A mum who couldn’t bear the thought of old dogs dying alone has turned her home into a hospice – and 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 takes in dogs who have spent a long time in a shelter, whose owners have passed away or have moved into a retirement facility.
Valerie, the charity’s president, said: “The dogs live with us openly and go between the two buildings. anywhere we go they go and are treated as part of the family.
“The best part is the transformation they go to when they know that they are safe and loved.”
About five dogs are taken in each week, with the same number of deaths.
“Our vision is to help people prepare for end of life, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow,” said Valerie.
“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 remodelled kitchens and owned an interior design store for about 12 years prior to setting up the sanctuary in 2017.
She was inspired to set up the home after she struggled to find a place to home her father’s Doberman when he passed away.
She said: “My husband and I were at our city’s pet limit and we were unable to take her. We looked everywhere for any rescue that would help and 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.”
The foster home already had multiple older dogs who roamed free on a farm.
“My Dad’s Doberman lived another year and a half happily on her farm,” said Valerie.
“It started me thinking what happens to senior dogs, who were once beloved pets.
“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.”
Valerie upped sticks with her husband Josh Reid, 42, away from Kansas City in Missouri to their current property in Hermitage.
The home is 3,000 square feet, with a 1,700 square foot outbuilding to house the dogs, and Valerie got in touch with the 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.
Valerie, a mum-of-one, said: “The sanctuary truly evolved and became bigger and bigger than I had even thought.
“I love having so many little hearts that love us back.”
Kind-hearted Valerie now employs about 17 full-time staff that offer 24-hour care and on-site hospitalisation.
Dogs come in from other shelters, or whose owners have gone into nursing homes or passed away and they have no place to go.
Valerie said: “We also have worked with court ordered surrenders, unexpected tragedies, suicides, murders, and people who are facing a hardship in life.
“Some dogs are longing for love and others are scared.”
The seniors are able to roam across five acres of fenced land as they please, or can just chill out on one of the many dog beds scattered around the property.
They are all spoilt with toys and treats.
Since opening, Valerie and her team have made over 790 dogs comfortable when the time comes for them to pass, and take a clay paw print and a watercolour painting of each one.
She said: “Our goal is for them to leave this earth knowing they were cherished. We hold each one and usually cry together.
“They are family members and all of us love them.”
Valerie hopes that she can encourage others to think about what will happen to their pets if something were to happen to them.
She said: “All of us need to plan for the future, that not only includes spouses and children but also beloved pets.
“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.”