I've been to a few shelters and animal rescues in my time at the AFN, but none of them are as quiet and touching as Mingus Manor Animal Sanctuary.

That's because all the animals there are disabled or senior, and the love they get at the sanctuary is unlike anywhere else.

The second you pull into the driveway of the sanctuary you can see dogs slowly shuffling around in the front yard, playing with the leaves from the large trees, or lounging in the grass. The sanctuary has about 14 permanent residents and each is disabled or over the age of 10.

I've always been a little sheepish of older dogs but seeing them all shuffling along together to greet you, you can't help but love them.

Some have leg problems, some have back problems, and a few are blind. Two chocolate labs caught my eye. They look old and slow but I'm told they're only 9 years old and grew up as breeder dogs, never being let out of a cage.

Karen Scherer, founder, says this sanctuary has always been her dream. She was in the hotel business for years and owned a disabled dog of her own. She realized as she struggled to take care of her dog that it was very difficult to find the advanced care he needed.

The one weekend she decided not to take him with her on vacation, he drowned in her daughter's pool.

That got her started with her own pet care business, Loving Hands Pet Sitting, focusing on senior or disabled dogs. More than two years ago she found some property and decided to build the sanctuary.

"We take the dogs nobody wants," Scherer said. "They're either losing their humans, their humans pass away or the families don't want them, or we get them if our senior citizens have a lifestyle change and have to go into assisted living. Nobody wants them. Their only other option is to be taken to a pound and spend their last few days on cold concrete and they die by themselves. That's just not going to be happening with these guys. Our mission is to give them the best for whatever time they have left."

Now, Scherer can help about 15 animals at a time at the sanctuary. They must be disabled or over 10 years old, and they must be spayed or neutered.

Once Scherer has screened them and makes sure they get along with all the other dogs, she takes them in.

Occasionally, volunteers are able to help by fostering. Last year, Scherer said she was able to adopt eight of the dogs to loving homes.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Pat Welch is one of those loving homes. She was volunteering at the sanctuary and says when 17-year-old Talulah came in, she just fell in love.

"She was so tiny," Welch said about the blind yorkie-terrier mix. "She was the smallest dog there and I was just worried that she seemed so fragile. I brought her home to stay for awhile, thinking someone would adopt her, but I wouldn't ever let her go once I got her here."

Welch said she had to be cautious at first of the areas she let Talulah roam but, eventually, she became accustomed to the home and even though she can't see she can now find her way to the door and to her dish just fine.

Welch says she's recommend fostering to anyone. The older dogs don't chew, they're potty trained, and they don't require much exercise.

This weekend Welch is helping the Sanctuary prepare for its biggest fundraiser of the year, Dining with the Dogs, which will take place Saturday from 6 to 11 p.m.

It's a dinner and silent auction that raises money for the dog's medical expenses and housing. Scherer said last year they spent $15,000 on medical expenses alone, and that's just keeping the dogs comfortable.

The dinner is close to sold out but for more information, visit www.mingusmanor.org or call (602) 296-5568.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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