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Pet Peace of Mind

Keeping hospice patients and their beloved pets together.



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Pet Peace of Mind

If you’re a pet owner, you know that a dog, cat or other ‘furry friend’ can truly become a part of your family, a part of your world.  

So it’s no surprise that those diagnosed with a debilitating or terminal illness sometimes worry more about their four-legged friends than themselves. What happens if they can no longer care for their pets? Where will those animals live once their owners are gone?   Pet Peace of Mind is a nationwide program that helps hospice patients like Donna Sarner keep their pets near them during their end of life journey.  The program also helps place the pet after the patient dies.  

Here is Donna’s story as told by Kristine Murtz, Volunteer Services Manager and Pet Peace of Mind Program Coordinator at Cornerstone Hospice:

Donna Sarner is 68 years old and lives in a small, rural town in Central Florida. She was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of unknown origin, a cancer which causes her a great deal of pain throughout her back, abdomen and legs.  She has no caregiver, no nearby family, and limited financial resources. Despite the challenges, Donna maintains a positive yet realistic attitude and wants to enjoy the time she has left with her dogs as well as the cats, vultures, raccoons and bears she feeds outside.

Donna was admitted to Cornerstone Hospice services in October of 2015 and is supported by a dedicated team who go beyond the call of duty.  The many programs we offer are about helping patients and families feel like things are going to be “ok”.

In particular, Pet Peace of Mind demonstrates the holistic approach that is at the heart of hospice . The emotional connection that people have with their pets is one to be respected and nurtured. Donna has taken better care of her pets—including the buzzards outside—than she has herself. She wants to have her dogs with her as long as possible, “until the very end.”

Donna’s Social Worker, Renee, had to wait several months before approaching advance directives and funeral plans with Donna, but PPoM visit opened the door to this by discussing how her “babies” will be cared for when she no longer can.

Donna spoke with pride about each of her dogs: Ozzie, a 6-year old Australian Shepherd/St. Bernard mix (I know, right?!); Roxy, a 5-year old Chow mix; Bertie, a 4 year-old Catahoula mix; and her beloved old guy “Highknee,” who is a 15-year old poodle mix. He’s only about ‘knee-high’, hence the name. Along with caring for the dogs, our program arranged to have the stray cats she feeds spayed, neutered, and vaccinated. We haven’t really considered what the buzzards might need!

Pet Peace of Mind volunteer Karen Sanders transported each of the dogs to one of our partner veterinarians to get them vaccinated and any necessary medications; she continues to deliver dog and cat food to Donna. We’re providing little Highknee with some medication for his congestive heart failure, and I’ve promised Donna I would personally care for him after she cannot. She also understands that it may not be realistic to have the three large dogs with her until the end, and we are already looking for loving homes for Ozzie, Roxy, and Bertie.

See the flyers below to learn about each dog. 

Learn more about Pet Peace of Mind by visiting their website.

**Update 3/30/16 – Ozzie has been adopted!  Bertie and Roxy still need homes.  Contact for more information.





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