HSLC in Action: Hospice Animals

HSLC in Action: Hospice Animals

Many of the animals that come under the care of the Humane Society of Loudoun County are good candidates for placement into new, loving homes. Sometimes though, an animal will have medical issues that make them unsuitable for adoption. When practical, we seek out foster homes that can provide the care and attention these special cats and dogs need. Whether their time with them is long or short, people find that fostering a hospice animal can be a rewarding experience.

Just this month, Lily, one of HSLC’s hospice cats fostered by volunteer Jennifer, crossed the Rainbow Bridge after spending about two and a half years under hospice care with a kidney disease.

“She was not necessarily the standard loving cat,” Jennifer said. “Set in her ways, all bark but little bite. And so strong-willed she lived a wonderful life for two years more than anyone expected…And I loved her in all her grumpiness and crazy ways.”

“Knowing that I would experience the sadness of sending her over the rainbow bridge rather than sending her to a loving family and a forever home was hard.  However, it was also such a rewarding experience, because I got to provide a loving home while she was healthy enough to enjoy it.  Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat.”

Snickerdoodle is another recent case of hospice fostering. Now about 14 years old, she came to the HSLC in 2015 and soon after had a cancerous growth removed from her leg. In May 2016, Carrie and Erik Frasier decided to foster her. Carrie kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the experience. 

Many people might hesitate at the idea of caring for a hospice animal. Why were you willing to take on the commitment?

Carrie: The pictures of Snickerdoodle and her story tugged at our heart strings. She was undergoing care for a cancerous tumor and was notoriously grumpy while in the boarding facility where she’d been for months at that point. We hoped we could give her a more comfortable place to be while hopefully getting better – with less stress and more focused affection. Our pets have always taken such great care of us that we were glad to at least give a happy place to be, for as long as we could, to an animal that seemed otherwise unadoptable at the time.

With the Humane Society able to take care of the medical bills for what we knew would be potentially a drawn out illness, we knew we could provide the home and other care (and save them the boarding cost and space). Candidly, we had a beloved cat pass away several years ago that would have been equally temperamental in the same situation, and being able to care for Snickerdoodle has been a nod in her honor.

What was Snickerdoodle like when you first took her in, and have there been changes over time?

Carrie: Snickerdoodle is an older cat and was definitely volatile and not feeling her best when we first took her in. While she would allow us to pet her, she would often hiss or swipe with little notice. With patience, time, and consistency, we slowly earned her trust and after a few short months, she was purring up a storm whenever we were near. She now routinely rubs up against us, climbs into our laps, and it’s rare that we’ll even get a hiss from her. Even after vet visits (which she hates), as soon as we get home, she is back to purring and getting pats. While she remains very food driven, a clear indication of the change in our relationship is that she prioritizes pats and rubs to going right to her food bowl at meal time.

What are some of the challenges you have had to face?

Carrie:  We’ve had to make the choice to keep Snickerdoodle separate in her own room most of the time. While she doesn’t seem to mind our 90+ pound German Shepherd (who gives her plenty of space), she is aggressive with other cats so we can’t mix her with our other two. We try to give her the run of the house at least once or twice a week, which gives her extra snuggle time and the chance to come sleep with us. Also, Snickerdoodle has some litter box issues (not behavioral in nature), so there’s constant clean up to do.

Another challenge has been knowing that even though the cancerous tumor was removed, there was the very good chance cancer would return. While the tumor, amazingly, has not reappeared, given Snickerdoodle’s age and temperament with the vet, we know there’s no way to chase down every lump and bump. In coordination with the HSLC board, it’s a conscious choice to just make sure she’s happy and comfortable for as long as we can, and do as much as we can without adding additional stress of treatments or vet visits.

What are the rewards?

Carrie: Knowing Snickerdoodle’s reputation prior to taking her, we are constantly amazed at just how loving she is with us. She’d be a tremendous lap cat for someone with a one-pet household and a lot of patience. We’re really glad that we opted to give her a chance with us, and have gained enough trust with her that she curls up with us at night with a paw on our faces. Also, seeing her knead with both front and back paws is priceless!

What have you experienced as the foster of a hospice animal that you think others would be interested in knowing about?

Carrie: So often hospice animals seem like the last animals people considering fostering, or adopting. They are wonderful animals who deserve a loving home for all the years of their life and just require a little more patience (who wouldn’t when we’re not feeling our best?). HSLC has been terrific about covering Snickerdoodle’s medical costs while we provide her food and shelter. The board’s communication whenever we’ve needed to make decisions about Snickerdoodle in our home or consult the veterinarian has made us feel like we are truly trusted partners in her care. We’ve loved being able to send positive updates about Snickerdoodle’s interaction with us and are so glad to do whatever we can to keep her feeling happy and loved in her golden years.


To help defray the medical costs for Snickerdoodle and other special needs animals,
please consider making a tax-deductible donation to HSLC today.