Fospice: End of Life Care for Shelter Dogs

(Photo Credit: Foster Dogs NYC)

How tragic it is for an abandoned animal in a shelter to face terminal illness, old age, or disease without proper medical treatment and the loving comfort and care that only a human companion can provide in those final days, weeks, or months of life. Senior dogs and those with terminal illnesses deserve better, and that’s exactly what the Fospice program through Foster Dogs NYC is all about.

Fospice provides end-of-life comfort and care to a homeless terminally ill or elderly dog, based on the hospice model. The program, run by Foster Dogs NYC, was inspired by a similar program run by the ASPCA.

Foster Dogs NYC finds dogs who are facing these kinds of end of life traumas and then finds them loving foster homes and finincially sponsors the shelter dog’s basic needs and medical care for the remainder of the animal’s life. Founder Sarah Brasky says, “too many old and sick dogs die in shelters. Sometimes these shelters receive animals that are not medically healthy enough for adoption, but they still should have the right to live out their golden years in loving homes with proper medical treatment.”

While Brasky doesn’t want any animal stuck in a shelter, she believes it is especially difficult for senior dogs who miss lifelong families and need quiet and comfort at the end of their lives.

Fospice has been able to sponsor only a small number of dogs each year, but with a new 501(c) non-profit status will soon be able to provide more donations and help improve the quality of life for increased numbers of these special dogs, no matter how much – or little – time they have left.

(Photo Credit: Foster Dogs NYC)

Chelsea Massimin is a Fospice foster mom who initially saw black Chihuahua Lucy behind the bars in a local shelter. 12-year-old Lucy had cancer and kidney problems and came to the shelter after being seized along with 30 other dogs from a hoarding situation. Before that, Lucy had lived in another dog pound. When Chelsea spotted Lucy, the dog had been in her current shelter for seven months without an inquiry. Massimin felt the tiny Lucy deserved more than the hard life she had endured and death in a shelter, so she bundled the pup up and took her home to join the family’s other dogs. Since that day in April, Lucy has gained 3 lbs. and is doing surprisingly well. The family cooks special meals for her and continues to carry her in and out every two hours. Massimin says “no animal should ever cross the Rainbow Bridge without knowing love” and is happy and honored to provide it for little Lucy.

(Photo Credit: Foster Dogs NYC)

The very first Fospice dog was Daisy, the “Elderbull”…a 12-year-old Pit Bull mix saved by an animal rescue. Daisy was emaciated, and had given birth to numerous litters. This old lady had teeth that were completely worn down, a sign that she may have once been part of a dog fighting operation. Daisy wasn’t house trained, but caught on quickly once she was placed in her new foster home where she was showered with love and attention and enjoyed homemade meals that helped her gain weight and improved her coat. Daisy was luckier than many elderly pit bulls that often wait in shelters a long time, some never getting adopted. Thanks to a home filled with love and special care, Daisy showed her true colors: a sweetheart with people and other pets. Her vision and hearing were slightly diminished, and her muscles were slower moving. But being a Fospice dog means Daisy could live out the rest of her life surrounded by love and kindness.

Caring for a senior or sick shelter dog doesn’t have to be a sad thing. While the end is surely nearer for these animals, it’s unbelievably rewarding to be able to give them the safety, security, care, and love that they all deserve, especially at the end of a difficult life. There’s a nobility in making an animal’s last days their happiest, best days.

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