Spirit’s Homestretch provided sanctuary for senior pets; rise in donors allowing nonprofit to grow

April 24, 2022 | 12:10 am

Updated April 23, 2022 | 6:33 pm

Spirit's Homestretch | Photos provided

Ten years ago, Stacey Utley and her mother Shirley Sandifer began Spirit’s Homestretch, a sanctuary for senior pets that become homeless. Utley said it has remained a constant over the last decade that senior dogs need homes, but she said fortunately more donors have become interested in helping. 

The nonprofit is named in part for Spirit, a greyhound of Utley’s, and in part because the animals are nearing the end of their lives.

Most of the dogs are with Spirit’s for 1-3 years. At any given time, Sandifer has six to eight dogs while Utley has 14 to 16 — but she often has as many as 20. 


While most of their dogs come from Daviess County Animal Care and Control, word has spread within the rescue community about their senior sanctuary and the women have adopted dogs from several counties.

“Our dogs come from a variety of circumstances,” Utley said. “Some dogs were strays. Others were surrendered by their owners for a variety of reasons — lack of money to care for the dog, moving, change in life circumstances, or simply that the dog was becoming a nuisance. Regardless of the reason for an owner to surrender his or her dog, we are grateful for the opportunity to provide that dog with the best home possible.”

The pandemic did not disrupt their operation other than Utley’s dogs “becoming spoiled” by having her home. Sandifer’s pets are used to her being home already.

Rarely are the two gone long enough to require assistance, but they do have friends who jump in to help out with feeding the dogs or letting them outside.

And Utley said their vets give them discounts on services and are “incredibly available and responsive” to their needs.

Utley said their donor base has grown steadily, which allows more financial assistance and also physical items to purchase such as beds, dog food, towels and blankets. 

“Since Spirit’s Homestretch is a home-based nonprofit, donations from the Amazon and Chewy wishlists are helpful,” she said. 

When the time comes to make that final decision for their pet to move on, Utley said they know the animal the best care and love possible for the last years of life.

“And in return, we have been gifted with total love, trust and affirmation,” she said. “Knowing we have eased the last years and made the final transition as loving and peaceful as possible is what keeps us going.”

Looking to the next 10 years, the duo said they expect it to look like similar, but they might incorporate “forever foster” homes into their organization. 

Regardless of what they do in the future, what they offer now is an extension of an opportunity for themselves and their pets. 

“It is often difficult, expensive, messy, noisy, time-consuming and chaotic,” Utley said. “But it is absolutely, positively, incredibly rewarding.”

Donations to Spirit’s Homestretch can be donated via their Facebook Page or PayPal using [email protected]

April 24, 2022 | 12:10 am

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