Gray Faces, Full Hearts

Debbie and Bob Gretz provide love and comfort to senior dogs

Debbie has always been drawn to animals but senior dogs tug at her heart. Linda Clark

A lifelong animal lover, Debbie Gretz believes “no living thing should live in fear or in pain.” She found herself drawn to animals in need: those with medical issues or special needs, as well as those suffering from abuse. Debbie and her husband Bob began fostering dogs at their home, starting a with a pug but quickly adding two or three more. Debbie says that she and Bob came to realize the issue wasn’t really how many dogs they could handle; it was more about how many were in need. “When you are committed to rescue, what is easy for you is never part of the equation; it is more like, ‘okay, how can we make this work?’”

Over the course of 13 years, the Gretzes fostered many dogs. But it was when they realized how many of the senior dogs needed a permanent home to retire to rather than interim care that they decided their passion was worthy of becoming more. In April 2016, Debbie and Bob officially opened Gray Face Acres, a nonprofit rescue and retreat for senior dogs, on their secluded 10-acre property in Haymarket.The organization is a registered 501 (c) 3, run only by volunteers, and entirely funded by Debbie and Bob with contributions from generous donors. “To put it simply, we are very passionate about what we do,” explains Debbie.

Debbie and Bob Gretz feel a common desire to help dogs: it “drives us and ties us together.” Linda Clark

If not for people like the Gretzes, many senior dogs would be left in shelters to live out their last days alone. For dogs with medical issues or advanced in age the odds of being adopted are slim to none, says Debbie. At Gray Face Acres, the dogs from local shelters are given the love and comfort of a home, along with help for their individual needs. From Gray Face Acres, some dogs are adopted into loving families who also have a heart for the senior and medically fragile animals.

“The old ones really tug at my heart, and at the same time really make me smile,” says Debbie of these sweet companions who fill her home. Through their work, the Gretz’ have formed relationships with shelters who will call Gray Face Acres when a senior dog finds his or her way into the shelter. Some of these dogs have had a home all their lives, but the owners may have passed away and there was no one else to take the animal in. The dogs are scared and confused after being taken from the only home they’ve ever known. “We bring them here, where they are not placed in cages but are allowed to be part of the family. Our family room is filled with dog beds and sofas and there can be anywhere from five to fifteen little seniors in residence who are safe and and happy, until we find them a new home.” But the work is not for the faint of heart. Some dogs who come to Gray Face Acres are too elderly, and do not live long enough to be adopted. But with Debbie and Bob, they are able to cross over the “rainbow bridge” with someone loving by their side when their time comes.

Gray Face Acres sits on 10 acres of beautiful, secluded land in Haymarket Linda Clark

Providing a voice and a calm, safe environment for these dogs is what Gray Face Acres is all about. But what Debbie and Bob do for these dogs gives back to this inspiring couple tenfold. “This is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Debbie says of the nonprofit. Being able to take a dog who is at risk of being euthanized at a shelter and place them in a home where they are cared for, comforted, and loved means that the mission of Gray Face Acres is being fulfilled. “Each and every one of the dogs that come through here has added to our lives, has made us appreciate what a blessing it is to have a safe, warm place to call home. Their resilience and capacity to love is amazing.”

For those who share a compassionate heart for senior dogs, there are many ways to become involved with Gray Face Acres. The organization is in need of people to help transport dogs from shelters, assist with fundraising efforts, and provide administrative support. Additionally, they need foster and adoptive families, and monthly donations for medical and vet care. To learn more about the organization, go to or follow them on facebook to see the latest updates.


Christine Craddock
About Christine Craddock 64 Articles
Christine Craddock is a writer, editor, photographer, wife, and mother of two adorable children. She is a faithful contributing writer for Haymarket Lifestyle magazine and has resided in Haymarket since 2006.

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