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Beacon Senior News

Fospicing: Give shelter pets a loving final home

Sep 27, 2021 11:19AM ● By Anna Stout
Light orange tabby lying on ground, looking at camera

A few weeks ago, while taking a walk near Chipeta Elementary School with two of my team members, we noticed the body of a cat curled up on the sidewalk, covered in iridescent green flies. Immediately, we feared the worst and approached with trepidation. But when we crouched down close to her, we distinguished very faint breathing. 

The staff at the elementary school gave us a small water dish, but she was too weak to lift her head. I squeezed drops of water onto her nose to stimulate her and she began licking it, mustering the energy to drink from the dish. Ultimately, we rushed her to Amigo Animal Clinic and left her in the capable hands of Dr. Garrett Carrica and his team, who gave us a very guarded initial prognosis.

After a few days of care, Dr. Carrica called and said the kitty—whom we had christened “Chipeta”—was doing well enough that she could be placed in a palliative care foster home. But her time of neglect on the streets had taken a toll. She was in end-stage renal failure with severe mouth disease, a combination that would eventually prove terminal. But she still had enough life left in her to experience love, compassion and quality of life for days, weeks, or even months more.

Chipeta has lived in my guest bathtub since that day and I’ve watched her slowly gain back some strength. She chirps when she sees me and purrs loudly every time I pet her. She has an appetite and curls up on her heating pad to sleep.

Fostering a pet is an incredibly special experience, even when that experience involves preparing the pet—and yourself—for the end. Hospice fostering (or “fospicing”) a terminal shelter pet means the pet gets to live out its final weeks or months surrounded by love in a comforting home, not within the walls of a shelter. 

And while many fear growing attached to the pet and the pain its passing will cause, I’ve learned having the privilege of enriching the pet’s final days actually eases that transition for me. I look at our time together as a gift given both directions. While I do grieve their death profoundly, I find comfort in the circumstances of it.

Local shelters frequently need special “fospice” homes for terminally ill or elderly pets like Chipeta, who aren’t great candidates for adoption. The care a pet can receive in a home where a human is constantly present is often better than a shelter can give.

Shelters like Roice-Hurst Humane Society provide all the supplies needed to care for the pet and cover any medical costs associated with its palliative treatment. Additionally, we offer respite time if you need a break or have to travel. We also make a plan for deciding when and what to do when the end has come, supporting you every step of the way.

Chipeta’s story is one of tragedy, serendipity and hope. The abandoned old kitty that once lay down to die has now spent weeks in a warm bed. Her final memories will be marked by love, comfort and compassion.

Anna Stout is CEO of Roice-Hurst Humane Society in Grand Junction and Delta.
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