Welcome to the ultimate destination for celebrating the unsung heroes of the dog rescue world. At Rescue Spotlight, we're dedicated to highlighting the remarkable journeys of rescue organizations and the incredible individuals behind them.

Whether you seek heartwarming tales of second chances, inspiring stories of rescue missions, or practical insights into the world of dog adoption, you'll find it all here.

Today, we're privileged to interview Sherry Polvinale, one of the devoted people behind House with a Heart Senior Pet Sanctuary. You can find a direct link to their Instagram here.

Here is their story:

What inspired you to start or become involved with this rescue organization?

Polvinale: I did cat and dog rescue for 30 years and agonized over whether or not I had done the best placement possible. I wanted a break from the worry so at age 60 I started the Sanctuary where the dogs and cats I rescued would live out their entire lives at the Sanctuary.

Can you tell us about a particularly memorable rescue mission or adoption story that stands out to you?

Polvinale: Every story is unique in a way and the same as well. All of the pets who come to us have been abandoned in one way or another. When they come to House with a Heart they are HOME for good.

I remember Rudy who came to us from a shelter situation. He had been found on the street and likely had been hit by a car. The shelter handed him to me in a blanket and when I got him back to the Sanctuary I set him down in the yard and realized that he could not walk. He struggled to move and all of us who were there to welcome him were in tears.

With lots of love, good medical care and physical therapy, with time Rudy was able to get around. He never walked perfectly but he was able to navigate the Sanctuary and the yards.

Rudy's story is like so many others at House with a Heart as well as with other rescues.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a rescue organization, and how do you overcome them?

Polvinale: I think the biggest is not being able to save all of them that we learn about. What we do - whenever we are approached about a pet that is going to lose their home we do our best to counsel the owner about ways to keep their pet and if they are still not able we give them resources, share posts about the pet, and network with the rescue community to try to find a loving placement.

How do you select the dogs that your organization takes in, and what criteria do you use for adoption?

Polvinale: We specialize in Senior and special needs dogs and cats. The residents of House with a Heart stay with us until they pass. In order to save more pets we network with other rescues. We invite rescues to fill out our rescue partner application which states they are a non-profit, they do home visits when placing a pet, and they agree to accept a pet back into their rescue if the adoption does not work out.

Once a rescue has been approved, they are eligible to apply for medical grants up to $1000.00 per incident. We reimburse them for paid Vet invoices. Additionally, we will post pets for adoption from our Partner rescues on our website and do regular social media posts to help get the pets adopted.

In what ways do you work to rehabilitate and socialize dogs before they are adopted?

Polvinale: We do not adopt out our residents but if we do have a resident with behavior issues, we use the expertise of qualified dog trainers as well as advice from our Vet.

What role do volunteers play in your organization, and how can people get involved?

Polvinale: We have about 50 volunteers who work shifts throughout the week. Volunteers do everything from hands-on care of the residents as well as housekeeping and yard work. Our website has a volunteer page and application.

Can you share some success stories of dogs who were once in your care and have now found loving forever homes?

Polvinale: We do not do adoptions, but we do have Forever Foster homes. The dogs who are in Forever Foster are still the financial responsibility of House with a Heart but have chosen a volunteer as their own.

Dottie - This Diminutive Darling was incredibly sweet. She was 16 years old when she came to HWAH and was with her family since she was 9 weeks old.

When two new babies joined the family Dotti was not a happy camper. We were thrilled to have Dotti join House with a Heart.

Darling Dotti lived as a Forever Foster with Mom Maria and her pup Coco for two years before she passed in early 2023.

We are ever grateful for volunteers like Maria who make sure that these sweet seniors are loved and cared for until the very end!

How does your organization collaborate with other rescues, shelters, or animal welfare organizations?

Polvinale: House with a Heart has a Medical Grant program to help other rescues with medical bills.

Additionally, we offer to promote the pets our rescue partners have for adoption through our Social Media and monthly e-newsletters.

We also have a Pet Pantry program with two tracks. One is open to all rescues. Donations of pet food and supplies come into House with a Heart and our Donations Coordinator contacts all the rescues to let them know what we have in stock and she distributes the supplies as needed.

The other track is pet food and supplies purchased by House with a Heart and sent directly to the homes of pet owners who are in need through Chewy.com. The recipients are referred to us by community organizations or other rescues.

What initiatives or programs does your rescue have in place to promote responsible pet ownership and prevent pet homelessness?

Polvinale: Our Safety Net program. We respond to calls from Pet Owners who want to give up their pets. We give advice and counsel on how to keep the pet in the home.

If that is not possible, we offer resources and we network to help re-home the pet.

Looking ahead, what are your organization's goals and aspirations for the future?

Polvinale: We are currently working on our transition plan to a more robust Medical Grant program.