Families and friends supporting a loved one in hospice care focus on relieving pain and preparing for the inevitable. All too often ignored is the cat or dog who also sat beside their loving owner in the closing months and weeks.
Lisa Zimmerman learned of such pets from hospice workers who cared for her father in 2011. Especially poignant was the fate of a poodle that was put down when its 83-year-old owner was hospitalized – but who was later sent back home only to find her friend gone. For 15 years Zimmerman assisted animal rescues, but after her father’s is passing, she vowed to do more.
“After my dad got sick we decided to take another option because that was when we found out there was such a huge need to help both animals and people,” she said.
Hospets, based in Union County, is an all-volunteer organization whose budget is largely reliant on tax-deductible donations. It offers an array of crucial services:
• Transporting pets to grooming and veterinary appointments
• Assistance with pet food, pet medications, and basic veterinary services if owners are facing financial difficulties
• Transporting pets to assisted-living facilities for visits (if allowed)
• Emergency respite care for the pet should the owner be hospitalized
• Pre-planning placement – Assisting the owner with finding a new, loving home for their pet
• Cleaning litter box, walking, general grooming
• 24/7 Emergency/on-call pet caregiver until family can take possession of a pet
Zimmerman said she is aware of only a few similar organizations in the country, though none providing the range of support Hospets offers. She recently assisted a Licking County group that is working with the Humane Society to offer foster care for the pets of those in hospice.
“We now get calls daily and unfortunately I do have to turn some people away,” she said. “We now even get calls across the country.”
Hospets requires the help of a core group of volunteers for their regular operations and a larger group of volunteers for special events. On a recent Sunday Zimmerman attended a fundraiser at a church and then the Dublin Pet Fair. Despite her constant work, the non-profit requires much support as they care for more than 200 pets a month.
“The greatest need is for foster homes to provide temporary care for pets when their owners are hospitalized. The second would be for donations – we paid out more than $17,000 in vet bills last year.”
What’s on the horizon?
In-home foster care for pets is available, however some pets are not eligible because of their health or behavioral issues. Therefore, Zimmerman hopes to build a fostering facility, but needs a little help. The group has the land and approximately 50 percent of the funds needed and are working hard to make their goal.
Hospets has many convenient options to donate funds and adopt pets facing the loss of their owner. They also accept in-kind donations.
Tim Picard and his wife live on a few acres in Morrow County. They were rescued by horses, chickens, a bunch of barn cats – all strays or feral – and rescue dogs.