Seeking volunteers to help hospice patients’ pets

Gulfside Hospice & Pasco Palliative Care provides compassionate care for patients on the end-of-life journey. Increasingly, that care means giving people peace of mind when it comes to decisions about their pets.

Since 2014, the nonprofit’s Pet Peace of Mind program has taken stress away from patients worried about who will care for their furry companions.

Gulfside Hospice & Pasco Palliative Care helped hospice patient Alberta Beyer, and her furry companion, Rocky, through its Pet Peace of Mind program. (Courtesy of Gulfside Hospice & Pasco Palliative Care)

In many cases, volunteers have helped patients stay in their homes, with their cat or dog.

“Especially as people get older, we find people have a closer relationship with their pets,” said Kirsty Churchill, Gulfside Hospice’s community relations manager. “Their pet is their child. When you’re faced with going into a nursing home or hospice care center, it’s tough. A lot of times they wouldn’t want to leave them.”

Gulfside Hospice currently is seeking volunteers to help with Pet Peace of Mind.

The program can provide free veterinary care, pet food, flea and tick treatment, boarding and pet sitting services.

The program also helps to find a new home or foster family for pets, if family members are unable to adopt them.

Volunteers mostly help with picking up pets and taking them to veterinary appointments or to a groomer. They also stop by to take a dog for a walk and generally do the services a pet sitter would provide.

“It means the world to them,” said Rabbi Aaron Lever, a chaplain at Gulfside Hospice and the patient care volunteer manager. “They are too sick to take the dog to the veterinarian or groomer. They can’t drive. We’re trying to give peace of mind to patients, so they can continue to stay with their pets.”

Volunteers also donate and sell handcrafted gift items at community events, and arts and crafts fairs.

Gulfside Hospice was founded in 1988 by a registered nurse, an oncologist and a physician assistant who wanted to serve patients with chronic or life-limiting illnesses.

Pet Peace of Mind at Gulfside Hospice began in May 2014, with seed money from the Banfield Charitable Trust. Since then, donations, fund raisers and volunteers have sustained the program.

Former employee Shelley Schneider got the program started.

“She had a strong love of animals,” Lever said. “She thought this would be a wonderful program to help our patients in this way.”

There are Pet Peace of Mind programs nationwide. The national program is based in Oregon.

At Gulfside, Lever said Pet Peace of Mind has helped about 115 patients and 150 pets.

Most were cats and dogs, but Lever said, “We did have a 55-year-old parrot once.”

While many volunteers take on pet-sitting chores, Lever said they also help with donations and fundraising events.

They sometimes knit pet sweaters or sell beanie babies at arts and crafts events in the area.

Volunteers also provide quilts, handmade jewelry, paintings or other hand-crafted gift items.

“All the money from sales goes to Pet Peace of Mind,” Lever said.  “There is always need for funds.”

For information about volunteering or to make a donation, call Gulfside Hospice at (800) 561-4883, visit GHPPC.org.

The website for Pet Peace of Mind is PetPeaceOfMind.org.

Published November 29, 2017

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