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Pet Peace Of Mind Program Helps Hospice Patients With Pets

| Published on April 2, 2016

A program called Pet Peace of Mind is helping families alleviate the additional stress of caring for a pet by helping cover essential pet care needs.

“I know of countless numbers of older adults – widows and widowers, veterans, those living with chronic illnesses and those on hospice care – who have said that their pet is their lifeline,” says Dianne McGill, President of Pet Peace of Mind.

They have helped thousands of people with pet care needs, and preserve the bond that exists between hospice patients and their pets through the patient’s end-of-life journey.

Image source: Pet Peace of Mind
Donna Sarner, whose story is below, and one of her dogs, Bertie. Image source: Pet Peace of Mind


Helping Patients Keep Their Pets

Pets Peace of Mind is a volunteer program that partners with hospice programs to help those living in hospice continue to enjoy the comfort and healing powers of their beloved pets.

“The program was designed to be an extension of hospice’s overall mission to provide care and support for patients and their families during the end of life journey,” McGill told iHeartDogs. “Since many patients consider their petsessential family members, the program is there to acknowledge and validate this important element of the patient’s support network. For many terminally ill patients, pets provides a powerful antidote – sometimes the most powerful antidote –  to isolation, loneliness, and depression.”

The volunteers provide help with daily necessities including, feeding, grooming, walking, cleaning up waste, etc. In addition, they will help get the pet’s food, medications and other supplies. If the owner ends up in a health care facility, the volunteers will coordinate board for the pet. And finally, when it becomes necessary, they will help re-home the pets, alleviating the patient’s fear of an uncertain future for their beloved best friend.

Image source: Pets Peace of Mind
Image source: Pets Peace of Mind

“When patients have help making arrangements for a new home, it keeps pets out of already overcrowded shelters where they may face euthanasia,” McGill said.  “From the patient’s perspective, arranging an adoption is one of the most important pieces of unfinished business many patients struggle to accomplish.  With the program’s help, they can pass in peace knowing their pets will live on  in safety  and comfort with a new family who will love and care for them.”

The program also provides financial assistance when appropriate, McGill explained. The hands-on care and re-homing are always free services. Costs for vet care, medications, food, grooming, and boarding may or may not be covered depending on the patient’s financial situation.

A Real-Life Story

One such story is highlighted in the newest video from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s public awareness campaign, “Moments of Life: Made Possible by Hospice.”

Cornerstone Hospice patient Donna Sarner – featured in the video – is 68 years-old and lives in a small, rural town in Central Florida. She has late-stage cancer, which causes her a great deal of pain throughout her back, abdomen and legs, and limits her ability to care for her dogs, cats, and various other animals around her property.

Sarner takes comfort in her dog, Bertie. Image source: Pet Peace of Mind

The Pet Peace of Mind volunteers at Cornerstone Hospice are helping Sarner by delivering dog and cat food regularly and transporting her dogs to the veterinarian for vaccinations and medication.

“Along with caring for the dogs, our program arranged to have the stray cats she feeds spayed, neutered, and vaccinated,” says Kristine Murtz, volunteer services manager and Pet Peace of Mind program coordinator at Cornerstone Hospice.

Watch the touching video below:

Sarner is adamant about keeping at least one of her dogs by her side, and grateful that the Pet Peace of Mind volunteers are committed to making that happen.  “She understands that it may not be realistic to have the three large dogs with her until the end, and we are already looking for loving homes for them,” says Murtz.

Image source: Pet Peace of Mind
Image source: Pet Peace of Mind


Image source: Pet Peace of Mind
Image source: Pet Peace of Mind


Image source: Pet Peace of Mind
Image source: Pet Peace of Mind

So, if you are looking for a loving pup and want to give one of these sweethearts a home, contact Kristine Murtz at

Becoming a Partner

Any non-profit hospice program in the United States can apply to become a Pet Peace of Mind program partner.  If awarded, the organization is given the education and tools necessary to run a successful program.

The non-profit has autonomy over the types of pets it allows, McGill said. However, the Pets Peace of Mind Program is fully open to helping patients with any pet. Even horses! She shared the following touching story with us from one of their hospice partners in the Midwest:

“Shortly after Pet Peace of Mind was launched in 2009, the hospice had a patient who raised his three horses from foals.  He lived alone and had a medical emergency which forced him to leave his home without saying goodbye to them.  Realizing he was never going to return, he asked his hospice care team to bring the horses to him so he could say goodbye and they did.  He died shortly afterwards.” 


If you work at a hospice, you can contact them on their website for information about getting a Pets Peace of Mind Program in your center.

Becoming a Volunteer

Want to know if there is a Pets Peace of Mind program partner near you that needs help? Operating continuously since 2009, Pet Peace of Mind programs are available in 35 states.  A complete listing of hospices that offer the program is available on the national website.

If you are unable to volunteer but would still like to help, the Pet Peace of Mind program in a non-profit supported by public donations.  Gifts of any size have an immediate impact on the lives of terminally ill patients and their pets. Donations can be made through the website.

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