A mother who couldn’t bear the thought of old dogs dying alone has turned her home into a hospice – and is now caring for up to 80 puppies at a time.
Valerie Reid, 44, founded the nonprofit Whispering Willows Senior Dog Sanctuary after struggling to find a home for her family’s aging Doberman Pinscher.
She now takes in dogs who have been at the shelter for a long time, whose owners have passed away or who have moved into a retirement home.
Valerie, the charity’s president, said: “The dogs live openly with us and walk back and forth between the two buildings. Wherever we go, they go and are treated as part of the family.
“The best thing is the transformation they go through in knowing they are safe and loved.”
About five dogs are admitted each week, with the same number of deaths.
“Our vision is to help people prepare for the end of life, none of us have a guarantee for tomorrow,” Valerie said.
“We can say goodbye to our seniors in comfort and love. Yes, it hurts, but it’s an honor to love and care for her.”
Valerie remodeled kitchens and owned a home furnishings shop for about 12 years before founding Sanctuary in 2017.
She was inspired to set up the home after struggling to find a place to house her father’s Doberman Pinscher when he died.
She said: “My husband and I were at our city’s pet limit and we were unable to accommodate them. We looked everywhere for a rescue that would help and due to her age no one wanted to take her.
“Eventually a nurse from one of the rescues heard our dilemma and wanted to help.”
The foster home already had several older dogs roaming free on a farm.
“My father’s Doberman lived happily on her farm for another year and a half,” Valerie said.
“I thought about what happens to older dogs that were once beloved pets.
“I wanted to help those who were in a situation like my dad and really couldn’t care for their beloved older dogs, but then my eyes were opened to how many dogs out there needed help.
“It’s really a forgotten segment of the rescue world.”
Valerie moved to her current home in Hermitage from Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Josh Reid, 42.
The home is 3,000 square feet with a 1,700 square foot annex to house the dogs and Valerie has been in touch with the local vet to help with medical expenses.
Whispering Willows officially opened its doors on July 19, 2017 and now has up to 80 dogs at a time.
Valerie, a mother of one, said, “The shrine has really evolved and gotten bigger and bigger than I ever imagined.
“I love having so many little hearts loving us back.”
Kindhearted Valerie now employs about 17 full-time staff providing 24-hour care and on-site hospitalization.
Dogs come from other animal shelters or their owners have gone into foster homes or have died and no longer have a place.
Valerie said: “We have also worked with court-ordered surrenders, unexpected tragedies, suicides, homicides and people facing difficulties in life.
“Some dogs crave love and others are afraid.”
The seniors are free to roam over five fenced acres at their leisure or simply relax on one of the many dog beds scattered around the property.
They are all spoiled with toys and treats.
Since opening, Valerie and her team have made over 790 dogs comfortable when the time comes for them, taking a clay paw print and watercolor painting of each one.
She said: “Our aim is for them to leave this earth knowing that they are valued. We hold each other and usually cry together.
“They’re family and we all love them.”
Valerie hopes she can encourage others to think about what would happen to their pets if something happened to them.
She said: “We all need to plan for the future, which includes not only spouses and children but also beloved pets.
“Death is not scary, growing old is a privilege and we all have to face death one day.
“We’re helping as many older dogs as we can, but we’re overwhelmed by the volume and medical costs.
“We hope to raise awareness of the great need for senior care as well as awareness of our sanctuary.”
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