Chug (now Bugsy) with his new Mom.

At Shep’s Place, we don’t call ourselves a rescue or a shelter, but a Sanctuary.  It’s a comforting term, implying safety and rest.  But, when applied to an animal facility, what does that word mean exactly?  There are a number of senior dog sanctuaries (SDS) around the country, and each has its own unique structure and viewpoint.  So what qualifies each to be called a Sanctuary?  What does that word imply?

We have been asked variants of that question several times recently.  When it comes up, the speaker is primarily concerned about the issue of adoption.  They’ll say, “how can you call yourselves a Sanctuary when you adopt out dogs?”  It’s a fair question, and it deserves a thoughtful answer.

For some folks, the word Sanctuary implies a forever home.  When a dog arrives, it stays for the rest of its life.  There are no further adoptions or transfers, so it never again has to undergo the trauma of relocation.  There are a number of SDS’s that operate this way.

Other sanctuaries actively try to find new families for their dogs.  These include our friends at the Senior Dog Sanctuary of Maryland, and Always & Furever SDS in Spring Hill, KS.  To them, a Sanctuary is a safe place, but not necessarily the end of the road.  They believe that dogs are better off in an individual home than in a group setting, so they push for adoptions whenever possible.

Neither viewpoint is wrong.  As far as Shep’s Place is concerned, any group that helps old dogs deserves our support and respect.  But for our own guidance, we need to be clear about where we stand on the issue of Sanctuary adoption, and why.

So here’s how we (meaning the Board) think about it.

Sanctuaries for people existed long before sanctuaries for animals.  For centuries, people have sought safety in a church or an embassy, a refugee camp, or an attic or basement.  When people take refuge in such a Sanctuary, they do not usually intend to remain forever.  A Sanctuary is a safe place where they can stay as long as they need.  While there, they will be cared for, and they will never be forced out.  But, for humans at least, the hope is that the situation outside will eventually improve, and they can someday leave the Sanctuary for a better, more permanent home elsewhere.

Our concept of a dog Sanctuary is based on the same principles.  It is a place of safety, shelter and rest for displaced dogs in need.  As long as they are with us, they will be cared for and loved fully.  And they can stay as long as they need, including forever; we are under no pressure to move them out, ever.

BUT!  Like people, dogs are not required to stay in the Sanctuary indefinitely.  They are welcome  to stay, but if a better situation presents itself, so that the dog would be happier elsewhere, then they should go.  Why would we want to prevent that?  The guiding principle has to be what’s best for the dog.  If they have the opportunity for a higher quality of life in their own home with their own family, then why stand in the way?

That is not to say that dogs at Shep’s Place aren’t happy.  We work very hard to create the most homelike, supportive environment we can.  But, we must also be honest.  There are dogs that adapt well to group living, and others that don’t.  Some dogs have personalities, or breed characteristics, or life experiences that make it difficult for them to live closely with other dogs.  And, more importantly, most of us still believe that even the friendliest dog is better off with a single, supportive family than in a communal setting with many volunteers and dogs.

Loretta with her new Mom.

So, for Shep’s Place, Sanctuary and adoption are not mutually exclusive.  Rather, adoption is a tool we sometimes use to better a dog’s life.  We want each dog in our care to have the most fulfilling life possible, and adoption is one way to achieve that.  It will never be our main focus, but we will at least make most of our dogs available.  And we will celebrate when pups like Chug and Loretta find their loving forever home. 

Our position is summarized in our Mission Statement, which says “We will try to find new families for [our dogs], but if we can’t, we will be their family and home, for as long as they live.”  We will be their refuge when they need it, their surrogate family while they remain, and their cheerleaders if they move on to greener pastures.  We believe that gives the dogs their best chance for a happy life.  That is what Sanctuary means to us.

Well folks, it only took 2 years of planning, and a year of active volunteer work, but Shep’s Place is finally open. We received our Animal Shelter license from the State of Missouri last week, and our Business License from the City of Independence. So yesterday, April 6, 2019, we took in our first dog, John Wayne. JW is a 10-year-old labrador / Australian shepherd mix, and came from Midwest Animal Resq. He is the PERFECT model of a Shep’s Place dog: old, mellow, sweet and affectionate, and friendly with other dogs. He will soon be joined by several other residents.

John Wayne hanging out with Ramona.

It’s been a long road, but we made it! Now we just need to figure out how to sustain it over the long haul, both financially and through volunteer and community support.

After several months of work by our friends at KC Custom Design, the renovations at Shep’s Place are almost complete. So this will be the last update; in a matter of days, we’ll be ready to open!

Over the last two weeks, Tommy’s Concrete poured the driveway and parking spots. The weather finally cooperated. Notice in the picture that the crew also repainted the house, and filled in cracks in the stone work with new mortar.

The fences are nearly complete. Here, workers build the fence across the top of the driveway. It will allow dogs to pass from the kennel and house to the play yards without danger of escaping.

The play yards have been hard to complete, because the ground has been frozen or wet. The concrete culvert has been moved into position, where it will become a piece of play equipment. In the photo, you can see a drainage trench being dug through the yards to help keep them dry.

New key pad locks have been added, and a new address plate by the freshly painted door.

Inside, the house is basically complete, except for a few small tweaks. Last weekend, we moved the furniture back in from the storage unit. Thanks to those who helped!

The kitchen.
The workroom.
Shep inspects the new dog wash.

This week, we began holding Volunteer Training sessions, hosted by our Volunteer Coordinator, Gina Carnahan. If you are interested in volunteering, just click on the Volunteer tab and fill out an application.

Volunteers meet in the Living Room.

All we have left is going through inspections and licensing. Almost there!

And don’t forget, we still need the support of people like you to help us pay for the upgrades to Shep’s. Please consider donating to our Capital Campaign at !

The renovation work at Shep’s Place continues. It’s been difficult to work outside, due to the weather; the play yards are soaked and frozen. Still, they have begun putting up the inner chain link fences.

The chainlink fence along the north ridge line.

You can begin to see what the large play yard will look like

The outline of the large play yard. The small play yard will be to the left of the picture.

The new kennel / former garage has a new exterior door. They will put up siding next week.

They are scraping the exterior wood so it can be repainted.

Inside, they have been covering the floors with a water-resistant sealant. Makes it easier to clean up dog messes!

Floor of the future office.

They have begun installing lighting in the kennel.

From the kennel looking into the Work Room. Notice the waterproof covering on the kennel walls.

They are also replacing the countertops in the kitchen.

Next up: new heating and AC for the kennel, and new AC for the rest of the house. Lord knows when it will be dry enough outside to pour the driveway. But it’s getting close!

Despite the lousy weather, the crew has continued working on the renovations at Shep’s Place. The most visible sign is outside, where they have been putting up the privacy fence for the play yards.

Workers cementing the fence posts in place.
Play yard fence facing Truman Rd.

After the snow yesterday, this is what the play yards look like. They are beginning to place the metal posts for the inner chain link fences.

Current state of the play yards. The big concrete pipe will become a play installation.

Inside, the walls have been put back in place and are in the process of being painted.

The freshly painted walls of the living room. (Though it looks good there, we’ll probably move the stove back to the kitchen.)

They also painted the kitchen cabinets!

The cabinets look greyt!

The kennel looks about the same, but it does have a door now.

This way to the sleeping dogs.

The next steps inside will be finishing the kennels and installing the dog wash. Outside, they’ll install the fences, and wait for good weather to replace the driveway. It’s finally starting to look like a dog house!

It may have been cold outside, but Adam, Caleb and the crew from KC Custom Design were hard at work inside this week. We passed the city electrical and plumbing inspections on Wednesday, so they were able to fill in the giant trenches in the floors, and put up walls.

No more trenches in the floor! The new bathroom is to the left, and the new entrance to the utility room/dog wash is in the middle.

The dog wash has been filled in. They will install some cool-looking tile around the base.

Adam Farinelli demonstrates the adjustable nozzle for the dog wash to Board members Gina Carnahan and Angie Bloss.

In the kennel room, the walls and ceiling are in place! It actually looks like a kennel, instead of a dark old garage.

Walls of the new kennels. The door in the middle of the picture will be replaced by a window.

Outside, they have staked out the outlines of the play yards. They plan to install the fence posts this week, weather permitting. They will also dig a drainage ditch around the north side.

The future corner of the Small Play Yard (left) and Large Play Yard (right).

We also picked out colors for the walls. It’s starting to come together!

The guys from KC Custom Design put in a full week of work on the renovations. Here are a few photos of what they’ve done.

The garage door has been removed and framed in for the kennel room. The new outside kennel door will be to the right of the old garage door, on the right in this picture.

The garage door is now a wall.

Inside, the work is concentrated in the Dog Wash/Utility Room, the new human bathroom, the Work Room, and the Garage/Kennel room. The picture below is taken from the Utility room; the Work Room is through the doorway on the left, and the restroom through the opening on the right.

Not quite done yet.

They added a filter drain for the new dog wash. It will be custom built, with a zero-level entry.

In the kennel room, they have framed in the kennels, and added a trench and piping for a new floor drain and sink in the middle of the room. The new garage wall is to the left of this picture.

South side of Kennel Room.

Stay tuned!

Renovations are Underway!

After months of planning and waiting, renovations are finally underway at Shep’s Place! Adam Farinelli, Caleb Gardner and their crew from KC Custom Design have been hard at work for the last week.

Adam Farinelli (left) and Caleb Gardner (right) of KC Custom Design, with our Board Member Gina Carnahan, who coordinated the renovation project.

The primary task now is fixing the plumbing for the new bathroom, dog wash, and sink for the kennel. There are lots of deep, scary trenches being dug.

The south end of the workroom, with a newly cut door into the dog wash / utility room.

To make the house and bathroom ADA accessible, we had to widen the garage doorway by cutting through 18 inches of stone wall.

The right side of the doorway into the garage / kennel room had to be widened by 6″, which required them to cut through an 18″ thick stone wall.

Inside the kennel room, they are putting up framing for the walls and ceiling.

The future kennel room.

They also had to widen the door into the new “human bathroom”, and are working on the plumbing for it.

The new ADA accessible bathroom.

It’s a big mess now, but we’re very glad to see it finally taking shape. We’ll keep you posted as the work progresses.

After months of dealing with architects and city planners and contractors, it’s easy to sometimes forget the reason we started Shep’s Place.  Today, I received a reminder.

This is Jayne.  She is a 16-year-old Red Heeler that we are fostering for Always & Furever Animal Sanctuary.  She spent her life as a working dog on a farm in Kansas.  When she got too old to perform her duties, the farmer took her to a shelter to be euthanized.

I don’t know how someone could do that to a sweet, old dog who literally served him her entire life.  To just throw her away, like she was garbage.  It’s grotesque.  Fortunately, A&F rescued her in time.

So now Jayne lives with us and our four dogs.  She is an affectionate, mellow old gal.  She loves being petted and having her butt scratched.  Her back legs are weak, so she can’t jump up on the furniture or climb steps, but she enjoys going on walks with the other dogs, and gets around the house just fine.

When Jayne arrived, she became fascinated with the “fetch” game we played with our dachshund, Malcolm.  Malcolm likes to fetch and retrieve plastic balls; he can go for an hour if you let him.  Jayne began trying to fetch the ball, too, but she wasn’t as fast as Malcolm, so she just stole it from him afterwards, and took it to her bed to chew.

Jayne and Malcolm

Today, though, Malcolm was in another room when Jayne brought the ball to me.  I threw it, and she tottered after, picked it up carefully, and brought it back.  I threw it again, and we ended up playing fetch for a half dozen throws until Malcolm returned.  It was slow and ungraceful, but Jayne was clearly enjoying herself.

That experience really touched me.  Here was this 16-year-old dog, literally left for dead by her supposed family because she was old and useless, happily trotting after the ball like a puppy, because… she just wanted to play.  Jayne still enjoys her life, and dammit, she deserves to go on living it as fully as possible for as long as she can.  I want Shep’s Place to provide the same opportunity for other deserving old pups, like Jayne.  It is right, and it is beautiful, and it will make all the hassle with the renovations worthwhile.

It’s been months since we’ve updated you on the renovations at Shep’s Place.  In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need an update, because the renovations would already be done, and we’d be open and caring for old dogs.  But alas, every step of the process has taken far longer than expected, and the opening date has been pushed back repeatedly, from October to December and beyond.

However, even glaciers eventually reach the sea.  After many delays and false starts, we are finally on the verge of starting the renovations, and we wanted to share our plans with you.

In November, the city of Independence approved the architect’s plans for the renovations.  Though small changes have been made since, here is what they look like.

Indoors, the main tasks will be turning the existing garage into a kennel room, making the bathroom and entrances ADA compliant, sealing and covering the concrete floors, and adding a dog bath.  Outside, we will add 2 play yards behind a wooden privacy fence, 4 parking spaces, and trees and shrubs along Truman Road.

As commercial property, the city requires that the renovations be overseen by a General Contractor.  Gina Carnahan, one of our Board members, has worked diligently to locate someone who would be interested in such a relatively small project.  We thought we’d found one in October, but they backed out.  Fortunately, we finally connected with Adam Farinelli of KC Custom Design.

Adam Farinelli (left) and Caleb Gardner (right) of KC Custom Design, with Gina Carnahan

Adam is a dog lover, and has enthusiastically taken us on.  He and his partner Caleb Gardner toured the property, and found several ways to reduce the overall cost.  They have since worked diligently with the city to get the changes approved.

So when is this going to happen?  After being wrong multiple times, I hesitate to predict a date.  I feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick a football; I don’t want it pulled away yet again.  But this time is the real deal.  Adam thinks they can start work in early to mid January, and it should take 6-8 weeks.  After that, we’ll need to go through the licensing process with the city and state.  So… April?  May at the latest?

It has been a long, frustrating wait, but all indications are that the renovations are actually, truly about to begin.  For realsies.  We will keep you updated regularly as the work progresses.  Thanks for your patience and support!