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40-year dream: Broughers open York-area sanctuary for abused senior dogs

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
General Manager Renee Rocco cuddles with her Maltese Luna, at Zachery's Abused Canine Housing for Seniors (ZACHS) Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Bill Kalina photo

A York County couple whose family has a long history of helping companion animals is opening a sanctuary for senior dogs that have suffered abuse or neglect.

"I want the really neglected ones," Nancy E. Brougher said. "The ones whose skin grew over their collars. The one that lived 10 of her 11 years in the bottom cage of three in a puppy mill — defecated on and urinated on for 10 years. Who never had a toy."

In other words, she said, the dogs passed up time and again at shelters. The ones nobody wants.

The 11-year-old dog isn't a fictional example, according to Brougher, who said she's working to adopt that dog as well as an aging dog whose teeth were knocked out and whose tail and ears were cut off.

"They're going to (leave) this world feeling some kind of love and security and compassion. ... It might be the first time in their lives they've felt that," she said of the dogs that end up in her sanctuary. "This has been my dream for 40 years."

She and husband Peter Brougher are opening Zachery's Abused Canine Housing for Seniors (ZACHS) in an undisclosed location in Spring Garden Township. He is the CEO, and she is the executive director, she said; Renee Rocco is the general manager.

Permanent home: The sanctuary won't rehome senior dogs, Brougher said. Rather, dogs will live at ZACHS for the rest of their lives in a home-like setting with no cages and a dog door that allows them independent access to a fenced-in backyard. Either Brougher or Rocco will sleep there every night, and the longest the dogs will be left alone will be for a couple hours during shopping trips, according to Brougher.

Zachery Myers, who died in March 2017 at the age of 10, is the namesake of a new dog sanctuary in the York area called Zachery's Abused Canine Housing for Seniors, or ZACHS.

ZACHS isn't asking for donations. People who want to help animals in York County should consider donating to, or volunteering at, the York County SPCA and Animal Rescue Inc. in southern York County, she said.

ZACHS is named in honor of Zachery Myers, who died March 16, 2017, at the age of 10. The Friendship Elementary School fourth-grader battled epidermolysis bullosa, a rare condition that makes skin so fragile it blisters and tears at the slightest touch.

Before retiring as a nurse, Brougher cared for Zachery starting when he was 18 months old, she said, adding that the terrible pain Zachery suffered daily never affected his happy disposition or his concern for others — including animals.

"He was the kindest, sweetest, most unselfish person I ever met," she told The York Dispatch. Zachery's strength of character so strongly affected Brougher that she had his first name tattooed on her arm, she said.

Zachery's mother, Chrissy Wingler, agreed her son cared for others — including his dog and three cats — despite his own challenges.

"He touched a lot of people," Wingler said. "I'm grateful that people remember him."

Posing in the "dog room" at Zachery's Abused Canine Housing for Seniors (ZACHS), are sanctuary General Manager Renee Rocco with her Maltese Luna, left, and Pete and Nancy Brougher with their Maltipoo Toby, Wednesday, April 15, 2020. ZACHS is named in honor of Zachery Myers, a patient of then-nurse Nancy, who died from a rare disease at the age of 10. Bill Kalina photo

A needed oasis: Steven Martinez, executive director of the York County SPCA, said ZACHS will be an oasis for abused senior dogs.

"I think it's a fantastic service, and it's something needed in our community," he said.

Over the years, Brougher has volunteered at both Animal Rescue Inc. and the SPCA, she said.

She and her husband organized and ran Paws Soup Kitchen for about three years, until her heath issues intervened. The mobile pet-food pantry dropped off food at local pantries and food banks.

"We fed over 800 cats and dogs per month," Brougher said. She also was a volunteer driver for an organization that transports shelter animals to their new adoptive families.

Nancy Brougher, left, and Renee Rocco sit with their dogs Maltipoo Toby, and Luna, a Maltese, respectively, at Zachery's Abused Canine Housing for Seniors (ZACHS) Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Nancy and her husband Pete created the dog sanctuary, named in honor of Zachery Myers, a patient of then-nurse Nancy, who died from a rare disease at the age of 10. Renee is the general manager. Bill Kalina photo

The SPCA's shelter near Emigsville is named the Brougher Companion Animal Shelter because Peter Brougher's parents, Nancy M. Brougher and the late W. Dale Brougher, donated and helped raise money to build it.

Nancy M. Brougher remains a longtime member of the York County SPCA's board of directors, and her daughter-in-law credits her with inspiring the idea for ZACHS.

"We've helped place a lot of dogs," Peter Brougher said. "My father, since I can remember, was involved. We're just animal lovers and have the ability to (help)."

Martinez said he doesn't understand why more people don't choose to adopt senior dogs.

"Senior animals make wonderful companions because they're mature. They're calm and loving ... and past that wild puppy phase," he said. "You couldn't have a more loyal companion."

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.