Pet Projects



Hailey was sitting in class one day, watching a presentation. What she didn’t know was that she was about to experience a hypoglycemic episode. Coincidentally, the woman who was talking at the front of the class had brought her Diabetic Alert Dog Guide with her; during the presentation the dog alerted Hailey to her diabetic low. Hailey was amazed and couldn’t wait to tell her parents what had happened. After hearing Hailey’s story, her family promptly applied for a Dog Guide from Lions Foundation of Canada.
What makes type 1 diabetes with hypoglycemic unawareness so dangerous is that Hailey’s body does not show any physical signs that her blood sugar is changing – or dropping. On a typical day,
Hailey needs to check her insulin levels 10 to 12 times. “It’s a helpless feeling,” Hailey says, “but it’s all I’ve ever known.” Hailey has learned how to look after herself over the years. She has taken on more responsibility than others her age.
“It really prevented Hailey from doing normal things that 12 year olds want to do, like going to sleepovers with friends,” says her mother, Christine. “Managing Hailey’s condition has been a full-time job for the whole family.”
Now with Hailey’s Dog Guide, the family is relieved knowing Quatchi is there to watch over her. Lions Foundation of Canada is a national charitable foundation, created by Lions Clubs across Canada, that matches clients like Hailey with specially trained Dog Guides. Its mission is to assist Canadians with a medical or physical disability by providing them Dog Guides at no cost. Since 1983, the Foundation has placed more than 2,500 Dog Guides with handlers across the country.
Each of these Dog Guides will cost approximately $25,000 to raise, train and place with a Canadian in need; yet these dogs are provided at no cost to qualified applicants. Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides does not receive any government funding and relies on the support of fundraising events and donations from corporations, individuals, service clubs, estates and foundations.
Its dog guide programs include:
Canine Vision Dog Guides
For people who are blind or visually impaired
Hearing Ear Dog Guides
For people who are deaf or hard of hearing
Service Dog Guides
For people with a physical disability
Seizure Response Dog Guides
For people who have epilepsy
Autism Assistance Dog Guides
For children (aged three to 12) on the autism spectrum
Diabetic Alert Dog Guides
For people who have type 1 diabetes with hypoglycemic unawareness
The Diabetic Alert program was launched in 2013 and was the first internationally accredited program of its kind in Canada.
When Hailey’s blood sugar drops, Quatchi alerts her by jumping on her lap and nudging her arm. Quatchi barks for help when needed and is even trained to fetch objects like an insulin kit, juice boxes or the phone. Diabetic Alert Dog Guides are also trained to activate an alert system for handlers in an emergency.
“It’s nice knowing I can have him with me at all times,” says Hailey. “I have someone there to help me when I need it.” Thanks to Lions Foundation of Canada – and Dog Guides like Quatchi – more and more Canadians are able to enjoy an increased sense of safety, mobility and independence.
Sarah Miller is communications manager with the Lions Foundation of Canada/Dog Guides Canada. Angela Thibert is a communications volunteer at Dog Guides Canada. To learn more about the organization or to make a donation, visit




I am a passionate person who has made it my life’s work to prevent our friends, family and neighbours from walking the journey of a terminal illness alone. We have so few resources available to teach us how to care for each other on that final path, and I want to change that. When you deal with the reality of death and dying every day, you actually approach life much differently.
You understand that a good death comes from a life well lived, and so you make different decisions about your own life and look at your own mortality differently. My dog Bello was the inspiration for the Bello Project. When I thought about what would happen to him if I died before he did, it sent me into a panic. I had visions of being with Bello in my home, in my bed — and Bello being there when I died. I imagined the funeral home coming to get me and him sitting there having no idea what was happening. And then what? Someone would call animal control and he would be taken away in a van and put into a cage. The idea made me physically ill.
Considering most pet owners think of our pets as family, the idea of helping pets be part of the concept of dying well just made sense. Having someone die, worried about whether their family would then surrender or euthanize their pet seemed more inhumane than anything I could imagine. I started to imagine a better way.
I started to imagine The Bello Project.
The Bello Project offers basic care for pets to allow them to remain in their home along the entire span of a person’s illness. Basic care can include transportation of the pet for appointments, maintaining appropriate standards of care in feeding, walking and cleaning when the pet parent is too weak to maintain them and temporary overnight care when short hospital stays are required or if the person is well enough to make a final trip to see family. Our signature re-homing process allows the pet parent to hand pick the family their pet will go to upon their death.
Hospice is the best way to offer The Bello Project is because we can provide grief and bereavement counselling to everyone affected by a diagnosis. We support the individual anticipating the loss, the family who is feeling guilty about not being able to take their loved one’s pet, the new family who will likely form a bond with the person who is dying and the pet, by arranging with the funeral home to allow the pet to attend visitation and the funeral.
Regardless the length of the journey there is always the reasonable expectation that the doctor is going to utter the words, “There is nothing more we can do, it is time to put your affairs in order.” During this phase, grief counselling becomes legacy work and discussion on the re-homing part of the journey begins. The person who is dying maintains control of this process. Working with a grief counsellor, they paint a picture of their pet’s ideal new family. Options are presented and a family is chosen. Meet-and-greets take place to help with the selection.
When the selection has been made, the new family becomes part of the team that maintains appropriate standards of care. The grief counsellor now starts to work with the dying pet parent to allow for the transition to begin. Extended visits in the new family’s home help the pet get used to it’s new environment. The process of transition is the most important part for the pet and is the pet parents’ assurance that the family will not change their mind once they are wholly responsible for the care of this animal.
When death has occurred, the new family is called to take their pet home. No emergency measures and no cages! The family and the grief counsellor work to ensure that the pet’s grief journey is respected, and they will facilitate opportunities for the pet to visit their deceased pet parent at the funeral home and to attend the funeral.
Most importantly, The Bello Project comes at no cost to the pet parent or to the new re-homed family.
The Bello Project puts the control of their pet’s future firmly in the patient’s hands. The impact this has on the time the patient has remaining is so important because for them, everything feels out of their control. Allowing them to dictate the way and timeframe for saying goodbye to their pet is the greatest gift of all.
Find out more about the Bello Project at You can donate to support their work at home-hospice-association.


THE NUMBERS GAME: A maritimes charity curbs the population and improves the health of feral and free-roaming cat colonies

Meet Cat Rescue Maritimes (CARMA). The registered charity operates a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program for feral and other homeless, free-roaming cats living in colonies in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. CARMA’s primary mission is to prevent new litters on feral sites by spaying or neutering all the cats living there. CARMA also works to improve the quality of life for these animals by ensuring they have adequate food, water and shelter, as well as essential medical care under the supervision of a colony caregiver.

Abandoned  pets, friendly cats and vulnerable kittens unlikely to survive colony conditions are removed to foster care until permanent homes can be found. The CARMA foster/adoption program operates out of private homes, as the organization does not maintain a shelter facility or offices.

The program is run entirely by volunteers through community-based chapters. Over the past decade, CARMA has emerged as a major humane presence in Maritime communities, and now consists of 13 active chapters. Collectively, CARMA chapters have spayed/neutered more than 20,000 cats. Where the program is well established, large feral colonies have disappeared as new litters are prevented.

The parent organization, CARMA.ORG, sets rules of operation and admits new community chapters that meet requirements. New chapters receive some basic TNR equipment, training and a small grant for initial veterinary expenses, paid directly to the supporting veterinary clinic. For admission, new chapters must secure the support of at least one local veterinary hospital and must demonstrate committed and responsible local leadership as well as the ability to raise the necessary operating funds.

Fundraising is an essential activity for every chapter. CARMA.ORG initiates bulkpurchase arrangements and applies for equipment and operating grants, but each chapter is responsible for financing its local program. All money raised by a CARMA chapter stays in that community to benefit homeless cats there.

CARMA activity in the community raises local awareness of the humane and social issues homeless cats represent — an exploding population, visibly suffering animals and environmental and health concerns. These issues affect quality of life for people as well as cats. They also expose social and economic factors that contribute to a growing homeless cat population — lack of education, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, family violence, divorce and  mental illness. All are root causes of widespread cat abandonment and failure to spay/neuter pet cats.

Recognizing the need for a more proactive approach and following the lead of the Nova Scotia SPCA, CARMA recently launched an online survey to determine homeless cat numbers and colony locations in New Brunswick. For more information about the survey and the CARMA program, visit Cat Rescue Maritimes at PHOTOS COURTESY OF CARMA PROGRAM