Woman Opens Retirement Home for Senior Dogs

“Those dogs come to stay with us, and there’s no longer any worries that they’re going to be passed along again. This is the end, but it’s a happy end.”



The sad truth for many dogs is that when they get older, they are often abandoned at shelters or left with no place to go when their owners die or go to nursing homes.  But there are many kind-hearted people in the world, like the people at House with a Heart, a retirement home for dogs.



“We have dogs come to live with us until the end of their life, and we make sure that the end of their life is full of love and caring, lots of attention, and we make sure they get all the medical care they need,” said Sher Polvinale, director of House with a Heart Senior Pet Sanctuary.


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In 2006, she and her (late) husband Joe began a sanctuary for senior pets in the Gaithersburg, Maryland home.  Anywhere from 20 to 40 dogs who otherwise might be euthanized find themselves in a loving home with lots of others they form new bonds with.


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“They come to us from other rescues, or folks that can’t take care of them anymore – maybe someone’s going into a nursing home, or a family member has passed away – so those dogs come to stay with us, and there’s no longer any worries that they’re going to be passed along again.  This is the end, but it’s a happy end.”


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Many of the dogs have medical issues – respiratory illnesses, heart problems, incontinence, mobility struggles – which are quite costly, but through donations, their needs are met.


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“Our supporters are amazing! Recently a kindergarten boy named Compton held a fundraiser selling apple cider for the Sanctuary,” they posted on Facebook. He and his parents came over to bring the donation and spent some time giving Duke some cuddles. Thank you, Compton!”


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Volunteers are integral for the sanctuary’s continuation.  They are there every day to feed the dogs, administer medications, clean up after them, tidy the house, bathe them, entertain them, and just hang out.


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Vice President Harriette Sackler transports the dogs to the emergency vet when a health crisis arises.  It’s a difficult job, because she’s often the one to accompany the dogs when they die or are put to sleep.


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Sher only ever leaves the house a few times a year, and never even goes to the movies or to dinner, out of fear that something will happen to one of the dogs when she’s gone.


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But when the dogs do die, they are not forgotten.  Each is memorialized on the “Stairway to Heaven,” which features their photo on the wall leading upstairs.  It can be a difficult job, but every day is rewarding.



243 thoughts on “Woman Opens Retirement Home for Senior Dogs

  1. The world needs more good hearted people like you. Thank you for all you are doing to help make the senior dogs life better ?

  2. I took in my sweet Chloe when a French WWII veteran had to move to a nursing home. She is 17 and very blind in both eyes. We think she sees lights and shadows out of her right eye, but nothing more. She took to me in our household because I studied French and the speech patterns sounded familiar to her. Here she is with her other rescued brother, Sebastian. Chloe is the heeler and Sebastian is my 11 year-old papillon. Sometimes he guides her around the yard like a good brother. She sleeps a lot but when she is awake I try and give her all the love she deserves.

  3. My dog turns 16 soon and will be with me until the end. Will be adopting only older dogs from shelters once I’m able to after he’s gone.

  4. I dearly admire and has high regards for people who take care of the senior dogs..may you, your volunteers and your organization be blessed with more donations so can keep these dogs until the time when they cross the rainbow.. God bless you all

  5. I have 3 rescue dogs, the youngest is 7, the others are 10 to 12. I’m a 68 year old widower and my big aim now is to stay alive longer than they do so they never have to be in a shelter or a new place again…they all had some hard times earlier in their lives and I have been trying to smooth them all out for several years now. People get themselves in and out of their own trouble, but dogs can’t control where they live.

  6. It seems that all I see on FB are stories of animal cruelty, abuse and suffering. This story touches my heart very deeply and is proof that there really are angels here on earth.

  7. I’ve talked to my husb and about doing that some day. It’s so sad when people are done with a pet when it gets old…
    Thank you for opening your heart and home to these deserving of love and good care in their senior years!

  8. Thank you So much from the compassion & work you do. It really brought tears to my eyes. I have see this myself were the pets lost both owners to sickness. Just thank you is not enough.

  9. I foster senior dogs, they are the best <3 I've had 2 so far, they have both passed on, waiting for the next one to come my way….

  10. I would love to do this too,but unfortunately many older dogs need frequent trips to the vet or are on medications and after experiencing this for several years with my own pets,being retired,I just cant afford it.Wish I could!

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