Lifelong Guardianship for Pets Who Lost Their Humans | The Pet Cottage

the pet cottage provides lifelong guardianship for pets who lost their humans

Animal Innovations Show - Episode 124 - The Pet Cottage

Lifelong Guardianship for Pets Who Lost Their Humans | The Pet Cottage

Life is filled with uncertainties, and needless to say, there may come a time when you’ll have to let your pet go.

So if you’re apprehensive about what will happen to your pet by then, why not have The Pet Cottage take care of them?

Founded by Wendy Derhak, The Pet Cottage is a sanctuary for pets that have lost their humans to death, disability, or deployments.

In the words of Wendy, who is also the non-profit organization’s Executive Director,

“We have a very unique mission, and we stay right in our lane… What makes us a little bit different and innovative is that it’s a forever promise of forever home for pets.”

Peace of Mind With The Pet Cottage

peace of mind from the pet cottage programs

The Pet Cottage is a nonprofit organization that gives you peace of mind that your pets will always be cared for even when you’re gone. They also provide pet companionship for senior people.

Their purpose is to celebrate and protect the magical relationship between pets and their people.

“When a pet has lived with a person and served them as their loyal companion, and something happens to that person while the pet is still alive, we come in. We become lifelong guardians and promise them a home for life.”

The way they ensure this is through their two unique programs:

  1. The Sanctuary Residency Program – where pets live on-site at their two-acre headquarters in Jupiter Farms, Florida. They receive care from Wendy and their volunteer team.
  2. The Lifelong Guardianship Program – where they match pets with a vetted guardian. The pet also receives lifelong care in the guardian’s home and wellness check-ups from The Pet Cottage.

According to Wendy, most of their guardians are senior people. So they have what they call “fairy godmothers”, who check in with their seniors. They also make sure that the pets have everything they need.

“It became a really important thing that we did because many of the seniors that had our pets were fearful to leave their homes. So, we were sometimes the only contact they were having with other people… It was a crisis for senior people prior to the pandemic. And then when the pandemic came along, it just became even bigger,”

she said.

Wendy added that this is what made The Pet Cottage unique since no one was doing exactly what they do.

Unlike shelters and rescues who adopt out the pets coming in, they don’t adopt out. Rather, the animals continue to be part of The Pet Cottage’s “wards”.

When asked what piece of advice she’d give to every pet owner, Wendy said,

“I would just really ask them to think about having a plan for their pets. It’s so much easier to help when there’s a plan in place… So, if something were to happen to you, your dogs or cats are going to be cared for.”



Learn more about The Pet Cottage!

Visit their website at

Have suggestions for who we should interview next?

Send us a message at [email protected]!

Wendy: Hi, I’m Wendy Derhak, and you’re tuned in to The Animal Innovations Show.

Chris: So, you get to tell us, who are you and how are you innovating and helping animals?

Wendy: I am Wendy, and I am the founder and executive director of The Pet Cottage.

And The Pet Cottage is a sanctuary for pets that have lost their humans to death, disability, or deployment.

We have a very unique mission, and we stay right in our lane. We like to keep to our promise. So, what we do is when a pet becomes homeless, basically, because they’ve lost their person to death or a disability, which can often be Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

A lot of senior people are—you know, become unable to care for their pets for those reasons or for deployment. When a military service person gets deployed and they leave their pet behind.

We also help veterans as well. Many veterans have pets, and they often need help caring for them when they go into the hospital for something. We also help veterans, too. 

So, what makes us a little bit different and innovative is that— it’s a forever promise, a forever home, Chris. So, when a pet has lived with a person and served them as their loyal companion and something happens to that person while the pet is still alive.

We come in and we become guardians, lifelong guardians, and promise them a home for life. We have many senior pets because we serve senior people.

 As seniors, you know, senior people have senior pets. And so, the pets that live here at the sanctuary tends to be pets that I wouldn’t be able to place with a forever guardian for whatever reason.

So, that’s kind of the outline of who we are and what we do. And it’s unique because there’s no one that’s doing exactly what we do.

Chris: It’s one of those things that we don’t think about it in our day-to-day lives, right. What happens if something happens to me, whether, like you said, whether it’s through disability or deployment or, heaven forbid, death, what happens to the animals? Where do they go?

And it sounds like you’re really aiming to try and get people to be proactive and help solve that.

Wendy: Anyone listening or watching this show has had a pet. And the loss of your pet. When you lose your pet, it is heart-wrenching. It’s like one of the saddest things in your life. So, I would want to flip that and say, “Well, what if your pet lost you?”

So, you know, add a little tip just for people watching, listening, have that information on your refrigerator, on the door. “If something happens to me, please contact—.”

Because the pet is going to be left alone in your home, not being fed, not being taken out. So, just having that plan in place, if for some reason, even if you got stuck in traffic or you know, something, you’re going to be on a long period of time and— people know they can hear your dog barking, a cop comes to your house or something, they know, okay, this is a person I call, and—and then, your pet is not left unattended.

Chris: Yeah, no, that’s really a smart tip. And it’s something that’s so easy to do. Take you 30 seconds, right, to put something like you said on your fridge, the commonplace that a first responder would go look for phone numbers, look for contacts, look for anything like that.

I know you’ve had The Pet Cottage, now, for quite a while. I mean, take us back to the point where you decided, this is what I want to do, what was going on, what was happening that made you say, I really need to do this to make a difference.

Wendy: I used to have a small senior fitness business prior to this. And so, I go to seniors’ homes and do exercise with them.

And my clientele was primarily women. 60’s to 80’s, and you become family. And most of these women had pets.

And so then the pets, I was always a pet lover. So then, you know, you become that— and one of the women in particular, we became very close. She’s never had any children. She’s never married and no siblings either.

And so she kind of adopted me and my family, and she had three cats. And then she got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

And—you know, that’s not a good thing. And the first and really only concern she had was what’s going to happen to my cats.

And they were senior cats. Two of them were 17 years old and one was 21 years old. And they were her entire world. Spoiled, loved beyond—I mean, what’s going to happen? Where are they going to go? She didn’t have any children.

If they were taken to a shelter, I mean, they’re not going to fare well, I’m sorry. Cats hate change anyway. But then a cat that age.

So, we actually did make up a legal agreement and whatnot. And once she passed, the cat came to live with me.

And that was the birth of The Pet Cottage. And I just felt I wanted to become champions for these cats because these cats, they didn’t have a voice, and they were her entire world.

She adored them, and they served her. They were her loyal companions. And I just felt like we need to do something for them.

Just because she’s gone doesn’t mean that they should be thrown aside. And I said, “Okay, well, I’m going to see if I can start making a difference.”

So, March 11— it was Joan, the woman’s name. It was the 10th year anniversary of her death. So, ten years I’ve been doing this.

Chris: So, Wendy, what’s your vision? Where do you take this from here?

Wendy: So, right now we started: Brick Fundraiser. So, you can purchase a brick or an engraved brick if you want to do it in memory.

Once you go towards funding the purchase of the property. So, we actually have one cottage so far, but we also have a cat cottage and three other dog cottages.

So that, I hope to have a third one out front. And each cottage will have its own yard as well.

Chris: So, Wendy, if people want to learn more, if they want to donate, if they want to get involved, where can they go?

Wendy: Okay, our website is THEPETCOTTAGE.ORG and there you can donate, you can see how you can volunteer. You can get all the stories of all the pets we served and we are serving now.

It really does a beautiful job of explaining our unique mission. If you look us up on Facebook, and on Instagram, we are @THEPETCOTTAGEJUPITER,  is our name on Instagram and we post on there as well every single day.

Chris: Yeah, this is really neat and I really love  and I can feel your passion behind this and what your vision is for this.

Is there anything else Wendy you wanted to mention before we wrap things up?

Wendy: I would just—once again, I would just really ask, you know, think about having a plan for your pet. Because it is so much easier to help when there is a plan in place.

Chris: Absolutely.

Well, this is really neat. And as I wrap up the show, I just love to remind our viewers and listeners that it always starts with just that love for animals. And these ideas come out of just our everyday interactions.

So, if you have an idea for a product, a service or anything that’s going to help animals and the people that love them, we want to know about it.

Just go to INNOVATIONS.SHOW and we’d love to have you on.

And if you have the time, we’d also love to have you become a Dooberteer. Just go to DOOBERT.COM where you can be a volunteer and help transport rescue animals or foster rescue animals.

Lots of different ways that we have for you to help animals at

So, thank you again, Wendy, for coming on. I really enjoyed hearing what you’re doing.

Wendy: Thanks, Chris.

I really had a great time and I appreciate you hearing our story.

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