A big part of the work we do here at Hope’s Rescue is providing hospice care for dogs and cats through our fostering. “Fospice” as some people call it, simply means that a pet at the end of his or her life is assured of a good quality of life, needed veterinary care, and lots of love in a safe foster home for whatever time they have left on this earth.
We have cared for dozens of senior and special-needs animals since we began just a few short years ago, but none will be more special to my heart than my first fospice dog, Lady.
Four years ago, I was asked to consider taking in a senior cocker spaniel lady. Lady had been used for breeding and she had
been dropped off at the Brigham Animal Services one dark day when she was no longer useful to her breeder (I won’t call those people “owners” because, to them, Lady was nothing more than something to make an easy profit off of).
We didn’t have much information on Lady, except that it was obvious that she had been repeatedly bred for puppy-making. However, almost as soon as we got this sweet girl home, we suspected she had some pretty serious health issues.
To begin with, Lady was blind in one eye. She was also incontinent, which is not unusual in older dogs. But then we noticed that her face seemed slightly lop-sided; the right side seemed to droop lower than the left. It didn’t seem to affect her eating or drinking, however, so we chalked it up to genetics.
But then, a few weeks after she arrived, Lady began to have terrible seizures. A visit to the vet gave us an explanation, but no joy. Lady was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy and epilepsy.
The news meant that Lady would need veterinary care and medications for the remainder of her life. And her condition also meant that her chances of being adopted had just dropped to virtually zero.
But Lady was a part of the Hope’s Rescue family now and when Hope’s Rescue takes an animal into our care, we commit to them through thick and thin. So it didn’t take us long to realize that, like Lady, there must be many other pets who wind up in a similar situation: in the shelter, alone, sick, old, and needing love and care.
So Lady became our first hospice pet. I kept her because I knew her care would be challenging and – honestly – we didn’t know how much longer Lady would live.
In fact, Lady lived for four more utterly delightful years. During that time she blossomed into my little cuddle-bug who loved to be close to me. She adored belly rubs and would lie in bliss if you indulged her. After so many years of being neglected and treated like an object, Lady discovered her inner fashion model – she enjoyed getting dressed in soft fleece coats and feeling snuggly. And anyone who fed her scrambled eggs was a friend for life.
When the time came to say goodbye, we were with Lady to the end. Her last moments of awareness were filled with love as she slipped into that forever sleep.
It broke my heart to say goodbye to her but, in the short time she was with us, Lady brought so much joy and love into our home. It hurt to lose her, but I would not have traded one joyful moment with her for one less tear.
Lady paved the way for the forty-plus fospice dogs and cats that have followed her. And each one reminds us that, regardless of age or illness, every animal deserves a chance to live in love and happiness.
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