Watching dogs in their final years can be a gut-wrenching experience, but this team is determined to make it easier on the animals.

This National Geographic video gives us a closeup look at House With a Heart, a sanctuary in Gaithersburg, Mary., where dogs go to live after they've been rescued or can't be cared for anymore by their owners. House With a Heart Director Sher Polvinale and her group of volunteers feed them and provide them with all the medications they need in their golden years.

As its mission statement clearly spells out:

The House with a Heart Pet Sanctuary mission is to provide senior and special needs pets with a loving and caring home where they will be allowed to live out their lives in a secure, nurturing environment."

Polvinale created the home, which continues to operate through donations and grants,with her late husband in 2006. At last check, some 55 volunteers help it run.

Polvinale is so dedicated to the animals, in fact, that she only leaves the facility, which is actually in her house, about four times a year out of fear she'll be too worried about the dogs. When she leaves, it also causes a commotion among the animals.

Dogs are never left alone when they pass away and their pictures go up on a wall that has become so full it's now called the "stairway to heaven" to make sure none of the animals are ever forgotten. As HWAH Vice President Harriette Sackler says, "They're always with us."

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