EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – It's the part we often don't think of when adopting a pet: The end.
For some, they can't be there in those final days. Sometimes, it's financial. Sometimes, it's situational.
This is where a very special network of volunteers step in. Hospice fosters provide terminally ill and elderly animals comfort in their final days, weeks or months.
Rachel Mairose and Amy Vannurden work at SecondHand Hounds in Eden Prairie. They've now expanded their services as a rescue shelter – to also offer hospice care.
Mairose, the executive director and founder of SecondHand Hounds, says the idea came to her 5 years ago, after taking in a 17-year-old miniature pinscher named Elvyn.
"I literally knew I was pulling this dog in to euthanize him," Mariose says.
But Elvyn lived a lot longer than anyone had expected. In the loving care of a hospice foster, he lived for another 7 more months.
"With Elvyn, it showed me how much love could change the course. It put the seed in my head that this needed to be a program and it needed to be bigger."
SecondHand Hounds' hospice program – called "Forever Loved" – has grown into a network of 30 hospice fosters and volunteers.
"I call them my angels of rescue – who else takes these dogs in, knowing that this is the end? They do it because there's so much love for these guys," says Mariose.
Vannurden, who manages office operations, says it's the idea of having these pets die scared and alone – that got her to open her home.
"The thought of any dog being euthanized with a stranger or someone that won't tell it was a good boy, just breaks my heart."
Each hospice animal costs the rescue about $1,000. SecondHand Hounds covers the cost of all supplies, food, veterinarian and medical bills. No costs are passed down to hospice fosters. The program is funded solely through donations.
Mariose and Vannurden admit, becoming a hospice foster is not for everyone. But they say the heartache is small in comparison to what you receive.
Mariose explains, "these are the dogs impact your family and show you who you are as a human. It gives you a clearer picture of what you're capable of and what your love can do."