[Vision2020] Peturday (blame Ron): Pet Talk: Program eases hospice patients' concern for pets
v2020 at ssl1.fastmail.fm
Sat May 23 10:39:58 PDT 2015
When reading the Caturday post Ron sent, this story was linked at the
bottom. Does anyone know if there are programs like this in our area? If
not, there should be! At one time, I think WSU offered an estate planning
kind of thing where your pets were guaranteed life care, but as I recall, it
was out of the price range for most dedicated pet guardians.
Pet Talk: Program eases hospice patients' concern for pets
When Tater Bug's owner passed away, the Willamette Valley Hospice's Pet
Peace of Mind Program helped find him a new home through Salem Dogs, a
senior dog rescue group. (Courtesy of Willamette Valley Hospice)
Monique Balas | For The Oregonian/OregonLive By Monique Balas | For The
Oregonian/OregonLive The Oregonian
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 05, 2015 at 6:30 PM, updated May 07, 2015 at 2:35 PM
If the recent story about the terminally ill Milwaukie woman's last request
to play with puppies is any indication, animals offer a comfort that
transcends any medication.
For dying people and their families, hospice care can be invaluable during
the painful last days of a person's life. Some hospices, recognizing the
value of pets in their patient's lives, have incorporated a program ensuring
a patient's four-legged family member will be cared for as well.
"Sometimes those who are terminally ill resist going on hospice because
they're afraid they will have to surrender their pets," says Dianne McGill,
program manager for Pet Peace of Mind.
"The idea of being [separated] from the unconditional love of a pet when a
person is at the end of their life is very difficult for a pet owner to
Launched in May 2009 by Banfield Charitable Trust, the program's goal is to
help patients keep their pets for as long as possible by providing care for
the animals. Hospice programs also will help arrange new home for the pets
once the patient has passed.
The goal of hospice is to ease pain, and that can be emotional as well as
physical pain, says Tim Larson, supervisor for Providence's hospice
volunteer program, which has operated Pet Peace of Mind for about four
The inability to continue to provide care for animals like walking your dog
every night can be a major stressor and cause significant pain for hospice
patients, he says.
"If you have somebody that can provide that [service] for them, it starts to
help alleviate it a little bit," he says, "and also to know you're not alone
in the care for these animals."
Currently, seven hospices in Oregon and 88 around the country operate an
active Pet Peace of Mind program, and nearly 200 more are in some form of
development, McGill says.
For Mt. Hood Hospice, the first Oregon hospice to offer Pet Peace of Mind,
the program offers support and structure to what the hospice was already
For terminally ill patients who have lost many things most of us take for
granted, the unconditional role of pets in their lives can be invaluable,
says Emilie Cartoun, bereavement coordinator and volunteer program manager.
"They don't care if we don't brush our teeth that morning, if our hair's
gone from chemo, or we don't have ability to put on makeup," says Cartoun,
who expressed gratitude to Banfield Charitable Trust for the program.
Yet during a loved one's illness, pets can sometimes fall through the
"It's great to be able to step in and walk the dog or clean the litter box
or bird cage," Cartoun says.
Those types of services were a godsend for South Salem resident Cindy
Her late husband, Guy Sherbourne Jr., was diagnosed with bile duct cancer
the day after Christmas - a major shock to them both.
He wasn't a candidate for surgery, so Sherbourne made another heartbreaking
call to Willamette Valley Hospice, which had helped her care for her late
mother before she passed away in 2007.
The days that followed before he passed away, only 36 days after his
diagnosis, were a whirlwind of doctor's appointments and tying up loose
Yet in spite of everything, Sherbourne's husband made sure that Emily, the
couple's five-pound, long coat Chihuahua/terrier mix, got her vaccinations
and went to the groomer's
"I guess he might have known these things needed to be done," Sherbourne
says of her late husband, "and he knew I was so focused on him."
A hospice volunteer picked up Emily for her vaccinations, complete with a
bag of dog food, and returned a few days later to get the dog groomed and
renew her dog license.
"One of the most important pieces of the program is that we help with
placement," says Jennifer Johnson, volunteer coordinator for Willamette
Valley Hospice, which has operated the program since November 2012. "I would
say that's probably one of the most impactful things."
Her organization noticed that cats seem especially difficult to rehome. Yet
many pet owners may experience extreme anxiety, even prolonging their dying
process to ensure their pets will be cared for when they're gone.
So Johnson's organization established the Hospice Angels program, a
collaboration with Willamette Humane Society that guarantees cats will get a
"priority" placement at the shelter.
"Basically we devise a program to give those cats a more upfront, secure
landing here, and a safety net," says BJ Andersen, the shelter's executive
If the shelter deemed the cat unadoptable for physical or behavioral
reasons, a staff member would call a person appointed by the client to give
the opportunity to make other arrangements.
So far, all cats taken in through the Hospice Angels program have been
placed in permanent homes.
Salem resident Karen Miotke is convinced the Hospice Angels program helped
her longtime friend, Wilbur Runner, to die peacefully.
"I firmly believe in unfinished business," she says.
For Runner, that business involved his beloved feline companions, Pocahontas
After being diagnosed with throat cancer in December, Runner was concerned
about who would care for his "girls."
His closest relative was a 93-year-old sister in Seattle, making her an
unlikely candidate, and with two cats and a pit bull at home, Miotke was
unable to take them.
Miotke found out about Pet Peace of Mind through a hospice social worker and
dutifully filled out a three-page "personality profile" for each cat the
weekend before Runner died.
When Runner passed on April 13 - four months to the date of his Dec. 13
diagnosis - he did so peacefully, with a smile and even a thumbs-up sign.
Mouse was at his side the whole time.
"I'm just happy he went peacefully like he did, before the disease
progressed," Miotke says, of her dear friend, noting that both cats have
since been placed in permanent homes.
"I think he went more at peace because he knew his girls were taken care
Mt. Hood Hospice: mthoodhospice.com/team.html; 503-668-5545.
Providence Hospice: oregon.providence.org/our-services/p/providence-hospice;
Willamette Valley Hospice: wvh.org; 503-588-3600.
Pet Peace of Mind: banfieldcharitabletrust.org/pet-peace-of-mind
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