All dogs deserve a loving home, even the ones that might not have much time left. While elderly dogs often get passed over in favor of younger pups, they deserve a forever home to spend their remaining time in.
But one woman has made it her life’s mission to give a loving final home for these aging shelter dogs — turning her own home into a sanctuary that now houses 80 senior pets.
Valerie Reid, a 44-year-old from Hermitage, Missouri, was inspired to look after senior dogs after a personal experience opened her eyes to the problems pets face late in life.
According to SWNS, she struggled to find a home for her dad’s aging Doberman as her dad was dying of cancer. She couldn’t take the dog because she was already at the city’s pet limit, and found that no other rescue would take her.
“We looked everywhere for any rescue that would help and due to her age none would home her,” Valerie recalled.
Finally, she was able to secure a foster home for the Doberman: a farm that specifically cared for senior dogs. It was a happy ending for the dog, who lived peacefully for another year and a half in their care — and the experience proved to be an eye-opening inspiration for Valerie.
“It started me thinking what happens to senior dogs, who were once beloved pets,” she told SWNS. “My eyes were opened to just how many dogs out there needed help… It truly is a forgotten segment of the rescue world.”
So in 2017, Valerie and her husband Josh opened their very own non-profit sanctuary for senior dogs: the Whispering Willows Senior Dog Sanctuary. They bought a 3,000 square feet home in Hermitage, enough room for dozens of dogs to spend their final days in comfort and peace.
“We take in dogs 12 years and older. Sometimes special needs, sometimes hospice,” she told Ozarks First. “Sometimes they just come to us for needing a place to lie their head and pass away.”
She explained that many of the dogs come from backgrounds of abuse and neglect: one dog, Peanut, was found chained up in 100-degree heat.
“When they come in, they’re very broken-hearted, emotionally or broken physically,” she told KY3.
But Valerie says that her goal is to give them a feeling of normalcy and trust, giving them a safe forever home to spend their final days in.
“Once they come, they stay. They don’t have to leave. This is their forever home, so they don’t go through another trauma, another loss.”
“When they come, they know that they’re safe.”
The rescue has grown and grown over the years: according to SWNS, the hospice has 17 full-time staff members who look after the dogs, and they now house 80 dogs at a time.
“The sanctuary truly evolved and became bigger and bigger than I had even thought. I love having so many little hearts that love us back.”
Valerie says they have cared for 790 dogs over the years. Due to the age of the dogs, deaths are common: about five pass away each week, and just as many are taken in.
While it can be sad work, Valerie takes pride in giving these dogs a loving place to spend the end of their lives.
“Our vision is to help people prepare for end of life, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow,” she told SWNS. “We get to send our seniors off in comfort and love. Yes, it hurts but it is an honour to love and care for them.”
Senior dogs need a loving place to spend their final days, and we’re so glad that there are people like Valerie who will take these pets in when no one else will, giving them the love and care they desperately need.
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