WHAT IS HOSPICE?
Hospice care focuses on providing comfort and support to patients nearing the end of their lives. It doesn't prolong life or cure any disease; it is palliative care. Hospice care focuses on keeping pain to a minimum and letting the last months, weeks or days be as peaceful, dignified and pain-frree as possible. It's about quality of life, not quantity. A team of trained volunteers and professionals from CAPE work closely with CAPE foster volunteers who provide hospice care for animals in CAPE's hospice program.
Since every situation regarding end of life issues is unique, hospice care is designed for each individual animal. The hospice care volunteers work closely with CAPE's foster care manager, CAPE's director, and CAPE's veterinarian, Dr. Bonnie Yoffe to create the treatment plan and goals that best serve the animal's need for pain control and comfort.
Potential hospice candidates are identified by CAPE's foster care manager. Criteria for placement in the program include one or more of the following:
1) a prognosis ≤ 6 months
2) veterinarian order for hospice
3) end stage illness
4) life threatening illness
5) animal not expected to live >/ one year due to expected life span for size and breed
If you are interested in learning more about CAPE's hospice program, please contact us at (831) 336-4695.
Now in his twilight years, Moses is in the care of CAPE hospice foster volunteer Kelly Luker. She tells us that although he is blind and quite feeble, Moses is doing great. A senior citizen, Moses suffers from dementia that is managed with medication. Even though he is blind, he still exerts his independence - he has figured out how to use the doggie door and the steps up to the sofa. His favorite moment of each day comes when Kelly wraps him up in a fluffy blanket, calling him her "burrito boy."
Moses came into CAPE's Hospice Program from a local shelter because he had multiple medical issues. Recently Kelly reported to us that Moses is coughing more than usual. After a veterinary check-up, it was determined that fluid is building around his heart possibly due to congestive heart failure. Our veterinary team will make sure that Moses is kept pain-free and comfortable.
Kelly has fallen madly in love with Moses ensuring that no matter how much time he has left on this earth, Moses will be in Kelly's loving arms as her little burrito boy.
When the person who takes care of you is arrested and goes to jail, and you are sent to a strange place, all sense of security vanishes. This is what happened to Angelica - a petite, 8 pound, ash colored 10 year old cat. In addition to losing her home and her best friend, Angelica was diagnosed with possibly having lung cancer and an enlarged heart.
Silicon Valley Humane Society knew about CAPE's Hospice Program for animals, so when Angelica was brought into their shelter, the staff contacted CAPE for help.
"Hospice care focuses on providing comfort and support to animals nearing the end of life. It doesn't prolong life or cure disease. It is palliative care," says JP Novic, Executive Director of CAPE. "Our goal is to provide animals with a peaceful and dignified end of life in the comfort a home environment."
The CAPE Hospice Care program is supported solely by donations. Please donate today so CAPE can continue offering this unique care to animals at the end of life.
Even though several veterinarians predict Angelica has less than six months to live, she is already showing signs of comfort and joy. She grooms herself, responds to a wand toy by batting it with one paw, and is enjoying her meals.
Angelica is now comfortable, warm and safe with CAPE foster/hospice volunteer Deb Nutcher:
"Angelica loves sleeping on a bed I made for her on the floor of a closet where dozens of my long hanging dresses touch her body like blankets."
Deb encourages anyone interested in becoming a hospice foster volunteer: "Yes, it will be hard (at the end), but she needs a warm and loving ending and I can give that to her."
Visit this link on the CAPE website for more information on CAPE's Hospice Care program.
Nellie was brought to the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter with what was suspected to be mammary cancer. CAPE stepped in to offer Nellie a comfortable place to live out the rest of her days. She is now at CAPE's Animal Sanctuary in Grass Valley, spending her days with Rootie, Lucy, Lulu and Phoebe.
Tia Meyer: CAPE hospice volunteer has special connection with terminally ill dogs
by Shelley Frost
The bark is throaty, slow in coming, loud in leaving. Over the phone, it sounds like an old man's voice, slightly hoarse from years of use. I am talking with Tia Meyer, who is laughing at the barker, her foster dog Bailey, a black Labrador senior of 13 years.
Tia explains that Bailey is barking because he loves to be loved, and at that moment her hand was not resting on his mostly gray-black head. "He's in great spirits right now," Tia says, "All about love -- touch me, love me, feed me."
Three months ago when Tia first brought Bailey home, he was under 100 pounds, with joints so stiff, he needed to be lifted for his outdoor visits. Today, despite a diagnosis of cancer and with it a life expectancy of only a few months, Bailey is experiencing a renewal of sorts.
"At first he was kind of out of it, just laying there," Tia says. "Now I've seen him act frisky, playing with squeaky toys, noticing squirrels and birds. He's feeling better."
Bailey's reawakening is the result of hospice care given to him by Tia, a hospice care foster volunteer, with the Center for Animal Protection and Education (CAPE). Although CAPE has well over a dozen foster home volunteers on its roster, Tia is one of only a few CAPE hospice care givers.
JP Novic, Executive Director of CAPE remembers the phone call a little over a year ago, when Tia without hesitation, agreed to bring home her first foster hospice case.
"I remember speaking with Tia and immediately felt her connection to animals." says JP who on that day had been alerted to a special case at the Santa Cruz SPCA. His name was Toby, an over-sized, muscle bound yellow Labrador whose smile was a distraction from the cancerous osteosarcoma bump that was beginning to grow on the top of his nose.
"The staff veterinarian told me the tumor was inoperable and would eventually cave in his face. Toby was only six years old, but had maybe six months to live." Like his sunny smile, Toby's personality belied his physical condition. Which was why the SPCA staff chose to call CAPE instead of euthanizing the lively dog.
"I felt Toby was a perfect candidate for hospice care. He was full of life," says JP. "So vibrant, sweet, funny and huge!"
She described Toby to Tia making sure that she understood the inevitable heartbreak. JP suggested she think about it, but less than an hour later, Tia called back and said she wanted to do it.
On the day Tia picked up Toby, JP remembers watching them drive away in Tia's small car, Toby's head poking out the passenger window, and all she could see was that gigantic grin.
In the past, Tia had worked in group homes with "throw away kids," - children who knew a tough life with little or no love. Tia is drawn to those who need a connection. She describes it as an organic connection where a decision is made to help someone without analysis, diagrams, or weighing the pros and cons. With Toby, Tia felt her "heart open up and he became my soul mate."
Over the next months, Tia and Toby were seen all over Santa Cruz, riding in her little car, Toby crowding the front seat. "He loved fast food," Tia confesses. "We did a lot of drive-throughs."
Tia's small niece adored Toby, who would lie on the floor unmoving while the little girls' hands patted his face, neck and tugged on his floppy ears.
As his hospice caregiver, Tia was responsible for his medications and constant assessments. She monitored his pain and worked closely with a veterinarian who increased doses of medication as needed. Each day, Tia would lift his lips and gums to see if the tumor was inching its way into his mouth.
And all the while, their connection grew closer and the end seemed further away. Toby lived a whole year with Tia, far outlasting everyone's predictions.
But finally one day Tia noticed that Toby's smile had faded. The tumor had done its worst. It had broken through the bone and was now in his mouth.
JP and Tia's parents met her at the veterinary hospital. As they let him go, they reflected that Toby, a dog abandoned in a shelter, had a wonder-filled 12 months.
"When it came time to put him down the bottom fell out." says Tia. " It was an absolutely heartbreaking moment. But that's part of the process. You go in knowing there is going to be that time. The pain from grief - you don't hold it in. When it comes, you embrace it and find comfort in knowing this dog is at peace."
In describing Tia, JP emphasizes the word courage. "It takes kindness and courage to do what Tia did for Toby. She is so caring. She dives in with all her heart doing something most of us would not put ourselves through."
Some time went by before Tia contacted JP again. All she said was she was ready to provide hospice again.
Within a week Tia met Bailey and just like with Toby, the connection happened.
Tia says that hospice care can include the medical needs of a patient, but she adds, "It's also about really caring for an animal during this time of their life, having them be with people who love them."
At night the two sleep side by side on Toby's old comforter. One of Bailey's pain drugs gives him some anxiety, so Tia rubs him for hours, helping him to relax. "He will fall into a deep sleep, but the second I stop, he paws at me and barks."
It has now been almost two months since Bailey has been with Tia. He shows signs of improvement, but it could be that his quality of life has affected his health. Even the acute diarrhea he arrived with has cleared up. When the carpet cleaner JP hired to treat Tia's rugs learned that she was providing hospice care for a shelter dog, he emailed JP to say "this one's on the house."
Through the phone I can hear Bailey voicing his need for a belly rub. Tia says, "Maybe I'm selfish. Giving can be selfish because it feels so good to give that you get a high from it. To be allowed to share this experience with an animal - I get so much from it personally. I'm a giver and a really bad receiver."