In the early days of the Cochrane Humane Society, way back in the 20th century, a street cat came into our care named Norman. Through a series of unusual circumstances Norman ended up making the shelter his home and he spent the next 15 years roaming the halls of first the old shelter on Bow St and then in his upgraded accommodations at our current location. When I came to the CAHS in 2010 Norman was a fixture both in the shelter and in my office. I was fortunate to spend the next four years sharing my desk, my lap and occasionally, albeit inadvertently, my lunch with the inimitable Norman. When he passed in 2014 he left a hole: in our offices, in our lunchroom and in our hearts. And so with him in mind we started taking on new family members; animals that for whatever reason were not good candidates for adoption but still deserved a chance to finish their lives with respect and dignity. There was Sasha for whom administering medication typically involved a headlock and band aids. Our animal care staff became very adept at hiding pills in food and we started buying hydrogen peroxide in bulk. Along came Sailor, who made eating lunch a contact sport. He suffered from kidney disease and was always ravenous. Forget the table – that was Sailor’s domain. You learned quickly how to eat with one hand while holding your plate up high with the other. Our first official canine companion was the beautiful Crocus. She found in us an extended family that welcomed her, warts and all. She became a travelling dog, spending her weekends at the homes of volunteers, enjoying the kind of life she should have had all along. Our most recent resident was the distinguished Max, a handsome old shepherd who couldn’t really hear, couldn’t really see and whose lack of control with bodily functions had us following him around with a mop. But boy, was he a sweetheart! Max got along with cats, dogs and the occasional visiting ferret or pig and was adored by everyone who met him. In amongst these characters were others whose stay with us was far too brief but they all left their mark in our hearts and occasionally elsewhere in the building.
Our unofficial End of Life program started out as temporary housing in our staff area for animals that needed some extra medical attention and TLC. It has become almost a promise to the animals we serve that says just because they are old or sick doesn’t mean that their life is without value. If there is still quality in their lives then there is a place for them with us and people that will do their best to make their last months or years worthwhile. There are far too many animals for whom an animal shelter is their final home. We are privileged to have the opportunity to make a difference in those animals’ lives and the lives of all the animals we care for. I think Norman would approve. He was never a stickler for societal norms and he experienced firsthand that family can come in many different forms.
Source: Cochrane Humane Society