This Retiree Is a Lucky Dog

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It would be even tougher for Sher Polvinale to get by solely on her late husband’s Social Security check of $1,700 per month if he had not bought a life insurance policy that has paid off their house.

Despite her meager financial circumstances, Polvinale’s retirement is rich in rewards.

This 69-year-old former payroll administrator for a construction company said she brings in $200,000 in annual donations for her non-profit, which cares for old, unwanted dogs that need expensive medical care and attention. One can’t help thinking, while watching the National Geographic video below about the retired dog sanctuary in her home, that many elderly people would be lucky to have such a place to live out their final years.

For financial or lifestyle reasons, not everyone settles into a full-blown retirement. Some people refuse to retire altogether, while others try out retirement only to resume working, perhaps in a part-time position. Polvinale’s is one of the myriad stories of how individuals adapt and recreate their lives as they ease into old age and detach from the hard-charging work world.

“I’m kind of an odd person,” said Polvinale, explaining what motivated her to establish the non-profit in 2006. She recalls telling her husband, Joe, who would die in 2008, “I can’t agonize over whether people are going to love their dog until the end of its life. I want to keep them until they die. That’s selfish but I want to know that they’re safe and loved for the rest of their lives.”

In retirement, she continues to pursue a lifetime passion – and compassion – that began with providing foster care for stray or unwanted dogs and cats. That morphed into the House With A Heart Senior Pet Sanctuary in Maryland, where 23 old dogs are currently living, she said. Some 70 dogs have passed away there over the years.

Polvinale’s 24/7 commitment to canines gives meaning not only to her life but also to other retirees. She estimates that about one-third of the sanctuary’s 55 volunteers, working in three-hour shifts, are over age 60, and many have been helping her for years.

“They’re incredible, and they love the jobs,” she said. “They arrive and the dogs get all excited [to see] their favorite people. I think they look forward to coming.”

To each his own.


Kind of a nasty snide kicker on a really sweet post.

Kim Blanton, blog writer

Sometimes even professional writers don’t write what they intend Esmee! What I should’ve said was that everyone who’s retiring has to find their own path.

Appreciate the comment.
Kim (blog writer)

Ted Leber

As a kennel cleaner and the night watchman in college, I can attest that most pets were delighted to see their owners when the owners came to pick them up…and often peed on their shoes 🙂

123 London

Very well written post and the content is really sweet. Video is simply awesome.

Annabelle Smyth

I hope that when I get to retirement age that I’ll be in a position to do it. I don’t know if I will though. It would be hard to go from 40 hr work weeks to nothing. I may give it a try, like the article says, and maybe volunteer or go to part-time somewhere if I can’t stand being home.

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