It's a heart-wrenching decision so many pet owners have to make. When a dog is very sick or very old, a veterinarian will often recommend putting a pet to sleep.

In Japan, there's another option.

Roken Honpo is a retirement home for dogs. "Roken" means "geriatric health services facility" in Japanese. The website translator, however, simply says it means "Old dog Honpo."

The home fills a need for people who want to continue to care for their aging pets. Japan has more registered pets than children, according to the International Business Times. There are about 20 million pets compared to 16 million children under the age of 15.

"There are those who put down dogs, but I am totally against that," dog owner Akiko Hoshino told Reuters in the video interview below. "So I searched for a better solution." She placed Nene, her 17-year-old dog, in Roken Honpo when the Shiba Inu could no longer walk.

About 10 dogs live in the facility now, but hundreds have spent their final days in the home. They have a variety of illnesses ranging from bone and joint diseases to dementia. Some dogs can't walk while others use wheelchair-like devices to get around. Depending on the care they need, dogs might be hand-fed or wear diapers. A local veterinarian regularly visits the dogs.

Head caregiver Mie Kawaguchi says working with the aging pups is as good for the workers and it is for the dogs.

"Having people and animals interact in this way is good for both humans and animals," she says.

The cost of care ranges, depending upon the size of the dog. Monthly rates start at 70,000 yen ($614) for a small dog.

Mary Jo DiLonardo Mary Jo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.