Hometown Hero: Helen St. Pierre never turns a dog away
|Published: 10-24-2023 11:41 AM
Her name is Helen St. Pierre and she owns and operates Old Dogs Go To Helen in Epsom. She cares for dogs – 13 at the moment – who are near the end of the line, be it from illness or old age. She spoils them in a separate building, called the Sanctuary, with hugs, walks, treats, a woodstove, toys and belly rubs until they pass away. St. Pierre also has a dozen other dogs she labels as her pets and says they shield her from heartbreak. They live in the main house with her husband and their two daughters.
“They are not in hospice,” St. Pierre said. “They help to refuel me. They do demo work in my classes. We have everything from a tiny Maltese to a Scottish deerhound.”
Her hospice dogs live for an average of about six months, some for a shorter amount of time, others for a year or two. She also runs No Monkey Business Dog Training in Concord, and her love for dogs and dedication to their welfare is why Sarah Crossman lobbied for St. Pierre to be recognized as a Concord Monitor Hometown Hero.
“She gives dogs at the end of their lives the retirement they deserve,” Crossman wrote. “She helps senior, hospice or special needs dogs all over the country, in shelters and in rescue.”
Raised in London before moving to the United States, St. Pierre was not brought up in a dog household. She had cats as a teenager. She studied fine arts in college and began painting dog portraits about 20 years ago, simply to earn money.
With no internet, she studied books on dog training at the library to learn how to keep the dogs still – sit, stay, lie down – so she could photograph them with a disposable camera and then paint the dogs using the photo as a guide.
“I only did it a couple of times per week, but that was when I realized that I loved being around dogs,” St. Pierre said. “It flipped a switch in me. I went to college for painting but the whole time I painted dogs. I’d get assignments for art and I always found a way to have dogs appear in the paintings.”
She dog-sat for faculty members and worked at veterinarian clinics and doggy day-care centers.
“Any way that I could be around dogs I would do,” she said. “They became a huge part of who I am.”
She moved to Colorado and immediately pursued her passion. “I jumped in head first at an animal shelter,” St. Pierre said. “I dropped off my paintbrush and picked up a treat pouch.”
She worked at a shelter for three years and then as a supervisor. Dogs were euthanized when the kennel had no space for them. That further fueled St. Pierre’s love for dog training.
“I knew if I could teach them skills,” she said, “I could get them adopted faster.”
A local trainer visited, took one look at St. Pierre’s training style and recruited her to work for her.
“That is where I blossomed from the shelter world to the training world,” St. Pierre said.
She moved to New Hampshire and opened her dog training school 16 years ago. She fine-tuned her craft through certification courses and seminars on training and behavioral teaching and continues to travel around the country to attend conferences.
In fact, St. Pierre recently returned from Chicago, from a conference on ‘aggression in dogs.’ She’s going to North Carolina in December to instruct on behavior in senior dogs and has until Nov. 17 to submit a PowerPoint presentation.
She began providing end-of-life love for dogs six years ago and established it as a 501c3 in August of 2022. She never turns away a dog nearing the end of life. Her reputation is such that she no longer listens to endless voice messages and relies solely on emails to keep up.
“The whole point of the organization is to give senior dogs a soft place to land,” St. Pierre said. “You don’t want them to die in a shelter.”