Program improves lives of people and pets

Jen Kenney, founder of Little Rascals Rescue, with husband Ryan Kenney and dog, Rudy. [Submitted]
Barbara Westberg, right, discusses the upcoming God Parents for Dog Parents event with Julie Wentz, of Peoria, and her dog Lexi. [Submitted]

Special to Independent Newsmedia

When combining the residents of a senior living community in Surprise with rescue dogs in search of homes it results in smiling faces and wagging tails. That is exactly what inspired Barbara Westberg, an insurance agent in Peoria, to create God Parents for Dog Parents, an assisted living program for dogs in need of a home.

Ms. Westberg was visiting with a Medicare client, who had recently lost her beloved family pet, when the client expressed a reluctance to take on the full-time responsibility of caring for a new pet but missed the joy of having a dog in her life. Ms. Westberg has three elderly dogs of her own and finds travel increasingly difficult due to her dogs need for an increasing amount of care and attention. This gave her the idea for God Parents for Dog Parents which was to pair seniors with dogs and their adoptive families (“dog parents”). They would act as “god parents” by providing doggy daycare and/or pet sitting. The role of the god parents is to be there when needed to spoil the dog with attention, even if it’s just for a short visit. The dog parents would be responsible for the day-to-day care and expense of the dog.

She then approached Regina Sheets, of Peoria, with the idea. Ms. Sheets, also a dog lover, is the community development director at Park Wood Senior Living, 14581 W. Parkwood Dr. Park Wood allows their residence to have small bred dogs. The two women joined forces to hold the first God Parent for Dog Parent adoption event March 25 at Park Wood Senior Living.

Ms. Westberg then talked to the founder of the rescue organization where she found her most recently adopted dog. Jen Kenney, of Glendale, founder of Little Rascals Recue, immediately agreed that this idea could make a huge impact on the lives of the dogs at Little Rascals Rescue.

“Everyone is loving this idea”, said Ms. Kenney They then enlisted the help of another rescue organization, AZ Dog Adoptions, to ensure the availability of small breed dogs.

“Our goal during God Parents for Dog Parents is to create a partnership with seniors who are willing to help care for dogs with families who are adopting dogs from rescue organizations, improving the quality of life for the dogs, the families, and the seniors too,” said Ms. Westberg “That’s sure to make tails wag!”

Editor’s note: This is a reader submitted piece. Contact Ms. Westberg at

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