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Learning Final Lessons From Four-Legged Friends

CSL Behring employee who founded a hospice for dogs writes about living in the moment with beloved animals.

Jeff Allen and wife Michele surrounded by dogs they care for
Jeff Allen and his wife, Michele, pictured here with some of the special animals they care for, operate Monkey’s House Dog Hospice and Sanctuary. They recently published a book chronicling some of their organization’s many touching stories.

 Five years ago, CSL Behring’s Jeff Allen and his wife, Michele, turned their home into a “hospice for dogs.” After hosting and extending the lives of more than 100 dogs, the couple wrote a book about the experience.

“Where Dogs Go to Live,” an Amazon best seller in the pets and grief category, includes 37 stories about some of the dogs that have lived at Monkey’s House Dog Hospice and Sanctuary. The couple named the nonprofit organization after “Monkey,” the first terminally ill dog they fostered.

The couple currently cares for more than 20 dogs at their six-acre New Jersey farm, which could be described as a “doggie heaven.” Monkey’s House supplies home-cooked meals tailored to each dog’s needs, plenty of room for exercise, quality veterinary care and lots of love from volunteers.

The littlest volunteer at Monkey’s House inspired one of the stories in the book. Kaiden, who lives with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) started visiting the house as a 3-year-old with his mother, Holly Jones. Research suggests pets can be beneficial to people who have a variety of health conditions. Allen writes that for children who have autism, a friendship with a dog can help them try new things, give them courage to face fearful situations, increase their sense of security and decrease anxiety. Such a friendship formed between Kaiden and Harley, a middle aged dog with cancer. 

Book cover for Where Dogs Go to Live and a young volunteer with a favorite dog
Monkey House volunteer, Kaiden, and his friend, Harley.

Through Monkey House, Harley was placed in a foster home with the Jones family. They helped an emaciated Harley gain weight so the dog would be healthy enough to undergo surgery to remove a large mass. Young Kaiden might have taken that initiative a little too far by feeding Harley pizza crust and a little something from his cereal bowl.

He told his mother he gave Harley the green Lucky Charms out of his cereal bowl, Allen wrote. “He thought it would bring her good luck for the surgery.”

Whether it was magically delicious breakfast cereal or the work of the skillful surgeon, Harley made it through her surgery. Though still stricken with cancer, the dog was finally able to rest in comfort.

“(Harley) was a fighter, and we made every effort to provide the tools needed to help her fight as long as she had the will,” Allen wrote in the book. “She was determined to stay strong and be with the family she adored.”

Of course, Kaiden would eventually have to say goodbye to Harley. But he was able to experience this loss with the support of a loving family and supportive friends.

In the book, Allen wrote about how he’ll remember Harley, one of many special dogs: 

“Harley fought for as long as she could; she lived much longer and had a better life than predicted. She loved with every ounce of her being and she showed it every single day. Harley achieved and maintained a great quality of life for as long as possible thanks to so many people.”