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Bea’s Story: A Dying Dog’s Happy, Last Days

Senior fospice dog Bea with a white face and jeweled collar sits in living room with plants behind her.

Beatrice, or Bea, for short, was 14-years old when she returned to the Humane Society of Utah’s Pet Resource Center in Murray. Her caregivers had adopted her from us years ago but needed to bring her back because they were moving to a place that didn’t accept bully breeds. Bea also had two large masses on her side, one of which was bleeding. This is usually a sign of cancer, and unfortunately, her family couldn’t afford the vet bills to care for her failing health.

After Bea’s masses were surgically removed and biopsied by our shelter veterinarian, she was diagnosed with cancer and given just 2-4 months to live. During her recovery, she took a turn for the worse and refused to eat, drink or even move. Anjela Sullenger, HSU’s Behavior and Training Manager, didn’t want Bea to spend her last days in the shelter, so she took her home to foster her. 

“She was in so much pain, so I didn’t expect her to live longer than a week,” Anjela explained. “But then she started to settle in at my house, and she fell in love with my younger dog, Archie, who is really affectionate. They would bounce on the couch together and play. It was so cute.”

Fospice Dog On Borrowed Time

Bea slowly began to regain her strength and her appetite. Suddenly, she wanted treats, lots of treats! Knowing that Bea was terminally ill and on borrowed time, Anjela let her have as many goodies as her precious heart desired. She also ensured Bea had access to the coziest of dog beds and blankets. But Bea’s favorite spot to sleep was in Angela’s bed.

“She was very mucousy, and I didn’t want her slobber on my nice comforter, but she insisted on being under the covers right next to me.” So Angela let her stay, and they cuddled together all night long.

During the day, Bea would follow Anjela wherever she went, including the bathroom. There, she’d park herself on the bathmat to watch Anjela get ready for the day. “My favorite memory of Bea is of her waiting at the door with my other dogs for me to get home. When she saw me coming, she’d tap her feet, spin around and then kiss me on the face. It was wonderful seeing her so happy and having such a wonderful time despite her illness.”

Saying Good-Bye

After a little over a month together, Anjela discovered a new tumor attached to Bea’s abdominal wall, and within one week, it had tripled in size. At this time, Bea’s cognitive abilities began to decline. With her quality of life quickly deteriorating, Anjela knew it was time to say goodbye. On Bea’s last day of life, Anjela spoiled her with her favorite canned dog food and her very own sushi donut. “She LOVED it and was so excited to have the whole thing to herself.”  

When it was time for Bea to be euthanized, Angela held her in her arms as an HSU staff member administered the medication. Our humane euthanasia is a rapid and painless procedure, so Bea passed away peacefully and within less than 20 seconds. “It was hard to see her go, of course, but I absolutely did not want her to suffer anymore just because I enjoyed having her around. As her caretaker, it was my responsibility to help her avoid any pain or fear, and helping her to peacefully transition was an important way for me to show love for her.”

Fostering Compassion

At HSU, we’re always looking for fosters who can provide less traditional care for animals in need, like Bea. Terminally ill pets typically require more maintenance than we can provide at the shelter, and since their quality of life can improve while in a home, fospice care is really important for these dying pets. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find people to support them. The main reason for this is the belief that the time commitment will be too much. However, these animals are so sick that they mostly require medication, cuddles, and sleep. In fact, terminally ill animals are often easier to care for than our younger foster pets. To make the process easier on individuals willing to foster, HSU provides for their medication, food, treats, toys, blankets, and vet care. 

Angela shared, “We hope more individuals and families will consider opening up their hearts and homes to these pets so they can live out their last days knowing how loved they are. Bea is a perfect example of this. She was so happy and full of life during her last month with me, and she had a warm, safe place to call home. Her last days were not scary or confusing for her, and this is what makes the experience worthwhile.”

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