Being involved in the world of volunteer work and shelter pets, I run across numerous ways caring people can help homeless pets, animal shelters and their community. Most of these volunteer options are fun to do, require less time than you’d expect and offer rewards aplenty. A new way to help pets has recently appeared on my radar, and it’s one of those things that just stops me in my tracks. Let me just say, I’d love to meet the person who is a “Fospice” volunteer. I’d give them a hug and a big stack of blankets!
“Fospice” comes from combining the concepts of “foster” and “hospice”, and is a very special foster program offer by some, but only some, shelters. This program gives elderly, special-needs and dying cats and dogs a permanent foster home to spend their final days, weeks or months. As a foster home, the shelter pays for all of the pet’s care, always including veterinary and palliative care, and sometimes even covering the day to day needs of the pet (food, litter, treats, etc.). The shelter is also there to support the entire family 24-hours a day in their role as a foster-family.
The need for this program was apparent to shelters who took in animals which were not medically healthy enough for adoption, or those which had very limited time left. These pets were comfortable, but often not adoptable. The decision would be made to not use drastic action to prolong their lives, but instead focus on making their end-of-life as comfortable as possible. Shelters which provide this service feel these pets have a right to live out their final days surrounded by a true family.
The caring people who accept this calling are, as one volunteer put it, “midwives, but at the other end of life.” They need to be able to monitor the pet daily, administer fluids or medications, and go overboard (as often as possible) on the TLC. The family typically should be only a short distance from the shelter (a 30 minute drive, for instance), in case a visit is necessary. They also need to be open to working with the shelter to honestly assess the pet’s quality of life, when the end draws near.
If this opportunity tugs at your heart, maybe it’s worth exploring with your local shelter. It provides one avenue for us pet lovers to provide compassionate care to those pets who need it the most. Budgets don’t always allow us to “rescue them all”, but in this case the shelter partners with you, making it a bit more workable. I imagine this role isn’t for everyone, but for those who can volunteer in this way, your family could be the greatest gift you could give a homeless pet, as their journey on earth comes to an end.