When humans get to the end of their lives, they have places that’ll take care of them. Whether family or a retirement community, they’re surrounded with not only medical attention, but also love, compassion, and companionship as they face their final days.
Animals, on the other hand, often get the exact opposite treatment.
Elderly pets are often abandoned, usually because their owners can no longer keep up with the care that they need.
One woman in the U.K. is now providing a place for dogs to go when they’re getting ready to die. She calls it the Grey Muzzle Canine Hospice Project.
Nicole Coyle used to be a nurse.
Now, she’s retired from nursing, but she can’t stay idle. She’s also been a lifelong dog lover. Coyle says she was always saddened by the thought of dogs living out their last days with no one to care for or comfort them. She thought it must be a frightening experience for a dog who is elderly, sick, or in pain not to know where its family is or what’s happening.
So, Coyle now runs a hospice for dying dogs out of her home.
Her goal is to shower them with love and comfort for the last part of their lives, whether it’s for months or just for a couple of days.
Coyle gets dogs from animal shelters and pounds, often taking those that would have either been euthanized or died alone there.
She focuses on taking dogs that have been given six months or less to live. This lets her focus on end-of-life care.
Coyle takes up to two dogs at a time, which allows her to focus on each dog and his or her needs.
“It can be an utterly heartbreaking job, but someone has to do it,” said Coyle. “I’m a complete animal lover and I just can’t bear the thought of them spending their final days, weeks, or months without the love they deserve.”
“It can be really tough, but ultimately it’s so rewarding when you can make those times special.”
Coyle says the dog who stayed with her the longest outlived its diagnosis and was with her for a year.
The one who stayed with her for the shortest amount of time was at the hospice for about two weeks. But no matter how long they’re there, Coyle makes sure to shower them with love.
“I don’t know when their birthdays are so we make sure we throw all of them a birthday party,” said Coyle.
“If they’re well enough, we take them for a day at the seaside, they get fish and chips on the beach and ice cream. We’ll also take them down to the local pub, it’s really dog-friendly, and they’ll get a steak dinner too.”
Some of the organizations that Coyle has adopted from say that she provides amazing care, often taking on the sickest, loneliest dogs.
She provides them with a loving and happy home in which they can die.
When each dog dies, Coyle has them cremated and buried in her garden or her parents’ garden, but things are getting a little crowded. She now has urns in her house as well.
Her teenage children help her with both the practical aspects of running the hospice as well as the emotional upheaval of saying goodbye.
At first, Coyle was paying out of pocket for each dog, including adoption fees, vet bills, care, and the cost of cremation and burial. But when that began to add up to about ￡500 per dog, she started asking for donations.
Her community has been glad to help financially, and Coyle couldn’t be happier that she can continue providing care for the dogs.
“Nicola does an amazing job, taking in dogs when they’ve been kicked out by their owners right at the very end of their lives – giving them the love and care most have never received previously in their lives,” said Joanne Snaith, a worker from a local animal aid organization. “I absolutely admire the work of The Grey Muzzle Project.”
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