Loving Rescuer Takes Senior Pets into Home

Sher+Polvinale+fixes+dinner+for+the+House+With+A+Heart+residents.++She+begins+to+fix+dinner+in+the+early+afternoon+because+many+of+the+dogs+have+special+dietary+needs+that+require+different+types+of+food.+--Katie+Aceto

Sher Polvinale fixes dinner for the House With A Heart residents. She begins to fix dinner in the early afternoon because many of the dogs have special dietary needs that require different types of food. --Katie Aceto

Sher Polvinale fixes dinner for the House With A Heart residents.  She begins to fix dinner in the early afternoon because many of the dogs have special dietary needs that require different types of food. --Katie Aceto
Sher Polvinale fixes dinner for the House With A Heart residents. She begins to fix dinner in the early afternoon because many of the dogs have special dietary needs that require different types of food. –Katie Aceto

Senior pets are usually placed in shelters due to health problems and need for more care. Out of the six to eight million animals placed in shelters a year, three to four million are put to sleep, according to The Humane Society of the United States. Sher Polvinale, 67, is working to change this.

Thirty years ago, Polvinale began rescuing dogs and cats, finding them new homes. After receiving calls to rescue senior pets owners could not care for, Polvinale decided to take senior pets and keep them until they died. Polvinale and her late husband, Joe, opened their Gaithersburg home to senior pets in 2006, creating the House With A Heart Senior Pet Sanctuary (HWAH).

HWAH volunteer Wendy Reid began working at HWAH in March. She admires, “[Sher’s] absolute devotion and love to her animals. And everything is about the dogs a�� no matter what.” Volunteering at HWAH means everything to Reid. “It changed my life and it made me finally feel as if I was doing something worthwhile,” she said.

The passion for rescue came from a difficult time in Polvinale’s life. She said, “I came from an abusive childhood, so I think my love for animals and doing what I do kind of came out of that because I wanted to be loving and kind and caring and not mean and hurtful.”

Polvinale’s day begins around 5 a.m. She cares for 22 dogs and three cats living at HWAH. Throughout the day, she lets them outside, changes diapers, feeds and grooms them, cares for short-term foster animals, gives medications and does business tasks.

Polvinale goes to bed after midnight, but wakes up multiple times to take dogs outside or comfort them. She often awakes to the barking of Candyman, a miniature poodle. “I think some people would feel stressed out about it and not like it, but a�� one day he will not be doing that crazy barking and that is going to mean we are missing him because he is not here,” she said.

Because of Polvinale’s bond with the animals, the most difficult part of the job is putting them to sleep. “It is really, really hard,” she said. “I am super sad, but since I have done this for so long I have come to realize that letting them go is sometimes the best gift that I can give them.”

She said she tries to give her “children” a comfortable end-of-life experience.

HWAH Coordinator Martine Ferguson said, “Sher taught me that anything is manageable and surmountable. She has shown tremendous strength through all her losses and it makes me realize: no matter what happens in life, things can get better- you just have to push through the tough times.”