Golden Year
The Australian Women's Weekly|June 2021
Proving that you can teach old dogs new tricks, Lisa Domeny gives senior golden retrievers and their human friends a new lease on life.
Alley Pascoe

If heaven is a place on earth, it’s located at the end of a cul-de-sac in the NSW Mid North Coast town of South West Rocks. Pulling up at Lisa Domeny’s idyllic property, visitors are greeted by nine wagging tails, a rush of golden fur and 35 excitable paws. You see, Lisa and her husband Ian, a former builder, share their home with a small army of elderly dogs: six golden retrievers and three Labradors.

There’s Sam with his perfectly crimped ears; Billy Boy and his cheeky smile; ball-obsessed Leo; lone brown Lab Bo; the appropriately named Bear; handsome Harry, who’s recently lost 15 kilos; new kid on the block Oscar; shy Poppy hiding in the bushes; and resident rascal Marlie, who has three legs (hence the odd number of paws). Together, they’re an adorable welcoming committee.

When people talk about heaven, they never mention the dog poo. “A good portion of my day is spent picking up poo and sweeping up fur,” says Lisa, 53, gesturing to her hair-covered timber floors as we sit down for a cup of tea. “I swear I vacuumed before you came.”

Lisa, an artist and former teacher, didn’t set out to become a professional pooper scooper. Rather, she built up to it gradually. It started with Sam, who Lisa adopted in 2014 from a rescue centre in Queensland.

“That’s how I fell in love with golden retrievers,” explains Lisa, who was then asked to foster her first elderly dog, Maggie. “The rescue centre was looking for permanent foster carers for dogs that couldn’t be adopted out – usually because they were too old. And that’s how I fell in love with senior dogs.”

In the past seven years, Lisa has taken in 26 senior dogs, the majority of whom came to her from the charity Golden Retriever Rescue.

“We’re like the Golden Retriever Rescue retirement home,” she says. “We take in the old dogs that no-one else wants. Some have been neglected, abused or rescued from puppy farms. Others come to us when their owners are unable – or unwilling – to take care of them in their old age. The only requirement is that they have to be good with other dogs.”

For Lisa, the older, the better: “There are so many dogs out there looking for a loving home – especially older dogs. Our time with them might not be as long, but we are determined to give them the best – for whatever time we’ve got with them.”

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