It must’ve felt like a Christmas miracle to three senior pets who’d been left alone in their home for four weeks. The veterinarian sent to euthanize the elderly animals not only deemed them healthy, but she decided to adopt them just in time for the holidays.
“I knew the only chance they had to stay together and recover physically and emotionally from the trauma was if they came home with me,” says Dr. Christie Cornelius of Last Wishes In-Home Pet Hospice in Houston, Texas.
Christine got the call about 12-year-old Pekingese mix Bear, 15-year-old Chihuahua Bitsy Marie, and their 18-year-old feline sibling, Miss Kitty, one month after their 90-year-old human passed away.
“The family tried very hard to find homes for the seniors but couldn’t find anyone willing to take in old pets with some health issues,” Christine tells Dogster.
The departed woman’s youngest dog — a male Chihuahua — had already been adopted by her former employee, but that person didn’t have the resources to take in the three seniors as well.
Instead, the former employee came by each day to check on and feed the trio while family members struggled to come up with a plan that didn’t involve a shelter. They knew if surrendered, the animals would likely be euthanized, and no one wanted them to spend their last days in a shelter.
Eventually, the departed woman’s nephew called Last Wishes.
“They were literally out of options,” says Christine. As a veterinary hospice provider, Christine is used to helping pets — and their people — before, during, and after an animal’s final days. She’s typically called into homes to provide compassionate euthanasia to pets in the end stages of a fatal illness. In this case, what she found were pets whose suffering was more emotional than physical.
“When we got there, they had been alone in the home for four weeks and were probably wondering where their owner was,” she recalls. “After that amount of time, they looked like they’d kind of gave up.”
Christine and her technician first laid eyes on Bear, who was lying in a dog bed in the living room. He seemed concerned, but didn’t get up until Bitsy Marie approached the unexpected visitors. When Bitsy’s wagging tail signaled safety, Bear came closer, and soon the two old dogs were being lavished with affection — something they’d clearly been missing.
The cat, Miss Kitty, was the last to be discovered. She was thin, and her fur was in bad shape, but she soon perked up just like her dog siblings and began purring for Christine.
Upon seeing the condition of the pets, Christine called her life partner, Paulette Goodreau, and then started planning for three extra Christmas stockings.
Bear, Bitsy, and Miss Kitty moved in with Christine, her partner, and their dogs and cats. Unlike Miss Kitty — who was pretty traumatized and needed her own area of the house — Christine says Bear and Bitsy quickly made friends with her other dogs, Pinky the Boxer – Pit Bull mix; Bob, an 80-pound Pit Bull mix; and a Rat Terrier known as The Boss.
“They really love our other pets, and our pets love them. They just integrated really well. They all sleep on the bed with us.”
As the three seniors adjusted to the change, Christine and her partner adjusted their holiday week plans. Christine’s partner chose to stay behind with the pets while Christine will visit family, returning home in plenty of time for Christmas with the new additions.
The three seniors who almost didn’t see this season could have even more holidays left in them. Christine says Bitsy Marie has some pretty severe dental disease, but once her teeth are taken care of, she’s expected to live a few more years. Bear has an enlarged heart and will be seeing a cardiologist, but is otherwise well, and although Christine suspects kidney disease and possibly hyperthyroid in Miss Kitty, the cat’s health is already improving.
The new year will bring more snuggles, cuddles, and petting sessions for the three seniors, and more options for families in need of Christine’s services as Last Wishes plans to open a hospice center in late January. She and her colleagues will be there to help animals whose time has come while Bear, Bitsy, and Miss Kitty enjoy another kind of compassion.