NEW YORK — Who will take your pet when you die?
The question often doesn’t have an easy answer, especially for sick or older people who make residential nursing care or assisted living. During the pandemic, specialized rescue, advocacy and adoption services run by volunteers are trying to fill the gap one pet at a time.
Leaders of the small movement said that the eyes of many people have been opened in the last few years.
“With a lot of people thinking about COVID, I can’t be guaranteed to be around forever. Many people are trying to make plans in advance, which is the best thing because unfortunately, many people wait until they are in hospice or have a desperate situation,” says Amy Shaver, 2nd said the founder and director of Chance. 4 Pets in suburban Sacramento, Calif.
According to the Best Friends network of thousands of public and private shelters, rescue groups and other animal welfare organizations, the number of pets surrendering at shelters due to caregiver health or death has increased from 7.3% in 2009 to 10.2%. 50 states.
Shaver said that seniors’ pets are often seniors themselves, living in shelters or the first to be declared unaccompanied. They are regularly abandoned by relatives who cannot take a dog or cat. Other pets like parrots have a very long life span, which sometimes frightens loved ones.
Shaver’s focus is to educate veterinarians and shelters on how they can get involved. His organization also strives to help pet owners in need of direction. She urges owners to identify a committed caregiver, provide written instructions for a pet’s routine, and create a financial plan. Her group has distributed thousands of emergency-card door hangers, for example, to pet food banks and animal welfare organizations so owners can state their wishes.
Another organization, Pet Peace of Mind, works directly with about 250 hospices nationwide and provides and trains volunteers who care for critically and mentally ill pets, said president in Salem, Oregon. and founder Diane McGill said. Most hospices are providing home services, with pets often providing comfort and support.
“These specialized volunteers bring pet care knowledge with them so they can do whatever is needed to help,” she said. “So they’re walking, feeding, playing, cleaning or helping to plan the house again.”
McGill said while providing pet care or adoption services isn’t often top of the minds of social workers or nurses, it’s a huge emotional driving force for patients and loved ones who live far away.
“Care workers hear about issues from family members,” she said. “They say, my mom is really upset about what’s going to happen to her pet. I live out of state. I can’t help her. When she’s on her end-of-life journey.” Or how do we get some pet care when she passes away?”
“I have a million stories about patients who literally hung up until they heard that their pet had found a new home,” McGill said.
Enter angels on earth like 79-year-old Kathy Rister.
She adopted a 12-year-old Chihuahua named Jackson with the help of Tyson’s Place Animal Rescue in Holland, Michigan. The non-profit organization helps people living with terminal illnesses find new homes for their pets. Reaster, who has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, recently lost his dog and was having a hard time alone at home when he was taken to Jackson last August.
“I’ve never been without a dog since 1965,” said the widow. “Their previous owner had passed away.”
Soon after, Jackson was also diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and Tyson Place stepped in with Grant to help Reaster cover his medical bills. She promised that if her health deteriorated she would return it to the agency.
“Having him has really helped me live and fight,” said the restaurateur from Grandville, Michigan. “I started walking with him a block down and a block back home. Now we walk for at least 20, 25 minutes a day. He has to walk and I have to walk. He has made such a big difference in my life.”
Caitlin Koska, 31, and Michael White, 34, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, attended their May 1 wedding to 14-year-old Luna, when Koska adopted her around Thanksgiving 2020 via Tyson’s Place. Luna, a Chihuahua, was his ring bearer.
“Her owner had moved into a nursing home and could no longer care for her,” Koska said. “He has a lot of dental problems, cataracts and very little hearing. He is just the cutest dog. Everyone who knows him loves him.”
Jill Bannick-Brecht founded Tyson Place about six years ago. It serves the entire state of Michigan, should working directly with a pet owner become an urgent matter, or with family members after death, using a small network of foster homes.
As for Koska, Tyson Place took care of extensive dental work for Luna prior to adoption.
“I used to work for a high-kill animal shelter, and I knew what happened to older dogs when they came in. I remember a dog that Animal Control literally picked up from the side of its dead owner’s body Was, and he didn’t even have the opportunity to be adopted. He was put to sleep because we didn’t have the space,” said Benik-Brecht.
Now, hospices and social workers refer patients to Tyson Place. Bannick-Brecht is struggling to expand its foster reach.
“I can’t meet the demand for a service like this, especially when it comes to cats,” she said. “Over the past two months, I’ve turned away 40 cats that fulfill our mission because we don’t have a place to keep them.”
Bannick-Brecht knows of few other rescued like him. One, Canada also needs help.
Angela Rafues, 27, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, founded My Grandfather’s Cat on May 18, her grandfather’s birthday. He died in 2019 leaving behind his 14-year-old cat, Mackenzie.
“She was my grandmother’s best friend and when she passed away, my grandfather took care of her the next year before she passed away,” Ruffuse said. “He wouldn’t put his name on the list for a nursing home knowing no one would take the cat who has the weirdest meow I’ve ever heard.”
Ruffus promised his grandfather that she would take Mackenzie. She started posting Tiktok videos of their adventures. A video of Mackenzie scratching his face while holding Ruffus in front of the camera has been viewed nearly a million times.
“Then so many people started sharing with us stories about how their grandparents’ cats ended up in shelters and how their grandparents worry about what will happen to their cats or their dogs because There’s nowhere to take them,” said Ruffus. “I’ve worked at a non-profit for the last four years, so I thought, it must be pretty easy to find resources to help these people. There was nothing that empowered a senior and they had to organize it. and empower his family. Everything was just a shelter.”
After she launched, emails began pouring in asking for help and offering donations, but she didn’t have enough foster homes to meet the demand. She is working to expand. One of the goals of Rafuse is to help keep a pet at home until the last minute.
As for Mackenzie, she’s living her best life, hiking and kayaking with Rafues.
“She’s still grumpy,” said Ruffus. “He’s developed a really special relationship with my dad, and I know my dad loves him because he’s the last thing his parents want.”