Shelters sometimes receive animals who are not medically healthy enough for adoption, but still have the right to live out their golden years in a loving environment and with proper medical treatment. For these pets, the ASPCA supports finding homes that are part foster, part hospice—or “fospice.” Fospice care allows pets to enjoy as many comfortable and happy moments as they can with selfless ASPCA volunteers like Jenifer K.
ASPCA foster mom Jennifer K. is currently caring for Michelle, who came to the ASPCA as a Humane Law Enforcement cruelty case in 2009. Michelle had been neglected and had multiple large mammary gland tumors that had gone without veterinary care for a long time. ASPCA veterinarians surgically removed Michelle's tumors and found that they were moderately malignant.
There was no evidence that her cancer was spreading, but due to her age, Michelle was not a good candidate for adoption. But, since her quality of life was good, she qualified for our fospice program.
Michelle has done amazingly well in Jenifer’s home. As Michelle is now nearly 16 years old, she has very advanced osteoarthritis and is on several medications to help control her symptoms. Michelle has had a wonderful two years in her loving fospice home and is able to truly enjoy her golden years as she deserves.
We chatted with Jenifer about her experience as Michelle’s fospice pet parent.
ASPCA: What brought you to the ASPCA?
Jenifer: I had Chloe, my Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, for about two years when it really struck me that having her was such a gift and that every animal out there should be given the opportunity to have a "person." So I signed up to begin volunteering.
ASPCA: What led you to our fospice program?
Jenifer: In August 2009, I fostered a young Cocker Spaniel with medical issues who just needed a little TLC to get him on the mend. When I returned him, I was heartbroken but knew that he was going to live with a very special family and was going to make a wonderful pet.
Based on that experience, I was approached again in December 2009 for a fospice case and said that I was open to it. A few days later Chloe and I ventured up to the ASPCA to meet with the vet staff about the situation. I wasn't completely sure what I was getting into because it was my first time with a fospice animal, but the moment Michelle walked in and Chloe approached her and they both began to wag their tails...I was sold.
ASPCA: Have you guys been having fun since you’ve had her?
Jenifer: There have been numerous memorable moments, but what I can say is that she is a survivor, and her happy spirit and spunky attitude are something I think everyone can learn from. Wherever I go I hear what I call the "Chelli shuffle" coming up behind me only to find her head nuzzling the back of my knee while I do the dishes, her head peeking through the shower curtain in the bathroom just to make sure I haven't escaped. When she comes to stay at the ASPCA "spa" every now and then, the staff always remarks that she just lights up like a shiny new penny when I arrive to take her home.
ASPCA: What would you tell potential fospice pet parents?
Jenifer: Being a fospice parent is incredibly rewarding. To know that Michelle is happy and comfortable with her new-found sibling, Chloe, and to hear her gently snoring at night and know that she is well, healthy and content is really as much a blessing for me as it is for her.
Update: Michelle passed away peacefully in October 2012, with her fospice parent and friends by her side.
Kathy, Guardian Angel and “Fospice” Caregiver
Shelters sometimes receive animals who are not medically healthy enough for adoption, but still have the right to live out their golden years in a loving environment and with proper medical treatment. For these pets, the ASPCA supports finding homes that are part foster, part hospice—or “fospice,” as our Adoptions Team has recently coined it. Fospice care allows elder pets to enjoy as many comfortable and happy moments as they can with selfless ASPCA volunteers like Kathy.
Born in Pasadena, CA, Kathy was raised in Silver Spring, MD, where she first cultivated her love of animals with ducks, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and dogs. A graduate of Trinity University in Washington, DC, she currently works in real estate and spends her free time horseback riding, biking, running and playing football. She first became interested in fospice care after meeting Vanessa, an arthritic, 12-year-old Lab mix at the ASPCA. She noticed the pup’s sweet eyes and gentle demeanor, and knew, given her age and lack of mobility, that she might not find a forever home. She signed up for a foster class and brought Vanessa home with her. Since then, she has provided fospice care for two other dogs, Bolo and Sophie.
Kathy describes her fospice experience in her own words:
Vanessa, Bolo and Sophie each touched me in their own way—they also taught my neighborhood a lesson or two. In my community of bouncy puppies and canine jogging partners, there aren’t many opportunities to meet a senior dog, especially an arthritic Lab or bow-legged Pit Bull. Enter Vanessa and Bolo. Adults could relate to their creaky bones on rainy days, while others admired their slow pace, calm and dignity. All questioned how I could get attached for such a short time. My answer: knowing that a senior dog gets a forever home—with lots of treats and belly rubs—until it’s her time to cross the Rainbow Bridge helps me deal with the loss of a loyal friend.
Children ask endless questions: How old is he? Why do you always have old dogs? What does she do all day? Will he die soon? Known as “That Girl with Old Dogs,” I answer everyone’s questions to show that seniors make great pets. Hopefully everyone will remember Vanessa, Bolo and Sophie when adopting their next pet.
Vanessa loved Greenies like no other—she also suffered from arthritis. She could walk only one block on a good day, so we spent a lot of time watching movies or lounging outside, watching children play and people walk by. She taught me to stop, smell the roses, and take time to rest when you need to. My biggest lesson learned: “You’ll get there. Even in New York.”
When I first brought Bolo home, neighbors would cross the street. They didn’t see his bowed legs or arthritic swagger, just a Pit Bull. I’d tell them, “He’s a good boy; he’s 16 years old…” Soon he became a neighborhood favorite, especially popular with grandmothers who called him Lobo, Coco, Bobo or Toto! Bolo passed away a few months ago, and acquaintances and strangers often ask about him. Just last week a woman yelled from her window, “How’s your old dog?” All are sad for the loss—even those who once feared him.
Sophie suffers from heart disease, but she doesn’t let it stop her—not for a second. She is a joy and loyal friend who lives life to the fullest, even on days when she’s not 100%. She leaps on beds, jumps on sofas, and dashes for “treats” that she discovers on the street. Sit on my sofa, and she’ll climb on your head and lick your face. This once vocal girl is now quiet as a church mouse—maybe because she knows she’s finally home. To all potential volunteers, please consider a fospice arrangement if your schedules permit; working with the ASPCA Adoptions and medical team members has been wonderful. Senior whiskers have special needs, and it is never easy to say goodbye. But knowing that you have provided a loving home—maybe the first for some—makes it all worthwhile. We all deserve our golden years.
Dena, “Fospice” Caregiver
Shelters sometimes receive animals who are not medically healthy enough for adoption, but still have the right to live out their golden years in a loving environment and with proper medical treatment. For these pets, the ASPCA supports finding homes that are part foster, part hospice—or “fospice”. Fospice care allows pets to enjoy as many comfortable and happy moments as they can with selfless ASPCA volunteers like Dena.
Growing up in Florida, Dena lived with “tons” of dogs and cats, and she already had a strong passion for animals. She even once asked her father to buy all “the extra land” in the United States so she could put all the homeless animals on it and take care of them. These days, the ASPCA supplies her animal fix.
Dena decided to provide foster care for ASPCA animals because, she says, “I just love animals and want them all to have the best life possible.” She knew she was ready to provide fospice care after taking one look at Blaze.
Blaze is an eight-year-old Pit Bull who suffers from a blood cancer called multiple myeloma. While cancer is tough for people and animals alike, Blaze is a fighter and has been succeeding in this battle since she joined us at the ASPCA many years ago. She is not in pain, and her medication keeps her stable, so when Blaze was taken off of the adoptions floor, she became eligible for fospice care. While searching for a perfect foster home for Blaze, we introduced her to Dena. Blaze gave Dena one gaze, and it was love at first sight.
Dena has stuck by Blaze’s side through the roughest and scariest times of her illness. Blaze was on chemotherapy for close to a year and a half and had to swallow chemo pills twice a day. The cheerful dog was doing well until two months ago, when she was diagnosed with a second type of blood cancer. ASPCA veterinarians changed her medication and got her on a different regimen.
Blaze remains strong and now enjoys the company of a new canine roommate, a four-year-old mini-Greyhound mix named Pace. Blaze frequently visits her ASPCA family and is currently happy and comfortable.
Dena’s top advice to potential foster parents? “It’s worth every minute!”
Update: Blaze passed away peacefully in September 2011, with her fospice parent and friends by her side.