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Pet Nonprofit Spotlight: Pet Peace of Mind

Pet Nonprofit Spotlight: Pet Peace of Mind is just one of the articles from Pet Care Pro Quarterly, IBPSA's digital magazine for pet care services professionals. Read the current issue online here.

People have come to bond with their pets in much the same way they bond with the other people they love. Pets become family members and provide a source of comfort much like close friends or relatives. It is no wonder that pets often play a critically important role during the end-of-life journey for their terminally ill humans.

For these pet families, the human-animal bond takes on deeper meaning. Pets may serve as a sole source of companionship, comfort and love, and provide a sense of hope or a reason to get up every day. As an illness progresses, most patients will need help caring for their pets.

Some patients are fortunate to have a broad support network and receive all the assistance they need from family and friends. Others may not have the support they need and beloved pets may be overlooked or treated as an afterthought by family members who are unfamiliar with the patient’s bond with a pet.

“One of my top concerns was my pitbull, Coal,” says Elizabeth Pawlak, home hospice patient living with advanced COPD. “I rescued her from a shelter as a 6-month-old puppy and she has been my constant companion for the last eight years,” she says. “I hated the idea of having to give her up due to my illness.”

Pet Peace of Mind, a national non-profit organization based in Salem, Oregon, provides the solution to this challenging situation. The program model helps hospices, hospitals, palliative care organizations, and home health agencies across the country meet the needs of their patients with pets using specially trained volunteers. Some of the services provided include taking pets to the vet or groomer, walking the dog, cleaning the litter box, maintaining a feeding schedule, and other pet care chores.

Pet Peace of Mind partners receive personalized training to launch the program, marketing and administrative support, and ongoing coaching to ensure successful outcomes for their patients.

In Elizabeth’s case, volunteers provide walking services several times a week.

“Ultimately, Pet Peace of Mind has benefitted both my well-being and Coal’s,” she says. “She is so much more relaxed and less anxious after a walk. And that is important because Coal is a comfort to me. I like having her with me so I am not all alone at night, and I love her company during the day. By caring for Coal, Pet Peace of Mind is also taking care of me. It has been such a gift.”

And when the time comes to find a new home for the pet, Pet Peace of Mind helps hospice partners learn how to establish connections and build adoption/foster networks to ensure pets have a place to go when the patient passes.

“One of the most important pieces of unfinished business in a patient’s life is ensuring their pet has a new forever home and will not end up in a shelter to face an uncertain future,” says Dianne McGill, president and founder of Pet Peace of Mind.

Pet Peace of Mind has active program partners in 38 states and recently received the 2017 VIC Innovation Award in the nonprofit category from the Veterinary Innovation Council.

For further information about Pet Peace of Mind or to learn how to get involved in a local program, visit http://www.petpeaceofmind.org.

Photo provided by Pet Peace of Mind.