Humans are apparently not unique in having a retirement home in which to spend their senior years. National Geographic documented a pet sanctuary for senior dogs in Gathersburg, Maryland, where senior canines can live out the final years of their lives in comfort, getting all of the love, attention and medical care they need to make whatever time they have left a happy experience.
The residents of The House With A Heart have usually lost their families, sometimes when an elderly owner dies or finds that they themselves need the extra help available in a care facility. Because these pets are of an advanced age and often have one or more medical conditions, their chances of being adopted are slim to none.
The number of dogs living at this “Senior Center” varies, but an average of two dozen at a time are spending their golden years under the care of Sher Polvinale and her team of volunteers. House with a Heart spares no expense to care for the special needs of each dog, from feeding and grooming to medications and vet visits. Donations make it possible for them to provide for the canine residents.
Each animal at this center has unique challenges. Several can’t walk unassisted and have wheeled devices that allow them to move around or even get outside to enjoy the yard. Some suffer from conditions like diabetes or heart disease. Without exception, each dog gets the proper medication to control pain or help their specific condition, and a big part of the care includes individual attention and plenty of snuggles.
Sher Polvinale rarely leaves the house. She says if she goes out of the house four times in a year that’s a lot, she worries too much to leave her babies home alone. Instead, she stays with the animals and is devotedly at their disposal, waking by 6:00 am every day to get their food ready and start their medications. The volunteer team brings in necessary supplies and is available to transport a dog that needs extra medical care to the veterinary clinic. While Polvinale was initially reluctant to ask for help, she’s now very grateful to have a team in place to help her manage the everyday work involved in caring for so many fragile senior dogs.
At The House With A Heart, no animal leaves for the Rainbow Bridge alone. A loving human is with them in their final minutes, and the love that they’ve shared with their human caretakers at the home is honored on the “Stairway to Heaven” where pictures and names of former residents that have died are displayed as a tribute and in remembrance.
Man’s best friend deserves an entire life span lived in comfort and dignity. A senior dog still has a lot of love to give to someone whose heart is open enough to accept an animal that may not have a lot more time on this planet and requires extra care.
These seniors have a limited amount of time left in their lives, but clearly the amount of love they have to offer knows no limits.