Friday, February 4, 2011

How to save a life

I love watching Dogtown ... all curled up with my own cats and dogs, comfy and cozy on a Saturday night.   Like many others in the animal loving community, one of my pet pipe dreams is to have such a sanctuary here in Nova Scotia.
Will we ever have a Best Friends North here?  Probably not.  In a province where wonderful ideas like Low Cost / High Volume Spay Neuter Clinics are relegated to the back burner for lack of funding, even an optimist like myself understands that a physical sanctuary is more pipe dream than possibility.
Long before recycling and reusing were fashionable, people in the Maritimes were experts at making do.  Jars saved for jam making ... tin cans kept for 'scareaway' lines strung in gardens ... staining wood fences and shingles with secondhand car oil ... you get the idea.
So it should come as no surprise that some of the animal rescue groups and shelters are well versed in thinking outside the box.  Does the absence of an actual sanctuary mean there are no options out there for rescued pets in need of Palliative care?  That the ones who are too frail or too ill to be adopted have no other options?
Not always.   Last year Metro won an award for its wonderful Palliative Foster Care program. 
Before that, Beagle Paws realized that so many of the beagles surrendered to them are so senior or frail that they remain in permanent foster for the rest of their lives that they instituted their Angel Program.
Now East Coast German Shepherd Rescue is starting their own Palliative Care Program.  They are recruiting fosters .. and no, you don't have to live in the HRM area to volunteer for this.  
Palliative care actually is part and parcel of No Kill ... and any group that is actually No Kill does not give anyone already in their care a Premature Unhappy Tail.  The operative word there being 'already'.   The ability of a group to accept and care for pets that do not have years of love to offer is often directly connected to having volunteers willing to do palliative care foster.
What does that mean in realspeak?  It means that anyone who volunteers for this special type of fostering is definitely saving a life!
Being a palliative care foster parent IS different than 'regular' fostering, where pets are nurtured and schooled in the social skills they need to be adopted.   Pets in palliative care have reached their destination and will not be journeying on to a new home. 
It takes a kind heart to foster and it is quite common to see "foster failures" who simply could not bring themselves to part with the pet in their care.  People who think they would be 'foster failures' might actually be very good at palliative care fostering.   After all, a pet is not an appliance or a car and there are no guarantees as to how much time we will be granted with any pet of any age. 
Palliative care fosters are at liberty to open their hearts completely because nobody has to wave good-bye.  They might not have years to spend together, but they do have THAT.
In some instances, they have the joy of being able to introduce a good pet to the first love and comfort that pet has ever known.  The satisfaction of knowing that this pet has never had it so good.
Best of all, by opening their hearts and their homes to provide a place where pets can live the rest of their lives in peace and dignity, palliative care fosters REALLY are saving a life.
Kind of frosting on the cake that it also provides a splendid opportunity to teach children in the neighbourhood real life lessons about compassion and respect for life.
I believe in animal rights, and high among them is the right to the gentle stroke of a human hand.  Robert Brault

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