What year of a dog’s life is more important than her last? It is the year we are finally given a chance to repay our pets for what they do best offer unconditional love. After years of licking away our tears, making us laugh when we would rather cry, and encouraging us to get up when we are down, we are finally given a chance to return the warmth, love, comfort, and peace they joyfully gave us for all our years together.
As dog lovers, it is almost impossible for us to fathom how someone could allow their dog to face the end of her life in a shelter. But every day senior dogs are entering shelters, some of them having serious health conditions. The chance of them being adopted is almost nonexistent. For these dogs, their only hope is hospice care.
Each year, The Grey Muzzle Organization provides grants that fund hospice programs at animal shelters and rescues. The Cumberland County S.P.C.A. in New Jersey is a three-year recipient of Grey Muzzle grants. Thanks to Grey Muzzle, when the call came in on April 13, 2012 that a senior dog was in need of emergency medical care due to a cruelty situation, they knew immediately they could provide them with the care they needed. Police had been called to the owner’s home and found what looked like a scene from a horror movie. The owner had used human narcotics to sedate the dog, and then attempted to remove a lump from her head with a kitchen knife.
The 15-year-old Husky mix survived her horrific surgical ordeal and was treated at the hospital. She went home with Valerie Mazzei, a CCSPCA foster and volunteer.
Grace’s foster mom had unexpectedly accepted her first hospice foster situation. Medical complications developed and the best place for Grace was with Valerie for the rest of her life. For the next 10 months, Valerie gave Grace everything - the best food and medical care, anything she needed for comfort, the support of a pack, and the love of a family. One year and 13 days after Valerie carried Grace out of the hospital, she again held her in her arms as Grace peacefully passed away.
Valerie was so moved by her experience with Grace, she wanted to share it in hopes of inspiring other families to help dogs in need of hospice care:
I did not think I would be able to handle hospice care, but really had no choice with Grace. Fortunately it was not hard and she just became part of the pack. Hospice is not for everyone but rewarding for the ones who can do it. If I had to do it all over again, I would.
“Grace was a good dog; she was quiet and kept to herself most of the time. She liked to go outside and every now and then would chase a toy. When Grace arrived, she was a mess and it took days for her to feel better, and even longer to recover emotionally. She was never “right,” she was happy. I was glad to provide Grace with a chance to end her life with the best care.”
Grace (far right) and her "pack"