Julie’s Dogs

Julie was the caregiver for her 80-year-old mother, as well as fighting her own battle with metastatic breast cancer. During a visit with her physician assistant, Julie learned she had arrived at the stage of “there’s nothing more we can do for you.”  Moments later, a phone call was routed through for Julie; it was a neighbor, calling to tell her that her mother had fallen, and was on the way to the hospital with a broken hip.

The physician assistant – we’ll call her Abby – comforted Julie for an hour, contacted the Chaplain’s office, helped her call her brothers and fill them in, and then arranged for Julie to be taken down to see her mother. Later that afternoon, Abby went to check on Julie, and again found her in tears.

Julie told Abby that she had two little dogs, and while it certainly wasn’t her most pressing problem, it was breaking her heart to think of having to leave them or have them put  down when she entered hospice, as she had no one to take care of them.  It was already a struggle for her to keep them while feeling so poorly, and she was faced with making arrangements for her mother, who  was adamant that she was going to stay in her home. With Julie’s brothers living out of state, making  that happen for her mother was going to take about all she could manage.

Julies Dogs That night, Abby spoke with her husband. When she saw Julie the next day, she offered to take the dogs home with her, and bring  them to visit Julie when she was able.  And that’s what they did.  Until Julie went into hospice, Abby and her husband regularly took Julie and her mother to see the dogs, or brought them to her.  On her good days, the dogs sometimes spent the night.  When Julie entered inpatient hospice, she was able to have the support of her pets because of Abby’s caring and generosity.

So many hospice patients have to have beloved pets put down due to inability to care for them, or being admitted to inpatient hospice, where they can’t keep them.  The compassion and service offered by Abby gave Julie a great deal of comfort and peace in her last months. Julie lived for eight months after Abby made her offer, and Abby continued to care for the dogs after Julie’s death, finding a good home for the 8-year-old and keeping the 16-year-old herself until he passed, about a year after Julie.

Originally published as HeroicStories #852

6 thoughts on “Julie’s Dogs”

  1. People who are not pet owners may not understand how important an animal becomes to someone. Knowing that the cat or dog will be cared for and loved when the owner is no longer able, is very important. Abby gave a wonderful blessing to Julie and the two dogs. And I bet it helped her heart a great deal too.

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  2. As a fellow cancer sufferer and pet owner – I shouldn’t of read this story @ work. Tears rolling down the face freaked out my colleagues.

    Two saddest times in recent past were when my mother told me that “It’s terminal” and when I had to have our oldest cat put to sleep.

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  3. It’s rarely necessary to have a pet put down or sent to die in a shelter when someone is terminally ill or in hospice. Families should always check the internet or petfinder.com for an area rescue. They will take the animal, provide loving, safe foster care and find a new forever home. One of my pugs is from a terminally ill mom who couldn’t continue to care for him and wished for a home familiar with pugs, and my 16 year old cat’s original owner was going to have her put down when she herself died of cancer, so we took her in. The cat was six at the time; her mom died 2 weeks later, but Kali is still alive, spoiled and well. It’s been my experience that nearly every rescue has at least one or two foster homes that “specialize” in older pets, handicapped pets, the ones left behind when a beloved owner dies, so your loved one’s pet will have a place when you’re gone.

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    • Kyla, I’m just catching up on some back stories and read your comment. I’m so happy you posted it. I and some of my other pet owning friends do indeed worry what will happen to our beloved pets if something happens to us. I also know others who would love to have a pet, but worry what will become of that pet after they are gone, so they refrain from getting a pet.

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  4. Thank you for the information, Kyla, I know there are many people who are not aware of those services. In Ohio there is an organization called Hospets whose volunteers provide assistance with pet care so the elderly and hospice patients can continue to enjoy the comfort of their pets without the worry and stress of managing vet and grooming appts, etc. Their volunteers also will foster pets for hospice patients, taking them for visits when allowed so even when inpatient they can see their beloved pets, and making arrangements for them to be re-homed after the patient passes. I wish they were in every state as the pleasure of time with their pets should be extended as long as possible and this way patients can have that emotional support to the end while still knowing their pet will be cared for after they are gone. http://www.hospets.org

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