Like humans, our dog friends grow old too, and with age come many changes in health and well-being. We’d like to think that man and his best friend will be together until the very end, but unfortunately, cases occur where owners are no longer able to care for their pets, or where pets even outlive their owners. When this happens, many of these pets end up in shelters or being moved around between different homes, creating unhappy and unbalanced experiences. House With a Heart, an organization run by Sher Polvinale in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is a pet sanctuary that provides shelter and care for aging dogs who no longer have families. Sher and her colleagues oversee the daily care of more than twenty dogs, and spare no expense when it comes to making sure the dogs are happy and healthy.
“We have dogs come to live with us until the end of their life,” says Sher, “and we make sure that the end of their life is full of love and caring [and] lots of attention, and [we] make sure they get all the medical care they need.”
The resident dogs come from all walks of life and many of them come from shelters or from owners who have retired to nursing homes or passed away. At the sanctuary, the dogs are ensured that they won’t be passed along to a shelter or to a new owner who can’t provide the appropriate care the dogs need. They may have lost their previous families, but they find a new one at House With a Heart with whom they can live out their last few years with.
“This is the end,” Sher stated, “but it’s a happy end.”
Although the medical needs of some of the dogs are expensive, costs are covered by short term care plans and donations from supporters. Even for dogs with walking impairments, House With a Heart makes sure hey have the room and equipment to play and exercise.
Dogs like Spencer, pictured below, can recover peacefully from surgeries and illnesses under the warm care of the home.
Sher is up at 6:00 A.M. every morning to begin feeding the dogs and administering medications. She caters to the individual needs of every resident with precision and attentiveness from the early hours of the morning until the day’s end.
Volunteers arrive later in the morning to play with the dogs and assist in housekeeping and grooming tasks. Because of her devotion to the care and attention to the dogs, Sher hardly ever leaves her house. To her, the ultimate fulfillment is being able to spend every moment with the dogs and tend to their needs.
Harriette Sackler, the vice president of House With a Heart, is in charge of transporting the dogs in the case of emergencies or visits to the vet.
“One of the duties that I like least is I am usually with the dogs when we say goodbye to them,” says Harriette. “We always want to be there with the pets, we never let them leave this world alone. They’re loved until the very last moment and beyond.”
To commemorate resident dogs who have passed away, House With a Heart created the Stairway to Heaven, a collection of photographs of each dog who lived out their last days at the sanctuary.
Click and share with your loved ones and fellow animal lovers!