I get mixed reactions from people when they hear that I do hospice fostering, well me and my family. Some people think we’re nuts others think we’re saints. Either way they all ask pretty much the same questions. Isn’t It hard when they die? How can you take them in knowing that their days are numbered? I could never do that, it was just too hard when my “so & so” dog passed away.
My answers to those are this. Yes, sometimes it’s hard when they die, but the idea of leaving them in a shelter to die alone or be euthanized just for being old is harder for me. These dogs didn’t do anything to end up where they are, why should they not get to live out their last days with some love and decency. For all we know it’s the only love and decency they’ll have ever had. Maybe someone loved them once, maybe they didn’t. Either way being old shouldn’t be a death sentence if there’s still life to be lived.
It’s usually more sad for me to learn that their days are limited because of health issues than to actually take them home knowing their days are numbered. Once I know they are hospice and I take them home I know that it’s a labor of love at that point. Whether they have 3 weeks, 6 months, or 5 days. At least their last days weren’t their worst.
Comparing taking in a hospice dog to the loss of your beloved Spot that you loved for 12 years is silly. It’s not the same. You don’t have the same amount of time and investment in this dog. You are taking this dog home KNOWING the outcome and about when and why. I personally find this much better than to just come home one day and find my beloved dog gone in her sleep with no apparent reason. Or better yet to take in an old dog that has lived a good long life versus the heartbreak I had over losing a 3 year old boxer to cancer and a 4 year old boxer to a heart attack. We didn’t see either one of those coming and had no time to prepare for it. Hospice dogs, you are prepared, you know, you get prepared.
Just like people, you don’t love every dog the same. I’ve cared for a few hospice dogs that I just didn’t mesh with personality wise. maybe I would have in their younger years but as I know them, meh, they just weren’t for me. But I cared for them until the end and sat with them when it was time so they weren’t alone. Other times I’ve become ridiculously attached too quickly.
Granny was one of those times. She’s the dog pictured above. A dog warden friend messaged me personally about an old chocolate lab that he was sure had been dumped. I agreed to take her when her hold was up. A day later he messaged again and asked if I could take her sooner and just not say anything about her yet. She was refusing to eat or drink and he was afraid she would die before her hold was up. I agreed and took her straight to the vet. The vet walked in and took one look at this raggedy old girl and told me that dog needed to be put down. I looked her straight in the face and said not until we run tests and you give me a reason to. We ran the tests and I took my old girl home where she happily ate and drank for me.
I was not the only one who fell for the old girl so quickly. Our front steps were too steep for her to maneuver so Travis set to making an addition to the steps to make them deeper so she could go up and down them. On day one! She won our hearts and was great with our dogs. No accidents and she was such a sweetheart outside of the shelter. 2 days later her blood work came back. Her kidneys were bad. Very bad. She was in failure and could go at anytime. I. Was. Devastated. I bawled my eyes out as if this old girl had been with me her whole life. I was sad that I didn’t get her sooner to maybe have helped her. The vet offered some temporary solutions, knowing how determined I was to help this dog. The temporary solutions though wouldn’t have given her a lot more time and what time it did give her she would’ve been hooked up to IV’s and such. That’s no good. So I cried. Then I made the appointment to let her go. I spent 2 more days with my old girl, crying over her and loving on her. Then I walked her to her appointment with tears in my eyes and I sat with her. I petted her lovingly and she leaned into me, totally trusting this person she just met 5 days ago, that my decision was the right one. It’s been almost 4 years and to this day I will tear up thinking of this old girl. 5 days, that’s all it took to keep a permanent place in my heart.
How can anyone hear that story and think, I would’ve left her at the shelter because it would have been too hard on my heart?
And don’t think that hospice means the dog will pass soon. Ethel was proof that’s bull. Ethel was a feisty little 6 lb yorkie that was yappy and demanding and living life on her terms until the day she died. I loved her. She snorted like a little big when she was sniffing the ground, which was all the time because she was pretty much blind. She kept busy with wandering around for no good reason and peeing in multiple places. She wore diapers like a champ. Vet didn’t think she had much time left so we didn’t spay her. I kept her knowing she would be hospice. What I didn’t know was she would live with me as hospice for another year and 2 months! She fooled us all. She would have bad days and I would think, oh it’s about time, and then next day she would be back to her feisty old self. I bawled when it was time for her. I made her the appointment, but she passed in her sleep while I was at work. She is one of our family members now and is buried on our property. Ethel would cuddle and share a bed with any dog that wanted to but she would not take any shit from them. She was great for cuddling on the bed or while I worked on the computer because she just found a spot and slept for as long as you were sitting there.
Some of my best stories are about my hospice dogs. I have so many from Theo and Lucy my first 2 hospice dogs. I think I’ve done at least 15 now. Is it easy? No. Do I cry? Yes.
The hardest part of caring for old dogs is making sure that your decisions are what’s in the best interest of the dog and not for your own selfish reasons of keeping them alive.
Will I keep taking in old dogs or sick dogs that have limited time? You betcha. It’s one of the hardest things to do but I would hate myself if I didn’t care for them. Someone’s gotta do it right? Why not me.
What Our Clients Are Saying
Amazing time for both of my pups while we were away for vacation! Drop off was smooth for my anxious pup which is a rarity. They were excited to see me upon pick up, but far more calm than taking them to a traditional kennel and they were worn out from all the playing they got to do! We highly recommend Richelle and her family!~Amanda Baumgardner