Hospice program brings pet owners peace of mind

Juanita Andrews loves her dogs, Talon and Charlie.
 
"They're both the love of my life," Andrews said.
 
Her dogs love her right back.
 
"If I go somewhere and Charlie's not with me, he will cry the whole time I'm gone. He has to be with me all the time, or he cries," Andrews said.
 
"Charlie alerts when she's not feeling well. He will come and get me. He's not trained for it, but he does it anyway," said Betty Kennedy, Andrews's daughter.
 
Her pets are a close part of her family, and as a St. Luke's patient, Andrews and her dogs Talon and Charlie, are one of the first participants in the Pet Peace of Mind program with St. Luke's Hospice.
 
Pet Peace of Mind is a non-profit that provides hospice patients financial assistance and volunteers to continue taking special care of their animals during a difficult time. That includes, something as simple as taking the dog out for a walk, and as difficult as finding a future home for the patient's pets. The program also pays for trips to the dog groomer, check ups at Intermountain Pet Hospital, and even pet food.
 
"We've had a number of patients who have said the big thing on their mind is what's going to happen to their dog or cat. They don't want it to have to be euthanized when it's still healthy. To the patient, often times that pet is their best buddy. That's the one they talk to, they confide in, and it makes them feel better. It's really important to all of us that we're able to help them with their best friend," said Karen Jeffries, Volunteer Coordinator at St. Luke's Hospice. 
 
"Charlie's on a medication for his skin allergies that costs two dollars a pill, and we could not afford that. He was so miserable and so uncomfortable that it just breaks your heart. Now he's getting the medical care he needs," Kennedy said. 
 
"We want to give compassionate care to these folks who are struggling, often at the end of their life. It's important that what's truly keeping them going, their pets, are getting the best care needed," said Dr. Bob Beede, Veterinarian at Intermountain Pet Hospital and a Pet Peace of Mind partner.
 
Pet Peace of Mind began in Oregon and is now a nationwide program. St. Luke's picked it up in early January. It's giving hospice patients the support they need to maintain a loving bond with their pets.
 
"There's a difference in the attitude of our entire staff because it's a very hopeful program. We got a small start up grant from Pet Peace of Mind but it will be all funded by donations. All of our hospice and home care employees have the opportunity to have a donation come out of their check each month, and a lot of them chose to do that," Jeffries said. 
 
"It's a blessing, it gives me peace of mind completely. I wouldn't survive without these dogs, they are my total life line," Andrews said.
 
St. Luke's Hospice has three patients signed up for this new program and three more are registering now.
 
Contact Karen Jeffries at St. Luke's Hospice, (208) 381-2789, if you would like to make a donation or volunteer in any way.
 
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