Could You Welcome a Hospice Pet Into Your Home?

Most of us couldn’t bear the thought of opening our hearts to more pain while grieving the loss of a beloved pet. But that’s exactly what Eileen Hill of Minnesota did when she saw a photo of Little Miss Rue posted on Forever Loved: Secondhand Hounds Hospice Facebook page.

The 14-year-old dachshund had been left alone for three weeks in a house in Kentucky after her owner was sent to prison. Fed by neighbors who threw food through the door, she had no teeth, cancerous growths on her belly and an oral fistula. Now, she was in a shelter and in desperate need of a foster home. It was only one week since Hill had lost her beloved Tater, an English bulldog.

“I felt like Tater had sent Little Miss Rue to me to tell me to keep loving even when I was hurting so much,” Hill said. “When I first held her in my arms she was so frail, so underweight and had so many medical issues that I felt we might only have her for a week.”

But almost one year later Little Miss Rue is enjoying every day to the fullest in the Hill household. She’s excited to get up every morning, overjoyed at mealtime and content to curl up in bed with the Hills at night. She loves car rides and walks and attention and she makes every day a good day for her foster family.

It Takes a Selfless, Compassionate and Strong Family to Foster Hospice Pets

It was in the spring of 2015, that Secondhand Hounds launched the hospice program following multiple requests to take in terminally-ill senior pets living in shelters. The rescue group located in Eden Prairie, MN, has rescued and found homes for more than 10,000 abused, neglected and abandoned dogs since being founded in 2009, and couldn’t turn its back on these unwanted seniors.

“We could not let these elderly terminally-ill dogs live out their final days in a cold, lonely shelter,” said Kallie Radford, hospice program coordinator.

The program relies on foster families to open their hearts and homes to hospice pets.  So far the program has taken in 48 terminally-ill pets – mostly dogs and a few cats. The goal of the program is not to prevent or postpone euthanasia but instead to allow these hospice pets to live out their final days with dignity. Thirty-one of the hospice fosters have passed away peacefully in their foster homes surrounded by people who loved and respected them. The remaining 17 are enjoying life with their foster families.

“It takes a very selfless, compassionate and strong family to foster hospice pets,” Radford said. “Essentially they are taking these pets in as their own and loving them fiercely until it is their time to pass. You never know how long you will have a hospice dog, it could be a day, a week or a few months.”

Radford said the rescue group is lucky to have an amazing network of foster families who quickly step up to take in hospice pets. She is among those families. Her first hospice was Skelator, a 20-year-old cat, who weighed in at just four pounds and had only one tooth. He was picked up on the streets and brought to a shelter in the south where he was rescued by Secondhand Hounds. It was Skelator’s face that first caught Radford’s attention.


Skelator posing during a Secondhand Hounds 2016 Holiday Photo Shoot. Image credit: Courtesy of Kallie Radford

“He looked irritated all the time – like a grumpy old man – even though he was actually a very happy cat,” Radford said. “Because he was in such poor health, I thought I would only have him a week or two.”

Instead with a good diet and loving care, he bounced back. As he gained weight, he also became more energetic and enjoyed wrestling with Radford’s one-year-old kitten and running up the stairs to sleep on her bed. She ended up adopting Skelator, and he lived with her for one and half years before passing away.

Everly, an elderly miniature poodle, was her second hospice foster. She passed away six months later of renal failure.

“Up until her last two weeks she was very spunky,” Radford said. “She was a sassy girl who loved to growl and bark to get attention.”


Up until her last two weeks of life in hospice foster care, Everly was a spunky sassy little girl. Image Credit: Courtesy of Kallie Radford

Hill, who has volunteered with Secondhand Hounds for six years, draws strength and emotional support from Radford and the other hospice foster parents. They stay connected through social media, by phone and when they meet in person at hospice foster playdates. Secondhand Hounds provides financial support for hospice fosters and they receive medical support and advice from the medical team at the rescue group between veterinary visits.


Little Miss Rue enjoys meeting Arthur during a hospice foster playdate. Image credit: Courtesy of Kallie Radford

Despite all of her medical issues, Little Miss Rue is the boss in her foster home and nobody objects. Once Hill saw that her little foster was gaining strength she started a Little Miss Rue bucket list: go to a park, visit an ice cream parlor, eat on a patio at a dog-friendly restaurant, go see Santa, take a boat ride (the main image features Little Miss Rue enjoying a boat ride).

“We are still going strong and running out of things to do with her,” Hill said. “We don’t think about the day we will no longer have Little Miss Rue. She has brought so much joy to our whole family and has taught us to live in the now.”

The Forever Loved: Secondhand Hounds Hospice program is always in need of financial donations to help cover medical expenses of the pets in its care. Supporters can also sponsor a foster dog or purchase and ship supplies from the program’s wishlist.


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Eileen Hill


Marie W
Marie W7 months ago

thanks for sharing

iloshechka A
iloshechka Aabout a year ago


Stephanie s
Stephanie Yabout a year ago

Very special people caring for very special furries.

Effra W
Effra Wabout a year ago

Bless them all! What a great and brave thing to do. Thanks for sharing.

Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine Andersenabout a year ago

Those people are amazing and bless them for taking in those animals and giving them the final days the all deserve. Thanks for sharing.

Naomi R
Naomi Rabout a year ago


Glennis W
Glennis Whitneyabout a year ago

Very informative. Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis Whitneyabout a year ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis Whitneyabout a year ago

Very interesting article Thank you for caring and sharing

Sandra V
Sandra Vitoabout a year ago