The end of life is a frightening prospect for most of us, and planning for the inevitable is hard enough. But many people fail to plan for their pet’s future after they are gone. Valerie Reid is changing that with her nonprofit called Whispering Willows Senior Dog Sanctuary (WWSDS) in Hermitage, Missouri. Her organization exists to fill the gap—both locally and nationally—for dogs who do not have a place to go after their humans are gone.
Reid was inspired to start the sanctuary after the loss of her dad to cancer. “I believe so much in hospice care not only for humans but also animals,” she tells My Modern Met. “We all deserve to die with dignity and with love surrounding us.”
“After my dad's passing,” Reid explains, “my mom was unable to keep my father's dog. His Doberman, Staley. My mom was also in poor health and at that time my husband and I were at our city limit for pets. No one wanted an old dog. Yet, here she was this most valuable member of our family. She helped my dad and stayed at his side until he passed. He loved her dearly yet no one wanted her.”
The couple appealed to rescues but was told that Staley would be put down. Feeling hopeless, a foster for the Doberman rescue got their information and volunteered to take her. “She had aging Dobermans and land where [Staley] could live out the rest of her life,” Reid says. “Staley went and was loved for another one and a half years. She lived happily, getting to be part of a family, running, and playing. She ended in love.”
After seeing how hard it was to find a place for Staley, Reid had the dream of helping senior dogs. “Why should they die just because they are old? We are a throw away society, always looking for the next best thing. What about the true golden hearts that have lived and loved. Don't they deserve respect and care?”
An immense amount of planning and research went into establishing the WWSDS. The couple moved and bought a large home and land. The organization became a nonprofit in 2017 and a licensed shelter with the state of Missouri. WWSDS offers full medical care and 24-hour attention; a dog is never alone once it arrives in the care of the sanctuary. “Since Whispering Willows began, we have helped nearly 800 senior dogs pass into peace with love and care. They may be here a day, a few months, or a year, but what all remains the same is that they are loved and cared for.” Sometimes, they can take on as many as 80 dogs at a time.
Reid shares, “For us, ‘love is always the answer.’ Since we are a hospice, there is not always something that can be done. Sometimes it's just too late for intervention but what we can do is love them all the way home. Love never dies. Losing them can be hard but then there is always another senior death that needs our help just as badly. We pour our grief and love into the next soul, making it truly a mission of love.”
There is a deep need for the work that WWSDS takes on, and the requests for placement never stop coming. If you’re moved by this mission and want to help, the sanctuary is 100% donation-based. You can donate in many ways through the Whispering Willows website.