When a dog is in the shelter system and can't get adopted, there are options: foster or group homes can serve as temporary placements until they find their forever-families. But what about older furry friends who can't take all that moving around -- the ones who just want to live out their golden years in peace?
For them, there's House With A Heart (HWAH): A senior pet retirement home.
After years of running a non-profit that helped homeless pets in Florida get adopted, HWAH founders Sher and Joe Polvinale always wondered if the pets they had placed were still living with the families they'd found, or if they'd been given up again to the system because of age or illness. In 2006, they decided to open up their own home in Gaithersburg, Maryland to senior critters in need.
Complete with love, cuddles and care, HWAH isn't just a boarding-house for wayward pups -- it's a real home where pets get to live out the rest of their lives with help from their "mama Sher" and 55 other doting volunteers.
It's not all fetch and belly-rubs, though. As Harriette Sackler, Vice President of House with a Heart Senior Pet Sanctuary, told MTV News, running a nonprofit -- especially one that has so many high-maintenance residents -- is a lot of work (and money.)
"In so many cases, our residents have come from situations in which they haven't received regular medical and dental care, if any were provided at all," Sackler said. "So when they reach the sanctuary, it's necessary for us to provide extensive medical and dental care, which can be very costly. In so many cases, they are already in poor health or suffer chronic conditions such as cardiac or pulmonary disease, arthritis, etc. When there are 25 to 30 residents, you can imagine how costly it can be."
While the pups at HWAH are certainly well taken care of, the same can't be said for all of the thousands of senior dogs who are surrendered or abandoned every year. According to a report by the Grey Muzzle Organization, these animals are more at risk to catch diseases than their younger counterparts. Also, since everyone wants a puppy and few people are willing to take on the hefty financial and emotional weight of caring for an older pet, they are significantly harder to re-home. To avoid this problem completely, Sackler said that people need to really understand what it means to bring an animal into your life. (Hint: it's a forever thing.)
"If someone is contemplating adopting any pet, they should be prepared to make a commitment to that animal for the rest of its life," Sackler said. "Pets should be considered family members, permanent and not disposable."
For More Information About House With A Heart And Their Donation Policy, Check Out HouseWithAHeart.com.