Saving One Senior Dog at a Time: An Unconditional Story by Kacey Klonsky

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Ol Red. ©Jane Sobel Klonsky

“You know inside that they want to live a little bit longer because they are happy where they are,” says Laura Oliver, founder of Lionel’s Legacy Senior Dog Rescue, speaking of her family's hospice foster dogs. Laura’s reflections on the joy of caring for dogs at the end of their lives are featured in a new video by Kacey Klonsky, which we are delighted to share as part of Grey Muzzle's campaign highlighting hospice care for homeless senior dogs. The video is the first of Kacey Klonsky’s Unconditional Stories and an accompaniment to Project Unconditional, a photo series by Kacey's mother, Jane Sobel Klonsky. In recent months, we have been pleased to share Jane’s photos capturing the special bond between people and their senior dogs, a number of which have been foster families and adopters from Grey Muzzle grantees and the dogs whose lives they have transformed. 

During a visit to San Diego in September, Jane and Kacey documented the special relationship between Lionel’s Legacy’s dogs and their fosters and adopters. In Kacey’s video, filmed at the firehouse where Laura Oliver’s husband is a firefighter/paramedic, we hear from Laura Oliver and see her family, including daughters Reina and Madi and dogs Misty and Ol' Red. As Laura tells us in the film, Lionel’s Legacy got its start when she and her family took in Lionel, an elderly Pit Bull, as a hospice foster. Lionel lived longer than expected, and inspired a program that now provides homes for homeless senior dogs and educates children in the compassionate and respectful treatment of animals.

You can watch Kacey Klonsky's video interview with Laura Oliver and read a short interview with Kacey below.

Unconditional Stories: Laura & Ol Red from Kacey Klonsky on Vimeo.

Kacey, how did you come to be inspired to make videos to accompany your mother's photo series, Project Unconditional?
The video series came about in a very organic way. When my mom first started the project, I would take stills alongside her whenever I was on a shoot. When we were preparing our trip to Alaska this past August, I realized that video could have the power to unveil an entirely new dimension of the project. I started trying to create authentic living portraits of our subjects during their shoots with my mom, in an effort to give our audience a different perspective on the relationships between people and their dogs.
What role have dogs played in your own life?
Dogs have played a major role in my life. Before I could walk, I was crawling on the floor with our Great Danes. And when I learned to walk, I was trying to get on their backs and ride them around. In our family, our dogs are our equals. There is such a deep level of commitment and understanding between dogs and their human families. They know when you are sick and weak, they know when you are hurt and in pain, and they know when you are sad and need emotional comfort. They can sense when something is not right and you need them to just be there. Growing up around that level of unconditional love has inspired me, and I always try to treat other people the way that my dogs treat me.

The Olivers and Ol Red. © Jane Sobel Klonsky
What struck you most about the people you interviewed and filmed at Lionel's Legacy?

I was really blown away by the level of dedication and commitment that Laura's entire family has for their rescue organization. It was incredibly inspiring to see that rescuing dogs is a family affair to the Olivers. Laura's two daughters are very involved with the senior dogs and are always right by Laura's side during the happy moments and during the hard moments as well. Their respect and compassion for senior dogs is so tangible and it is wonderful to see that in a younger generation.
Did you have a favorite moment of your time with Lionel's Legacy?
My favorite moment of the shoot was when Laura asked her daughter Madi what she thought Lionel would say if he were here and could speak. Madi immediately answered that Lionel would say "thank you," and then added that she sees Lionel from time to time and he is happy.

We thank Kacey and her mother Jane for sharing their beautiful testaments to the compassion and dedication of those who devote themselves to senior dog rescue. More of Jane Sobel Klonsky's photographs can be found on Project Unconditional's Facebook page. For information on Lionel's Legacy, visit Lionel’s Legacy's network of foster and Pawspice families take care of rescued seniors dogs until they are adopted or for the rest of their lives. With support from a grant from The Grey Muzzle Organization, Lionel's Legacy has also launched a program that helps senior citizens care for their senior dogs through food and medical care, and gives these dogs a new home when their owners can no longer look after them.

The Grey Muzzle Organization improves the lives of at-risk senior dogs by providing funding and resources to animal shelters, rescue organizations, sanctuaries, and other nonprofit groups nationwide.

About Kacey Klonsky: Kacey is a rising filmmaker and producer of both narrative and documentary films. Kacey has directed and edited films in locations as diverse as Papua New Guinea, India, Jamaica, the Czech Republic, New York City, Vermont, and the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana. Her documentary about the Hudson Guild, a community program center in Chelsea, New York, helped raise half a million dollars to send local children to summer camps and on college tours. Kacey earned a BA in Film and Television with a minor in Art History from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She is an avid traveler and an outdoor enthusiast with a great passion for snow. She currently lives and works in Portland, Oregon. Find out more at:

Interviewed by K.E. Magoon, Grey Matters Blog Manager and Editor