The unfortunate reality is that many elderly and terminal shelter dogs end up being put down. Thankfully, there are rescues throughout the nation that have implemented “fospice” programs, which allows foster pup parents to take in dogs who are nearing the end of their lives. The fospice volunteers provide hospice care to the animal, as the name implies.
In a 2017 interview with The Dodo, Melissa Ottstadt, the co-coordinator of Foster Dogs NYC’s fospice program, explained the importance of the service.
“Fostering is a great way to keep dogs social, acclimated and happy, which in turn makes them easier to adopt. Fospice is similar, but we take on the tougher cases, where a dog's age or prognosis makes him or her even more difficult to adopt. Without the fospice care option, many elderly or terminally ill dogs may live out their remaining time in a shelter with little hope of adoption,” stated Ottstadt.
Ottstadt also went onto state that dogs who qualify for fospice, include “elderly dogs who have surpassed their life expectancy” and “younger dogs with inoperable or terminal conditions coupled with a poor prognosis.”
Those who decide to open up their home and provide this type of care for a precious pup are expected to complete some training. In addition, fospice volunteers will usually have to take the dog to the vet, give the pup certain medications, and be on constant watch to make sure that their new furry friend is eating the appropriate food and getting enough fluids.
Not only is fospice care time consuming, but it also can be draining. The fact of the matter is the dog, once in your care, will pass away in a matter of months, or even a few weeks, which is very upsetting.
So why do it?
Debbie Marks, a fospice volunteer for the Blind Dog Rescue Alliance (BDRA), penned a poignant essay for The Gray Muzzle Society about how incredible her experience has been, despite its hardships.
“I know that the prospect of caring for hospice dogs may seem intimidating, but the pleasure I get from being with them, watching them “be”, caring for them, and loving them, makes me smile every day. The love I get in return is immeasurable,” explained Marks.
If you would like to volunteer and help out a sweet pup during their final days, please contact your local shelter or rescue.