but once she knows you, she is excited to see you. She wags her tail and walks faster to say hi to her friends. She loves being in the same room where we are. She loves her first walk in the morning and is comfortable to follow her routine and at the same time taking new adventures that challenge her. Every day increases her confidence. She is doing better, and she feels better.

It’s a long way for Leia to learn how to play with a toy again, to have confidence around our apartment, and to jump on the sofa – it will take time, but we will do it with love.

This is something important that you should know if you are going to adopt a young or adult pet: They come with their own personality just as you have yours, so this is a partner journey where both of you are going to start a beautiful relationship, a new friendship for the rest of your lives, where they’ll never let you walk alone, they’ll love you unconditionally, and they’ll take care of you while expecting nothing but a lovely word or warm cuddle.”

~ Paula & Jose


“Because Ginger was so shy and scared when she was surrendered, I agreed to foster her rather than having her stay at the shelter. Ginger’s whole body quivered as I held her. The drive home scared her. My home scared her. The yard scared her. Wind scared her. Grass scared her. My cats really scared her. She was a very shy, scared little dog.

Ginger wouldn’t come out of her open crate for 2 days; she never barked or made a sound. Then, slowly, she started coming out, coming over to sniff me, and eventually she jumped in my lap, which was such amazing progress, it made me cry. It was hard not to love this shy little dog who had stolen my heart. She quickly learned that she’d never be told “no”, she’d never be yelled at, and she could get on any piece of furniture she wanted, which included sleeping with me. Every day was something new for her, and she eventually overcame her most of her shyness. She made so much progress quickly and now is a very happy, well-adjusted, cat-chasing, wonderful dog; only fireworks and thunder scare her (they scare me too).

Ginger goes on vacation, she loves hotel-life, is a great little watchdog, and has been in more National and State Parks than most people! Her favorite place is Everglades National Park where she sits by the Bay, hoping to see manatees come up for air! She even got a “Bark Ranger” tag from Biscayne NP for being a well-behaved canine visitor. As long as she is with one of us, she is happy. During these virus stay-at-home months, Ginger has brightened our existence. She gives so much love and asks for nothing in return except to always be with us.

When I took Ginger to foster, they insisted I take her crate so she would have a place to feel secure; I reluctantly took it. Soon, she would go in it less and less. After she was completely at ease, I put it out in my shed and bought her a cushy bed instead, which is now her happy, secure place. I’m telling you; shy dogs quickly learn they are loved and no longer have to be shy or scared. Of course, I was a foster fail and ended up adopting Ginger! I was always a big-dog person (big sturdy breeds), but this little 16-pounder has brought far more into my life than I ever thought possible, so I guess I am a little-dog person now! We just love her so much and wonder how we ever got along without her!”

~ Julie

Ace (formerly Nico)

“Ace has been home for two weeks now. He came home the day of adoption and wouldn’t leave the bathroom after we bathed him – he was so shy. He slowly made his way out as the day passed and by the next morning, he started to realize this was home. Although he still is shy meeting new people, he is definitely more open than when he first came home. He cuddles, plays and enjoys runs and the dog park. Fairly quickly he opened up to us and he makes our home complete. Special thank you to all at Born Free Pet Shelter for taking such good care of Ace and blessing our family with him.”

~ Kamila

6 Heartwarming Senior Dog Adoption Stories

Everyone likes something that is shiny and new.  New cars.  New houses.  New everything.  The same applies to dogs.  New doesn’t always mean better!  It seems everyone loves a cute, bouncy puppy and they don’t even give “senior” dogs a chance.  There are so many senior dogs in shelters that just wait day after day, week after week, month after month to be adopted.  People walk by them and just sigh, “oh, that one is too old.”  People surrender their senior dogs to shelters every day because they got “too old.”  It is heartbreaking – and, let’s face it, everyone eventually gets old! 

Being a senior dog is not a bad thing; in fact, there are many benefits to an older dog: They sometimes already know tricks and commands, are usually housebroken, and are happy to just be with their human. They are loyal, calm, gentle and grateful. They don’t do irritating puppy things like chew, cry, and bite your ankles. And, a lot of them don’t care if you have an uppity cat! If your mindset is that you won’t have a senior dog in your life long enough, get over that. Some dogs live 3 years, some 18 years. A dog’s golden years should be the best of his or her life and a dog’s life should be measured by quality, not quantity. They should be spoiled and pampered and cared for. They should not be dropped off at a shelter because they entered their golden years.

At Born Free, with the help of Instagram, Susie’s Senior Dogs, we have had many “seniors” adopted. People have driven from all over Florida just to adopt a senior from Born Free. All the dogs’ new families love them and are so glad they adopted them. Nobody ever looks back and thinks, “Gee, I’m sorry I adopted a senior dog.” Never. So, please, the next time you are at a shelter wanting to adopt a dog, don’t just pass by a senior and discount them. They deserve love and respect just like any other dog. Puppies ARE cute, but seniors RULE!

Below are some testimonials of senior dogs who were adopted from Born Free:


“When we made the decision to move to the suburbs, we knew the extra space would allow us the opportunity to open our home to another dog in need. After some searching, I came across Cooper on Susie Senior Dogs’ Instagram. The post said that Cooper’s owner had died when he was 4 years old, he was now 10 and had been in the shelter for SIX years. At first glance, Cooper was a shy dog, he would rather be in the safety of his kennel than meet new people. This caused him to be overlooked again and again. However, from the photos, you could see a kindness in his eyes; this struck a chord with me. I think anyone who has ever been criticized for being shy can relate, sometimes you just need someone to believe in you and we were going to be that for Cooper.

We were in New York and Cooper was in Florida, so it was not the most ideal situation, but I was determined to make it work. My husband agreed and off we went to Miami to meet Coop. We knew right away that our instincts were right. Flying was not an option to get Coop home, but we were lucky enough to find a volunteer to drive him north for us. He made his way to New York just in time for Christmas, his first with a family in a long, long time. The first few nights were rough, he was scared. It was a big change for him, but every day he trusted us a little more, showed us a little more of his personality and within a week, you couldn’t sit down without him trying to fit his 80 pound body in your lap. Cooper was gentle, Cooper was funny, Cooper LOVED his family. He spent the next year and a half running in the yard with his brothers, cuddling with his humans and getting tucked into his very own bed every single night.

When you adopt a senior dog, or any dog, you know that one day you will have to say goodbye and while we knew that day would come, when Cooper got sick we were crushed. As hard as it was, when the time came, we were so thankful to have been able to change his story. He had a family, he experienced love, he was able to feel safe, and even though he became sick he didn’t have to go it alone. I am grateful every day for the joy he brought our family and feel so lucky to have known him. Given the chance, I would do it all again. I hope that Cooper’s story can inspire others to take a second look at the shy ones, the senior ones, the ones that just need someone to believe in them. Cooper was proof that a little love can go a long way”



“I had been following Susie’s Senior Dogs (SSD) on Instagram for a while as I have always had a soft spot for older dogs. There is just something so special in their souls. In early 2018, I came across Duchess’ post and it was an instant connection for me. There were photos of her smiling in a witch hat and a video of her slowly walking across an open field. There was something about her that caught my heart immediately. Life got busy, but I kept thinking about her. In April 2018, when I saw the second post about Duchess on SSD, I knew I had to go meet her. I spoke with Maria and decided if Duchess got along with my yellow lab, Marley, she would be coming home with us that day. We went down to meet Duchess, and it was love at first sight, so she came home with us which was a week after her 11th birthday.

They had warned me that she was food aggressive, so I knew I needed to keep an eye on that when feeding both of them. I wanted her to know that she did not have to worry about sharing any of her food, so I would feed them a short distance away from each other (with me always present). When I gave them treats, it was next to each other and alternated who went first so she would get more comfortable. It took about a month I would say, but she got over her food aggression completely.

Duchess was a bit timid and reserved at first, but over time she came out of her shell. Marley helped show her how to enjoy the spoiled dog life and she became more and more comfortable as time passed. We lost Marley to cancer a year ago this month, but Duchess has handled the unexpected change so well. She has really come into her own and you can tell she knows she is home for good. It’s almost as if she was holding her breath until she knew this was her forever home. She’s got a whole lot of sass and spunk which is so fun to witness. She loves being outside, all things chicken, hanging out with my parents’ golden retrievers, going for walks and car rides, and just being around me. She’s got a bit of a granny walk and has to take thyroid medicine, but other than that, she is doing great at 13 years old! I know I won’t have as much time with her as I would like, but each day I get to see her enjoy life it makes it all worth it. Senior dogs have so much to offer, and I would encourage anyone looking to adopt to consider an older dog as they have just as much to offer. You will never regret it!”



“I first saw my boy Oliver (previously named Popito) on Instagram. I thought he was such a beautiful dog and knew nothing about him when I reached out to Born Free to meet him. Once I arrived at the shelter, I learned that Oliver was 7 years old and had been living at the shelter his entire life. He also had an old knee injury that left him with some bad arthritis in one leg. Oliver was found abandoned at 3 weeks old in the Redland area, he was brought to the shelter and bottle fed until he was old enough for solid food. I learned that Oliver had never shown well to potential adopters because he was too timid, he would hide in corners and under chairs at adoption events and when people were able to meet him, he showed little interest in them. When I first met Oliver, he came running out of his kennel to smell the grass, stretch, and prance around. Just as I had been warned, he showed little interest in me but I had a feeling we had a connection that would grow and develop through trust and time.

I adopted Oliver and brought him home to meet his new little brother, a 2-year-old beagle named Cooper! Oliver, who had never lived in a home, adjusted quickly to his new life of air conditioning, comfy beds, homemade dog food, and lots of kisses. He developed a trust in me and started following me everywhere! I always refer to him as my “trusty steed” since he is such a loyal companion and always by my side. He is smart and alert and quickly learned commands like “sit” and “stay”. Oliver has joined me on roads trips, hiking adventures, and most recently to a big move to Manhattan. Oliver is adjusting amazingly well to city life, he is so curious about all of the smells and sounds of the city! We are looking forward to more road trips and even camping trips in upstate New York this year. Oliver turned 10 just this month and I am so grateful to have him in my life. He has taught me the joy of animal rescue and the love and gratitude that only senior dogs can give. I know that me and Oliver still have a lot of adventures ahead of us and I will continue to give him the life he always deserved.”



“We discovered Key in quintessential millennial fashion – on Instagram! My husband and I were scrolling through recent posts when we saw Susie’s Senior Dogs had shared a picture of an elderly canine gentleman near Miami. We had been looking for an opportunity to adopt a senior dog and within hours had completed an adoption form and contacted Born Free Pet Shelter. Just a few days later we welcomed Key into our home and have loved every moment since! He enjoys lazy afternoons lounging on the patio and sunbathing in the grass. Key has put on a few pounds in his retirement, added a few new gray whiskers, and made new friends throughout the neighborhood. On our afternoon walks we often hear, “What a beautiful dog you have!” and Key definitely enjoys the compliments tossed in his direction – almost as much as his treats! Key has been a wonderful addition to our family and we can’t thank Born Free Pet Shelter enough for taking care of him for 7 whole years (unbelievable he wasn’t scooped up before then) until he found his forever home.”



“It has been one year since I adopted Ears and I am so, so happy I did!! We actually had his “birthday party” with his dog friend, Widget, last month to celebrate.

Initially, it was unclear how well Ears would do with other dogs, but, honestly, we have had so much improvement in just one year! After a slow introduction, Ears can now play, and even share toys or treats with other dogs! We take meeting all new dogs slow and steady and have had good results. He seems very happy when he gets to go over for playtime with his friends!

Overall, Ears has had so many new experiences since leaving Born Free! He has been camping, barked at the ocean, rode out a hurricane, learned how to use stairs, had his first family Christmas, tried on too many dog costumes, and chewed through so, so many balls. It’s very clear that in his 10 years (!) with Born Free that he was taken care of very well. He’s good with all sorts of people and not afraid of new experiences!! Thank you to everyone for helping connect us! I think we’re both happy he has come home.”



“I first saw Katie on a Susie’s Senior Dogs post on Facebook. Her beautiful face and her story of waiting 6 years for a home just touched my heart. I reached out to Maria at Born Free Rescue and after a few communications I was approved to adopt Katie and the rest is history. Katie came into her new home September 21, 2019, quite timid and shy. I have several cats and another senior dog so there was quite a bit for her to process. It took a few weeks until she gave me a sign she was ready to join us in the main house. Until then she spent time in her own room (with frequent visits and encouragement from me) but was able to see the “action of house” without having to interact. I looked to her to determine her comfort level in all situations and when she got anxious, I would take her back to her safe haven of her room and her crate. Fast forward to today – 10 months later – she has accepted her furry family and has claimed her spot in the family. She loves to take her daily walks with my other dog Sophie and play with me in the yard. During the day, she sleeps in the living room on her bed next to me while I work. She is also interested in attention from strangers which is a big accomplishment for this shy girl!

If I could offer any words of wisdom to have a successful adoption, I would have to say set your new pet up to succeed. Read their body language and cues and make adjustments so they feel secure. Let them come into their own in their own time. They all have unique personalities just like us, so embrace who they are and love them where they’re at. Time, Patience and lots of Love is my recipe for success!”


Happy Father’s Day to All You PAW-Some Dads Everywhere!

Father’s Day is approaching and it’s time to recognize all the wonderful fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, adult brothers, and other father figures that have positively impacted our lives. It’s also time to celebrate all the amazing dog dads that have opened their hearts and homes to shelter animals. For all those late-night walks, car rides to the park, endless games of fetch, belly rubs, occasions of picking up poop and lazy afternoons on the couch – we say THANK YOU! You all have truly made a huge difference in the lives of the animals you have adopted. For this, we dedicate June 21st to you!

In honor of Father’s Day, we wanted to share a few heart-warming adoption stories from Born Free dog dads. Here’s what they had to say.

Lina (Boxer/Hound Mix)

“I had been thinking about adopting a dog for a few months… looking around online for “big” dogs that were currently in a shelter. I had noticed that Born Free had many amazing dogs, so I figured I’d give it a shot and visit in-person. I visited many great dogs that day, but there was one that I just instantly connected with. I asked Maria if I could have a week or so to think about actually adopting, and she happily obliged.

The following days provided me plenty of time to think, and it became obvious in my heart and mind that I had found the right dog. I adopted her the next weekend. Lina – my 75lb boxer/hound mix with a unique back leg (due to prior injury)! Lina has been such a source of joy for me and I can’t really imagine not having her around now. I’ve had her since January 2019, and the past 15 or so months have been so much fun! One unexpected benefit of having a dog was all the new people I would begin to see and interact with much more often… because they have dogs too! Living in an apartment in Brickell, Lina met many dogs, but never had a lot of space to play. Now that we’ve moved to a house in Jacksonville, she has a huge yard and plays out there all day!

It is strange to me that I get so much joy from knowing she is having fun and enjoying life. I guess that is how parents feel about their human kids! Lina has definitely changed my life in a positive way. Adopting her has made me more aware of something other than myself… and has shown me how personally rewarding it is to care for another being. Considering the meaning of Father’s Day, caring for and loving Lina has definitely shed light into the highs, and lows of fatherhood, yet also how fulfilling the entire process is. She is truly special… and my Queen! ”

~ Jake, Lina’s Dad

Bosch (American Bulldog Mix)

“We first met Bosch at a farmers market in Pinecrest. My wife was the first to spot him and I must say, we were immediately drawn to him. He was a gentle giant. We wanted a big dog again, after the loss of our American bulldog Zach, but wanted to make sure Bosch would be a good fit. After all, we have the resident queen, Zippy, our seven- pound Dachshund who runs the house. We set out a couple of times to visit the shelter with the kids and it was a hit. We decided to adopt Bosch and finally brought him home. 

He is such a good dog. He loves to play catch and is very playful for such a big boy. It’s great to watch him run around in our backyard, and I love when he comes to sit by me to keep me company. Bosch seems to be a mix breed with part American bulldog. This is our second and I love the breed. They are warm and caring – not something you would expect from such a big and intimidating dog. We love having Bosch at home and couldn’t be happier with him.”

~ Jose, Bosch’s Dads Dad

Jojo (Boxer Mix)

“JoJo has been nothing but an amazing girl. She is so smart, friendly, and always down for a good game of fetch! She has brought so much joy to my life in the month I’ve had her, and I now can’t imagine my life without her. She loves walks, belly rubs, and cuddles. She has also turned into my alarm clock, which is definitely a good thing haha!”

~ Jacob, Jojo’s Dad

Preparing Our Pets for the Return to Work Full-Time Away from Home

I think we can all agree that our lives have been turned upside down with shelter in place orders during this pandemic. However, the upside is that pet adoptions have increased significantly. Additionally, we have been spending lots of time with our dogs and cats. While it’s great more cats and dogs have joined our families, as pet owners we do have a responsibility to ensure that our furry critters are prepared for us to return to work as normal life slowly resumes. As we return to work, our pets will be left alone for longer hours than they have become accustomed to. This may result in something known as separation anxiety – which will inevitably create a bit of stress and cause our pets to act up in ways they normally wouldn’t. Signs to look for to see if your pet is suffering from this type of anxiety include barking, howling, whining, scratching at doors and windows, chewing on the door, drooling and panting. This can impact a pet’s mood, appetite, and bring out more destructive behaviors while the owner is away. A pet camera is a useful tool that will help you know if your pet is exhibiting these types of negative behaviors. Plus, cameras give us a lot of insight into the types of activities our pets are engaging in while we are away from home.

Luckily there are things we can start doing now to ease the transition for our pets. The most important is training! Dog trainers and experts around the nation have weighed in on this subject. Here is what they have to say:

  • Set a schedule for your pet. If you are going to be returning to work, you should try to get up at your regular time, feed the dog, exercise the dog, and provide the dog a time to rest independently. Starting this schedule right way will ensure your dog will be accustomed to it when you return to work.
  • Train your dog to deal with being separated from you. Most dogs easily identify the part of your routine that signals to them you will be leaving the house. For most of us, this includes grabbing our keys, purse or wallet, and putting on our shoes. Experts suggest pet owners should walk around the house and keep moving their keys from one spot to the other. Experts suggest we DO NOT create a routine of saying goodbye to our dog. Instead, they recommend we make sure our dog is in a dog safe location, such as a gated off room or a dog crate, walk out the door, stand outside for a few minutes and if the dog is quiet, walk back in. AGAIN ignore the dog. You do not want to create a big routine around you coming back home, as this only leads to more anxiety when you leave. When leaving or coming back home, stay calm to help our pets feel relaxed. If they seem agitated when you put on your shoes because it means you will walk out the door soon, practice putting on shoes when you aren’t actually going to leave.
  • Exercise your dog. Exercising your dog such as taking them on long walks before heading off to work is very important. This needs to be done well in advance of you leaving for the day this way the dog has plenty of time to relax before being left alone for a long period of time.
  • Play comforting music while you are away. While you are off at work consider playing soothing music or for pets that prefer the sound of human voices – an audiobook will work great. There have been studies that have shown dogs really enjoy listening to reggae, classical music, easy listening, and jazz.
  • Take the time now to train the dog for vet and groomer visits. Use some treats or some of your dog’s meal as a reward. Lift up their paw and look at their nails, give them a treat. Open their mouth and look at their teeth, lift up their ears, basically get them used to being handled so that when you take them to the groomer or vet, it will be less stressful.
  • Set a consistent feeding schedule. If you started feeding your dog or cat four times a day instead of three times a day, stop doing that and go back to a schedule that you can maintain once you go back to work.
  • Leave your dogs or cats with independent activities, like engaging toys that hold a treat inside that the pet needs to work to get to or a cookie scavenger hunt. Experts suggest using the cardboard rolls from toilet paper stuffed with paper towels and treats. Most dogs enjoy using their noses to sniff out treats and love to shred the paper in the process
  • Practice leaving for short periods of time, so your pet gets used to being along. It’s important to start with short periods and slowly increase the time you leave your dog alone. Things you can do are go for a walk, drive around the neighborhood, or go grocery shopping. And, don’t take your dog with you on every errand.

We highly recommend this video if you’d like additional information on separation anxiety
We also recommend this book for people who actually have dogs with separation anxiety