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.