Specialized rescues assist ailing pet owners in finding new homes for their pets.
Caitlin Koska, left, and Michael White attend their wedding on May 1, 2021, in St. Joseph, Mich., with their 14-year-old rescue dog, Luna. Tyson's Place Animal Rescue, a specialized group focused on aiding the terminally ill and elders destined to residential care, adopted the couple's pet after her owner died (Cat Carty Buswell via AP)
AP NEW YORK Then who will take your pet?
The solution isn't always clear, especially for sick or elderly persons in nursing homes or assisted living. Volunteer-run specialist rescue, advocacy, and adoption services are filling the hole one pet at a time. Leaders of the slight movement say recent events have awakened many eyes.
COVID is that many people think I won't be around forever. People are trying to plan ahead of time, which is preferable because many people wait until they're in hospice or desperate, said Amy Shiver, founder and director of 2nd Chance 4 Pets in the Sacramento suburb.
The Best Friends Network of hundreds of public and private shelters, rescue groups, and other animal welfare organizations in all 50 states report a 10.2% increase in pets surrendered to shelters due to caregiver illness or death.
Seniors' dogs are often the first to be euthanized in shelters or euthanized after being ruled unadoptable, Shiver added. They're frequently abandoned by families who can't have pets. Other pets, like parrots, have much longer life spans, which can worry loved ones.
She's goal is to educate vets and shelters on how to help. Her group also seeks to guide lost pet owners. She advises owners to choose a reliable caregiver, document routines, and create a budget. Her organization has given thousands of emergency card door hangers to pet food banks and animal shelters so owners may express their wishes.
Also, in Oregon, Pet Peace of Mind, founded by Dianne McGill, works directly with about 250 hospices across the country to provide and train volunteers to care for very sick patients' dogs.
Most hospices offer home visits when pets can provide comfort and support. These specialized volunteers provide pet care experience and may help in any way required, she said. So they walk, feed, play, clean, or help organize rehoming. While providing pet care or adoption services isn't always front of mind for social workers or nurses, McGill says it is for patients and loved ones who live far away.
Family members tell caregivers about their concerns. My mother is reportedly distraught at her pet's face. I reside elsewhere. I'm helpless. How do we provide pet care while she is ill or after she dies? McGill said I have a million stories about patients who waited until their pet found a new home.
Enter 79-year-old Kathy Reister. In Holland, Michigan, she got Jackson, a 12-year-old Chihuahua, from Tyson's Place Animal Rescue. The charity helps sick people find homes for their pets.
Reister, who has congestive heart failure, had recently lost her own dog and was lonely when she adopted Jackson last August. I haven't been without a dog since 1965, she said. His prior owner died. Afterward, Jackson was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and Tyson's Place helped Reister pay his medical fees. She vowed to return him to the agency if her health deteriorated.
Having him has inspired Reister of Grandville, Michigan, to live and fight. I joined him on his one-block walk down and back home. We now walk for 20-25 minutes daily. We both need to walk. He's changed my life so much.
Luna, 14, was adopted by Caitlin Koska through Tyson's Place around Thanksgiving 2020. Luna, a Chihuahua, carried their rings. Koska stated her owner had gone into a nursing home and couldn't care for her. She has bad teeth, cataracts, and bad hearing. She's the cutest dog. Everyone knows she's special.
Jill Bannink-Albrecht founded Tyson's Place. It works with pet owners before rehoming becomes essential, or with family members following a death, employing a limited network of foster homes.
Before Koska acquired Luna, Tyson's Place provided significant dental care for her. After working at a high-kill shelter, I understood what happened to the old dogs. I remember one dog that was literally picked up off his deceased owner's body and never had a chance to be adopted. We had no room for him, Bannink-Albrecht added.
She remarked that I just couldn't keep up with the demand, especially for cats. I've turned away 40 cats in the last two months because we don't have enough space for them. Bannink-Albrecht knows of only a handful of similar rescues. An American needs help.
Angela Rafuse, 27, of Halifax, launched My Grandfather's Cat on May 18. His grouchy 14-year-old cat, Mackenzie, survived him in 2019. My grandmother's dearest friend, my grandfather cared for her for a year after she died, Rafuse stated. He wouldn't apply for a care home knowing no one would take his cat, who has the grumpiest meow imaginable.
Rafuse promised Mackenzie to her grandfather. She began sharing their exploits on TikTok. Mackenzie scratching Rafuse's face while holding her up to the camera, has nearly a million views. Then individuals started telling us how their grandparents' cats ended up in shelters and how their grandparents worried about what would happen to their pets.
Rafuse added. I've worked at a nonprofit for four years, so I figured finding resources for these people should be simple. Nothing existed that empowered a senior, their family, or their caregiver. It was all shelters. After she debuted, she received letters begging for aid and donations, but she didn't have enough foster homes.
She's trying to grow. Rafuse wants to help maintain a pet at home until the end. Mackenzie is having fun hiking and kayaking with Rafuse. He stated she was still grumpy. She's built a unique bond with my father, and I know he loves it because she's the last of his parents.