Barbara woke up and turned slowly to look at the other side of the bed. Tango was curled under the covers with her head resting on the pillow, purring. Moving slowly, Barbara painfully reached over with arthritic fingers to rub between Tango’s ears, reminiscing about their time together. Eight months after her second husband died, this young kitten had shown up on the porch, demanding attention. In the last six years they’d been through a lot and, with this recent cancer diagnosis, Barbara was troubled about the uncertain future. Tears gathered in her eyes as she worried about what would happen to her precious Tango.
People bond with pets in much the same way they bond with family. It is not surprising that during the most important and challenging life stage – the end-of-life journey – that pets can play a critical role.
“For many patients, keeping a beloved pet nearby during this journey with hospice is a significant part of providing compassionate and dignified care,” said Bob Laws, Executive Director of Hospice of the Northwest. “Finding a home after they pass may be one of the most important pieces of unfinished business that worries a patient,” he added.
Now, thanks to the combined efforts of Erin Long, Volunteer Manager of Hospice of the Northwest, key members of the management team, and support from donors in our community, we are pleased to announce a new program aimed at helping hospice patients care for their pets. Pet Peace of Mind recognizes and actively supports the unique human/animal bond like the one Barbara and Tango share. Our mission to provide compassion and dignity every moment of life aligns with the goal of keeping pets and people together during hospice care, the driving force behind Pet Peace of Mind.
“Oftentimes, the connection between a pet and their owner is the most comforting relationship at end of life because there are no judgments, only unconditional love,” stated Erin Long.
A national nonprofit headquartered in Salem, OR, Pet Peace of Mind accepts only qualifying hospice organizations into their program. The initiative provides volunteer pet care services for patients who are unable to care for their animal companions while on hospice. Services include assistance with pet food, routine veterinary care, feeding, and walking pets. The tools and training from Pet Peace of Mind provide a framework for volunteers to help patients care for their four-legged family members.
Patients like Barbara deserve to have their closest companion with them at the end of their life, and now through Pet Peace of Mind, Hospice of the Northwest is able to honor that goal. If you would like to learn more about our program and find a way to help, contact our office and ask for Erin.