Taylor Garduno Sharp of Bristow is an avid volunteer, community leader, involved mother, wife and foster doggy-mommy to a senior pit-bull/great Dane mix. She is also a woman who spent part of her childhood in long-term foster care. She credits her foster parents with helping her become the woman she is today.
As a child Taylor sometimes lived with her birth mother, and other times with foster families. She was fortunate to have been fostered by an exceptional family led by Shirley and Leonard Garduno.
The Gardunos treated all their daughters- biological, adopted and fostered- the same. “There were always the five of us girls. They always maintained a place in their house from me as I went back and forth from my biological mother,” Taylor said.
Her foster parents passed on to their girls their hobbies and interests. “My mom taught me to quilt, my dad taught me to cook,” said Taylor. Her dad passed on his love for photography and artwork. They camped and hiked in the Colorado foothills where they lived.
“They taught me to think outside the box, think bigger than yourself, to be compassionate, be loving, and be compassionate,” she said.
Taylor grew into a confident woman and went on to become an active mother and community leader. “I’m a huge volunteer,” said Taylor. Taylor has volunteered as Election Board, Booster Board for Patriot Choral and Chorus, Booster Board President for Brentsville Choir Dept., Gainesville Middle School Orchestra Board, and Brownie Troop leader.
"I don’t feel like there is a project I can’t take on, and I blame that on my parents.”
Sharp says she now remains very close to both her family. She calls Shirley and Leonard “mom” and “dad.” When she was of age, she took the Garduno name.
Taylor’s mom Shirley Garduno said she became a foster parent because she wanted to “save the world.” She was volunteering at Planned Parenthood in the early 1970s and saw many struggling young mothers give up their babies.
She wanted to help those mothers and children, “but they wanted me to hand out contraceptives,” she said with a laugh. She decided to find a different way to help, and the Gardunos applied to become foster parents. They believed it would also be a good experience for their daughters as well.
“We wanted them to experience variety in life, different personalities, different people,” said Leonard. “And of course,” he said, “we both had a love for children.”
At the beginning, children came and went, but then they applied for long-term fostering, Now, they could make the children part of their family. Shirley said it was still extremely difficult when the children went back to their parents because they acted as if their children were never there. But the girls came back to the Gardunos and they adopted two of them.
As an adult, Taylor is close with both her families. Because they live far away, Taylor and her sisters “share” their parents and often visit them in Colorado. This Father’s Day Taylor was excited and grateful to have her dad stay with her in Virginia. Since he is a Vietnam Veteran they visited veteran memorial sites in D.C. and Arlington.
Taylor has a hard time believing her two children, a 25-year-old girl and a 21-year-old boy, are now young adults.
Because she had to change schools so many times when she was a child, it was important to her that they remained in the same school district, friends, opportunities, and learned to work hard in endeavors they were passionate about. They played sports and sang in the choir. They graduated with honors from Patriot and Brentsville high schools.
With both her children out of the house, she felt “out-sourced.” She was looking for new opportunities to give back to the community. She and her husband were also doting on the family dog, Josie. But Josie was an old dog who developed cancer, and she passed away in 2019.
After they lost Josie, it took her 18-months before she felt ready to think about getting another dog. As a foster child herself, she started by fostering dogs, but she was concerned she would get too attached.
Then on a Facebook group she saw “the cutest little picture” of a dog named Missy. Attached was the message: “We have an emergency foster.” She decided to foster "Missy-Cakes," a pit-bull great-dane mix from Gray Face Acres, even though Missy was already 15-years-old.
Gray Face Acres Senior Dog Rescue is a 501c3 nonprofit that places senior dogs most of whom have been rescued from kill shelters or have nowhere to go. Senior dogs are difficult to adopt out because they are near the end of their lives. Plus, caring for an elderly dog can be expensive, especially if they need prolonged medical care or surgeries. Some even need end of life care. As a result, many senior dogs are enthanized prematurely.
But Gray Face Acres Senior Dog Rescue has a foster progam where you can sign up to take care of a senior dog until it finds a 'furever' home. Fosters provide a loving, safe home and basic supplies such as food. GFA pays for medical expenses, lessening some of the burdens of fostering and older dog. This allows people who cannot adopt a dog to be able to help the many homeless seniors who have been left behind.
Debbie and Bob Gretz started Gray Face Acres in 2016 in Haymarket. After many years in rescue, Debbie realized how difficult it was to place seniors so she started a rescue geared toward older dogs.
Gray Face Acres is 100% volunteer run. The money the organization raises supports senior dogs in need, including medical treatments, food and supplies. They foster out dogs in Virginia, D.C., Maryland and West Virginia. “Saving dogs is our mission and giving each dog the loving life they deserve is our goal. So far Gray Face Acres has saved over 400 dogs and we strive, everyday, to save more!"
For the Sharps, fostering with GFA was the right choice. Taylor and her husband felt great compassion for Missy having just cared for Josie. Now, Missy is healthy, happy and a part of their family. The Sharps love Missy, and she has grown to love and trust them in return. “I’m her fur-ever foster.”
Because of her great experience with Gray Face Acres, Taylor wants people to know they can care for a senior dog, and they do not need to do it on their own. She hopes other dog-lovers will consider fostering senior dogs or making a donation.
“My parents, they always taught me that no matter what you go through in life, you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and you can make it better," Taylor said.
She will continue to strive towards making a difference in her home and community, and she is glad she made a difference for Missy.
Find more information about Gray Face Acres Senior Dog Rescue at www.grayfaceacres.org
And visit to see their adorable dogs available for fostering. https://www.grayfaceacres.org/available-dogs/
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