Pet palliative care program ‘the perfect fit’ for first foster

A new program from the PEI Humane Society has brought a lot of happiness to the first Islanders participating in it.

The Palliative Care Foster Program, which sends older animals home with families to be cared for in their last months, started in March. The society has dozens of families lined up to participate.

Tasha, a nine-year-old dog, is the first pet to be fostered under the program.

“It was just the perfect fit at the perfect time for me,” said Alesia Napier, who will take care of the dog.

“She’s just been a joy, and filled a huge void in my life since I lost my last dog.”

A woman stands in a room of kennels with cats inside of them.
Ashley Travis with the PEI Humane Society says the program opens up opportunities for both the animals and people interested in having a pet. (Safiyah Marhnouj/CBC)

The program is for fostering, not adoption. The humane society continues to pay for the cost of food and veterinary care for the pets.

The idea behind the program was to open up opportunities both for the animals and for people interested in having a pet, said Ashley Travis, development and communications coordinator for the PEI Humane Society.

When you have animals that have substantial health issues it can be quite a barrier to pet ownership for some people.– Ashley Travis

“They get essentially to go home and have a family life and live out the remainder of their days,” said Travis.

“It eliminates some barriers to pet ownership for some folks, because we also see it nowadays where veterinary care costs are quite steep in some cases, and when you have animals that have substantial health issues it can be quite a barrier to pet ownership for some people.”

No energy for puppies

Tasha does have some serious health problems, including cataracts. There are also indications in her bloodwork that she will soon develop diabetes and organ failure.

Napier said that given the likely expense of caring for the dog, she likely would not have considered adopting him. But at the same time, she didn’t think she had the energy to raise a puppy.

Living alone and working at home were both stressful and isolating, Napier said. So Tasha has changed her life in positive ways: She wakes Napier up for breakfast at a regular time — and of course they’re both out for regular walks.

“She’s comical, she’s kind of funny,” Napier said.

When that time comes, of course I’m going to grieve.​​​-Alesia Napier

“Even though she’s nine-and-half years old and has health problems, most of the time she acts like a very young dog, likes to skip around and always seems to be smiling and grabbing toys and dropping them at my feet, wanting to play.”

But Napier knows the relationship won’t last long.

They’ve been together for 10 weeks. The humane society veterinarian estimates Tasha will live for another two to nine months.

“When that time comes, of course I’m going to grieve,” Napier said.

“It won’t be easy. But the joy that I’ve gotten while she’s here, and rut that she got me out of — and [she] got me walking again. Those are all great things.”

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