It all started after Valerie Reid struggled to find her dad's aged Doberman a home. She opened the dog sanctuary to help other dogs.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 8, 2022
Valerie Reid was heartbroken at the thought of dogs having to die alone. So she turned her home into a hospice for dogs, where she cares for more than 80 dogs. Reid's journey to starting a sanctuary for senior dogs comes from a very personal place. In 2017, she was trying to find a home for her father's aging Doberman but no place would take her. "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 home her," she recalled, and that's when she started the nonprofit Whispering Willows Senior Dog Sanctuary in Hermitage, Missouri, reported The Daily Mail.
Now Reid gives a home to dogs who have spent a long time in a shelter, or dogs whose owners have passed away or have moved into a retirement facility. Valerie, who's also the charity's president, says the important thing is that the dogs know they are safe here and they are loved. "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 through when they know that they are safe and loved."
Because most of the dogs are aged, they take in dogs as and when those in the sanctuary pass away.
"Our vision is to help people prepare for end of life, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow," said Reid. "We get to send our seniors off in comfort and love. Yes, it hurts but it is an honor to love and care for them." The dogs spend their last days playing and relaxing on Reid's estate. "My Dad's Doberman lived another year and a half happily on her farm," said Reid. "It started me thinking what happens to senior dogs, who were once beloved pets."
After watching her father having to give up their dog, Reid knew there were so many others who were out there and that's where the inspiration for the senior dog sanctuary came from. "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," she said.
Reid and her husband, Josh Reid, moved from Kansas to Missouri to set up the sanctuary. Their home is 3,000 square feet, with a 1,700 square foot building just for the dogs. Valerie never imagined the dog sanctuary would be as big as it now but she couldn't be prouder. She says the dogs who arrive want to be loved more than anything and that's what she wants to offer them as well—unconditional love. She said she wants dogs to "leave this earth knowing they were cherished." There are a total of 17 full-time staff at the sanctuary with 24-hour care and onsite hospitalization.
The dogs have the option of lazing inside the building on the many dog beds inside or choosing to roam the five acres of fenced land. They are given toys and treats as well. In a span of just four years, the sanctuary has been home to 790 dogs until they pass away. She makes it a point to take a clay paw print and a watercolor painting of each dog.
"We hold each one and usually cry together. They are family members and all of us love them," she said. Valerie is now urging others to make plans for their pets as well, just as one would for relatives and children. "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," she said.