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Buster after his remarkable transformation. (Contributed)

To many people, the term “palliative care” is associated with dying, but the Nova Scotia SPCA’s Palliative Care Program is about living. It’s about ensuring that senior pets and those with compromised health get to live out the rest of their days in a foster home filled with love, care, comfort and happiness.

Since the program began in 2009, more than 40 animals have been placed with loving foster families. Some were surrendered by people who could no longer care for them properly due to the animal’s advanced age or medical conditions. Others entered the Nova Scotia SPCA’s care through cruelty investigations. In many cases, animals didn’t receive essential veterinary care and years of neglect took an irreversible toll on their health.

Sandra Flemming, Nova Scotia SPCA provincial director of animal care, encourages people to open their heart and home to a palliative animal in need.

“I tell prospective foster families that all they have to do is provide the love. The SPCA covers all other costs, including food, medical costs and when the time comes, euthanasia,” said Flemming.

With hospitals onsite at three Nova Scotia SPCA shelters, required veterinary care can be provided for free while the animal lives in a long-term, loving foster setting.

Each of the precious souls in the palliative care program has a story to tell and sometimes that story is amazing.

Take Buster, for example. The first 10 years of Buster’s life were not filled with the care and love he deserved. He was found stray and in poor shape when he arrived at a Nova Scotia SPCA shelter: vision loss, hearing loss, a sore, bloated belly and severely matted. Initially, staff worried that Buster’s spirit was broken. He rarely interacted with people and seemed so sad. Over time, he began to trust people. After a diagnosis of Cushing’s disease, he was placed in the palliative care program. Then, Buster’s life changed.

Stepheny Hunter and her partner, Peter Sarty, were looking to adopt a small, older dog. When they spotted Buster on the Nova Scotia SPCA’s Facebook page, they knew they had to meet him.

“We took him for a walk, saw how sweetly he interacted with other animals and kids and we jumped at the chance to foster him,” said Hunter.

“At the shelter, we watched Buster go from a sad, tired old dog to a joyful puppy as he dragged a huge box of treats into the middle of the room.”

Buster’s transformation was remarkable. His after photo says it all.

“The palliative care program is perfect for us as lower-income young adults who can’t always afford the medical expenses that come along with having a pet. If you’re thinking of getting a pet, I’d highly recommend this amazing program. It gives animals in-need a second chance to have a loving family and we’re so grateful the program brought Buster into our life,” said Hunter.

To learn more about this life-changing program and how you can help, visit novascotiaspca.ca/palliative-care-program/.

Sadly, Buster has since passed away. He died on Nov. 8 in the caring arms of his foster parents, knowing that he was loved and that he mattered.

Judy Layne is a volunteer with the Nova Scotia SPCA. She is committed to speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves. She believes that each one of us who cares about animals can make a difference and together we can make the world a better place for animals.

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