Sherri Franklin, Founder of Muttville Senior Dog Rescue

Editor's Note:  They say that you can judge a person...a community...a nation, by the way they treat their animals.  Every ounce of me believes this to be true.  Since the launch of DRIVEN, I have been waiting with bated breath for someone to show up whose advocacy centers around animals.  Dogs in particular are known for their loyalty-- their love for their owner that far surpasses their love for themselves.  When I requested photos from Sherri, she sent me only one of herself and the rest of her dogs.  Such a small thing, but something that I noticed right away.  This is the type of person she is; selfless and completely devoted to her cause.  My hope is that your read her mission and support her foundation in whatever way possible, giving her dogs the opportunity to spend their remaining years surrounded by love.

Photo Courtesy Sherri Franklin

Photo Courtesy Sherri Franklin

{oldies but goodies}

Sherri Franklin has always loved animals.  Her home has, and always will be, a revolving door for the senior dogs that she fosters, which at the moment is seven.

“Who doesn’t love dogs?!  I just can’t understand not loving dogs!”

Ten years before Sherri founded Muttville, which is one of San Francisco’s favorite dog rescue organizations that specializes in the adoption of senior dogs, she volunteered in shelters.

“I’ve always loved the ‘oldies’ and had a soft spot for the dogs that were considered un-adoptable due to their age or behavioral issues.  After a while, I realized that I could probably be doing more, so I started fostering these dogs and finding them permanent homes.”

Photo Courtesy Sherri Franklin

Photo Courtesy Sherri Franklin

{home is where the dog is}

At the time, there was a huge need for an organization that would help place dogs in the city, particularly senior dogs that were slated for euthanasia at the larger shelters.

“I would see these dogs arrive at the shelter with so much hope and joy in their eyes, and watch as it slowly disappeared.  I am not one of those people that can just watch something and not do anything about it, so I knew I needed to get involved.”

With zero non-profit background, Sherri had to start from scratch. 

“I would look up adoption applications on the web and say ‘okay, let’s try out that type of form.’  The growth was always organic from the very beginning.” 

She also had to reach out to volunteers, starting with her friends, to ask for help from the ground up. Volunteers came in droves, coordinating outside adoption events, fundraising events, even Girl Scout cookie fundraisers with proceeds benefiting Muttville. 

“The first year (2007), there were 27 dogs rescued, last year, we rescued 800 senior dogs that probably would have been euthanized if not for our intervention.”

Spanky / Photo Courtesy Sherri Franklin

Spanky / Photo Courtesy Sherri Franklin

{paws on wheels}

One of Sherri’s favorite dogs is Spanky, a bichon-poodle mix that was dropped at an animal shelter with skin burned almost entirely from sitting in his own urine.

“His back legs didn’t work, but when I saw him he was the happiest dog I had ever seen…EVER!   I put a harness on him and took him for a mile long walk, he had so much energy and joy!”

Sherri brought Spanky into Muttville and equipped him with a doggie-wheelchair, bringing life into his paralyzed legs.  His rehabilitation was so great that the staff started calling him “hot-wheels” because of his ability to run circles around the other dogs in the facility.

“He was saved from euthanasia and is now living with a family that loves him so much.  I will never, for as long as I live, forget his smile!”

Inside Muttville / Photo Courtesy Sherri Franklin

Inside Muttville / Photo Courtesy Sherri Franklin

{where my dogs at}

Like Spanky, Sherri says that for the most part her dogs originate from one of three places: the dog is a stray, their owner is moving and unable to take him/her along, or the dog belongs to a senior citizen that has passed away or gone into a nursing home.

When their physical shelter opened three years ago, Sherri’s number one priority was to make it as comfortable as possible for the incoming dogs.

“A shelter is generally not a happy place for a dog, so we have made ours more like a home.  Our facility is 4,000 square feet, it’s cage free with dog beds, sofas and ramps everywhere.”

Muttville Volunteers / Photo Courtesy Sherri Franklin

Muttville Volunteers / Photo Courtesy Sherri Franklin

{a woman's best friend}

Muttville has grown to include 16 San Francisco based staff members, but their mission has had a much broader impact.  Sherri says that one of her proudest accomplishments is the response from the larger shelters, who have become much more inclined to seek out homes for their senior dogs instead of resorting to the traditional response of euthanasia.

“Our dogs can’t help but change you when you walk through the doors of Muttville.  They soften everything…your mood, even your facial expressions…they make your wrinkles go away! {laughs}  When you have a dog in your lap, you can’t help but feel peace.”

Sweet Seniors / Photo Courtesy Sherri Franklin

Sweet Seniors / Photo Courtesy Sherri Franklin

{DRIVEN q&a}

What is it about senior dogs that brings you so much job?

“Oh, I just love them!  So many people ‘ooh and ahh’ over puppies…that’s how I feel about old dogs!  They have soulfulness and softness that younger dogs don’t have.  The ones that end up here, it’s never through any fault of their own, and there is something about that that really touches me.”

What have you learned from working with animals day in and day out?

Dogs have taught me to live in the moment and to be present, because you can’t not be present when they’re around….and to find joy in the smallest of things.”

What have you learned about the process of launching a non-profit?

“Pick your board wisely, not just your friends!  It’s all about teamwork and having people around you that are touched by your mission.  I also think that as a leader, you need to be focused on empowering people to do what they do best instead of micromanaging them. I don’t think we would have ever gotten this far if I would have had my hand in everything. There have been times that I’ve felt like I should know how to do everything because I started the non-profit, but being able to step away and say ‘no, I don’t know everything…I don’t know how to keep my books or write a budget’ is huge!  You have to allow yourself to let go and ask others for help and advice.”

What are the most impactful ways people can help animals, particularly dogs in need?

“The number one is to spay and neuter!  But it’s also important to teach your children and teach your family that a pet is a lifelong commitment.  You don’t throw out your grandmother when she’s too old, your pets should receive the same type of compassion and commitment.  For us, we’re always in financial need.  It’s not cheap to save lives.  We love what we do but we can’t do it for free, and neither will the veterinarians and the other people we need to help our dogs.  Even the smallest fundraisers, like the Girl Scout fundraiser mentioned earlier, can save a life.”

If you see a dog that you are worried might be abused, what do you recommend is the best course of action for helping the animal?

“I would recommend notifying your local animal control, because the people there really do care.  And I’d also try the gentle approach of approaching the person or neighbor and asking if you can help. Many times I have approached my neighbor, asking if I can walk their dog or give them an extra bed.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always a nice first step.”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Tell your story and never be afraid to ask! You aren’t asking for you, you are asking for your mission. And mine is to save lives.”

Muttville offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for those interested, from reviewing adoption applications, walking dogs, bathing dogs, to helping maintain their facilities.  And of course, Muttville is always appreciative of the financial support to help keep their dog’s tails wagging.  To learn more, click here.


Next week on Driven, meet Sharon.  She used to be a partner at a prestigious Venture Capital firm in Silicon Valley, but traded it all in to take over as CEO of Hackbright Academy, the women-only engineering school in San Francisco. She has major life-lessons to share next week, on DRIVEN.

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