THE BELLO PROJECT HELPS THE TERMINALLY ILL WITH PET CARE, REHOMING SUPPORT
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 www.homehospiceassociation.com. You can donate to support their work at www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/ home-hospice-association.