Remaining Days Filled with Love

By Judy Layne

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, caring, comfort and happiness.

Since the program began in 2009, over 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 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, 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.” With hospitals on-site at three SPCA shelters, required veterinary care can be provided 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. The first ten 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 the SPCA shelter – vision loss, hearing loss, a sore bloated belly, 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 Cushings 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 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”, says 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. We’ve seen so many more moments like that since he’s been with us.”


Buster’s transformation has been remarkable. His ‘after’ photo says it all. “He’s now happy, full of life and love. He’s travelled to the U.S. and even had a starring role in a play,” relates Hunter. Buster and his foster mom stop by the SPCA Dartmouth Hospital for frequent check-ups to make sure he continues to thrive.
Hunter says “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!”

Learn more about this life-changing program and how you can help.

UPDATE: Sadly, since this article was written, Buster passed on November 8th in the caring arms of his foster parents, knowing that he was loved and that he mattered.

Judy Layne

Judy is a dedicated volunteer with the Nova Scotia SPCA and proud adoptive fur-mama to Gracie. She is committed to speaking for animals who cannot speak for themselves.