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.