Loving the Unloved


There’s little more heartbreaking than an animal with no one to love and care for it. And that’s why two local organizations are taking in the most vulnerable and giving them the healthy, happy homes, they deserve.

Pepper’s Senior Dog Sanctuary

It all began with a dog named Pepper that Mary Leprino decided to adopt in 2011 to help her through alcoholism recovery.

“I wanted to focus my attention on something other than me,” she says. She found Pepper, a seven-year-old Pomeranian, through a dog rescue. “He was so screwed up,” she recalls. “I fell in love with him, and we embarked on this adventure together to get him healthy.” Bonding with Pepper was intended to help him, but in the end, it healed them both. She was so thankful for the experience, she wanted to help another dog.

Her desire to pay it forward led Leprino to partner with her son Justin Klemer and friend Leigh Sullivan to create Pepper’s Senior Dog Sanctuary in 2018. They found property in the beautiful Roxborough Park foothills area with construction planned for completion by the end of 2022. The facility will include 50 acres of land containing everything dogs will need to live their last days to the fullest. Leprino describes it as a retirement community for dogs instead of a shelter.

The dogs come from other rescues and shelters to relieve overcrowding. Pepper’s brings in puppy mill rescues and medically challenged dogs that likely won’t ever be adopted. It doesn’t accept drop-offs.

For now, the dogs at Pepper’s are not available for adoption. “By the time they get to us, they’ve probably experienced several homes and some serious trauma. We want this to be their last home,” says Leprino. They hope to spread awareness of the benefits of adopting senior dogs, “These dogs have been discarded. For you to come in and embrace that life and nurture them until they transition, I don’t think you can serve a better purpose. Dogs know when they’re safe and home.”

Pepper’s Senior Dog Sanctuary

Edwards Foundation

While there are rescues for dogs and cats, there aren’t many for farm animals. Enter the Edwards Foundation. Formed by Lynda and John Edwards in Parker, it’s home to a collection of goats, chickens, ducks, llamas and horses. “People in this area think, ‘we’re in the wild west. We’ll get some farm animals.’ Then they find out how expensive it is and how much work it is. So, the animals end up here,” says Lynda Edwards.

The Edwards Foundation does adopt out the animals they receive, and the first step in the process is for potential adopters to commit to an animal who may live 20+ years. “They have to come here several times and bond with the animals. We usually adopt in pairs because these are herd animals. We do an onsite visit to ensure the adopters have adequate shelter, space, fencing and the knowledge to take care of them,” she says. “Failed adoptions are hard on the animals.” Although they always do their due diligence to ensure a positive outcome, they will take the animals back if it doesn’t work out.

The foundation relies on donations and volunteers. “We appreciate them so much!” says Edwards. They also offer tours for a small donation fee. “Our goal is to educate people, to have them come here, and learn about animals before they adopt.”

Edwards Foundation