Home becomes 'Haven' for dogs of hospice patients

By Erika Mahoney

January 30, 2014 Updated Jan 30, 2014 at 11:47 PM EST

Harpursville, NY (WBNG Binghamton) When you step inside the Ayers' family home, the sign on the door reads, "Sit. Stay. Relax." It couldn't be more fitting.

"My mother said, when you get your own house, you do whatever you want, and I did," Tracy Ayers said.

As of the most recent count, Tracy and her husband have two cats, three kids and four dogs.

Last summer, she decided to welcome even more furry friends. The former New York state trooper -- who co-workers called the dog whisperer -- runs a non-profit called "Harper's Haven Dog Rescue."

Ayers takes in the dogs of hospice patients, to bring them peace of mind.

The idea grew when she watched her father go through hospice. She worried about what happens to dogs with elderly owners.

"I talked to some of the nurses from hospice, and they told me that they hear that a lot. That a lot of people who have dogs, that are going through hospice, have to turn their dogs over to a shelter situation."

While Ayers said Broome County has good shelters, she wanted to bring hospice patients peace of mind.

"Some dogs, like elderly dogs, or dogs that might have issues with other dogs, don't necessarily find homes right away. So what we try to do is bring them here and find homes for them, so that they're used to a home setting, as opposed to being in a shelter."

At one point, the family had 14 dogs in the house at the same time.

Knowing that she has limited space, but wants to expand her organization, Ayers is applying to make her organization a 501(c)(3).

She plans to construct a building on her 16-acre property that will house the dogs.

Ayers said the hardest part is having to turn away dogs for which they have no room.

So far, they've adopted out 16 dogs, and four are currently looking for new homes.

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