I have often said that my greatest wish is to be able to own a huge farm, so that I can offer a home to every animal that needs it. One day, I hope to make that wish come true, but right now, there are people doing just that. Sher Polvinale and her late husband, Joe, started House With a Heart (HWAH) back in 2006 as a home for dogs and cats that were older and/or had medical conditions.
The volunteers all speak so highly of Polvinale and how she has an amazing way with these animals, so I reached out to her hoping to learn more. In between taking care of the animals, she graciously agreed to answer some of my questions.
READ MORE: JON STEWART STARTS ANIMAL SANCTUARY
Polvinale told me that the dogs and cats that come to HWAH are referred to them by shelters, veterinarians, word-of-mouth, and the online community. They get phone calls from all over the country and have taken in animals from many different states. If they don’t have space, they do everything they can from counseling the owner if they’re concerned about caring for their pet to spreading word about the pet needing a home over social media.
Volunteers are vital to HWAH and they currently have 55 of them. Many of them have been around for several years, but they’re always happy when new ones find them through referrals or open house events. They’re always careful not to take in more than they can accommodate, but they also make sure they have a constant income stream through their Short Term Care Program. Essentially, they take care of special needs pets when owners are away.
Donations make a huge difference when they get a special case, like Papa and Petey, two Dachshunds that racked up a $10,000 medical bill. Both are recovering well. When I asked how HWAH evolved from her dream, this was her answer:
“As a young girl I would doodle pictures of a house with barns, and yards, and dogs and cats all around, even some horses! I read the book about Best Friends in Utah and knew this was what I really wanted to do with my life if I ever had the opportunity. My husband, Joe and I, did dog and cat rescue together for more than 20 years and in 2005, I seemed to be getting a lot of calls from people who wanted to give up their senior dogs. I started thinking about all the dogs and cats we had placed over the years and how we had agonized over finding just the right home. I just felt terrible knowing a pet that had loved and trusted its person, only to be given up because it was not so convenient anymore!
One day I was out having lunch with friends and the question on the table was ,“What would you do with your life if money was no object?” I said I would do something like Best Friends-Utah but for senior dogs and cats, and my friends asked, “Well…why don’t you?”
So I discussed it with my husband and best friend, Joe, and we decided to start taking in seniors who were left in shelters or who were being given up by their people. We wanted to love them until their last breath since their owners wouldn’t or couldn’t! We got our non-profit status in 2006 and House With a Heart began.”
They are currently home to 24 dogs and three cats. These animals will never be adopted out— HWAH is their home and Polvinale and her volunteers like to know that they have a safe place to stay until they cross the rainbow bridge. I asked her for a parting message for you, our readers, and here is what she had to say:
“I just wish we could teach people to have more empathy for those who cannot care for themselves. Their pets, of course, but not just animals. It could be young children, very senior citizens or any group that is dependent on others for their well-being. How can you turn your back on someone or something who needs your help? Be kind, be caring, be patient, offer a helping hand and heart! Help to make the world a better place a little at a time.
If you have a pet, realize it has feelings and be responsible for that pet until the end, don’t throw it out when the going gets tough. People contact us all the time because they say they love their pet, have had it for years, it has been a wonderful companion, but now it is old, and wakes them up at night, and has accidents in the house so they want to have someone else take the pet off their hands because they don’t want to be bothered with it any longer. If more people would be responsible until the end we would have more room to care for the pets of folks who have passed away, or gone into a Nursing Home or for people who truly love their pets but for reasons beyond their control just cannot care for them.”
Polvinale’s life at HWAH is just that— her life and her priority. For that, we salute you, and everything you do for our furry friends!
Watch Polvinale and her volunteers discuss the sanctuary here: