A woman who can’t handle the thought of old dogs dying alone has turned her home into a dog hospice.
She now looks after up to 80 pooches at once.
Valerie Reid, 44, started the non-profit Whispering Willows Senior Dog Sanctuary after she struggled to find a home for her family’s ageing Doberman. She now cares for dogs who have spent long periods in shelters, whose owners have died or have moved into retirement homes.
‘The dogs live with us openly and go between the two buildings,’ Valerie says. ‘Anywhere we go they go and are treated as part of the family.
‘The best part is the transformation they go through when they know that they are safe and loved.’
Five dogs are taken in each week on average, with the same number of deaths.
’Our vision is to help people prepare for end of life, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow,’ she explains.
‘We get to send our seniors off in comfort and love. Yes, it hurts but it is an honour to love and care for them.’
Valerie, who is also the charity’s president, remodelled kitchens and owned an interior design store before setting up the sanctuary in 2017.
The idea first sprung to mind when she struggled to find a new home for her father’s Doberman when he passed. ‘My husband and I were at our city’s pet limit and we were unable to take her,’ Valerie recalls. ‘We looked everywhere for any rescue that would help but due to her age, none would take her.
‘Finally, a foster from one of the rescues had heard the dilemma and wanted to help out. ‘My dad’s Doberman lived another year and a half happily on her farm.’
It was then she began to reassess her future plans.
‘It started me thinking about what happens to senior dogs, who were once beloved pets,’ she says.
‘I had wanted to help those that were in a situation like my Dad and could truly no longer care for their beloved senior dogs, but then my eyes were opened to just how many dogs out there needed help. ‘It truly is a forgotten segment of the rescue world.’
To make her vision a reality, Valerie and her husband Josh Reid, 42, moved from Kansas City in Missouri to Hermitage.
Their new home is 3,000 square feet, with a 1,700 square foot outbuilding to house the dogs and Valerie contacted a local vet to help with medical costs.
Whispering Willows officially opened its doors on July 19, 2017, and now has up to 80 dogs at any one time.
‘The sanctuary truly evolved and became bigger and bigger than I had ever thought,’ Valerie says. ‘I love having so many little hearts that love us back.’
The sanctuary now employs 17 full-time staff that offer 24-hour care and dogs are brought in from all walks of life.
Since opening, Valerie and her team have made over 790 dogs comfortable when the time comes for them to pass. They also take a clay paw print and a watercolour painting of each one.
‘Our goal is for them to leave this earth knowing they were cherished,’ she says. ‘We hold each one and usually cry together. They are family members and all of us love them.’
Valerie hopes that she can help others to think about what will happen to their pets if something were to happen to them.
‘All of us need to plan for the future, that not only includes spouses and children but also beloved pets,’ she explains. ‘Death is not scary, it is a privilege to grow old and we all must face death someday. ‘We help as many senior dogs as we can but we are overwhelmed with the quantity and then the medical expenses. ‘We hope to raise awareness showing the great need for senior care as well as awareness for our sanctuary.’
(Article source: Metro)