Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How Yavapai Humane Society cares for the neediest animals

YHS volunteer Ruth Steffes
provided hospice care during
the final weeks of Hershey’s life.
The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) subscribes to the ethic that all life is sacred; and homeless pets ought not to be killed simply because of a lack of space, resources or out of convenience. This ethic leads to taking responsibility for the animals in our care, rather than excusing problems and hiding consequences.

The most difficult animals for any shelter to care for are those suffering from a disease, injury or congenital or hereditary condition likely to adversely affect the animal's health in the future. Animal shelters across the United States almost universally support euthanasia for these animals. It is for these animals that YHS launched an innovative hospice program.

Providing hospice care for animals like Hershey is the right thing to do. Hershey was a 10-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever found lost and alone by a Good Samaritan at Lynx Lake. How he came to be lost is pure speculation. Perhaps out-of-towners lost him during a day hike and were unable to find him, so left him behind - not knowing his fate, fearing the worst.

When YHS rescued Hershey, he had no identification or name. If he had a microchip, YHS could have found his owner and Hershey could have spent his last days at home. That is, if his owner even wanted him anymore. A less appealing speculation is that the owner knew Hershey's medical conditions were serious and felt the only way to deal with it was to abandon him in the woods, to let nature take its course.

Whatever the reason for him being lost, on Thursday, March 15 he was found. YHS named him Hershey because of his color and disposition (everybody loves chocolate). There was never a time Hershey's tail wasn't wagging.

At first we thought we were simply dealing with a lost dog with a pesky skin condition. Ruth Steffes, a longtime YHS partner who specializes in rescuing and re-homing Golden Retrievers was smitten by Hershey and volunteered to foster him.

At her request and expense, Ruth took Hershey to Dr. Hufford at Thumb Butte Animal Hospital where the good doctor discovered additional complications - including a large tumor attached to Hershey's spleen. Due to Hershey's age and condition, he was not a candidate for surgery. Dr. Hufford worked with Ruth to stabilize Hershey's condition through his final weeks, making sure he was pain free and able to enjoy life.

And Hershey did enjoy his last weeks of life with Ruth (an angel disguised as a human). However, on Memorial Day, the swelling in Hershey's abdomen increased. He lost control of his bladder and could not lie down comfortably. Two days later, the decision was made to end Hershey's suffering.

The YHS Hospice program extended Hershey's quality of life over two months. While two months may not seem worth the effort, remember we're talking dog months. A dog can pack a lot of life and love into two months, and Hershey did just that, touching many of us.

Hershey was lovingly helped to the Rainbow Bridge by Ruth and her good friend, Robin Fox. The two ladies held him close to their hearts as he peacefully slipped away, a far cry from dying alone in the woods.

If you would like more information on providing short-term hospice care or other types of foster care please consider enrolling in one of our life-affirming programs. YHS routinely provides all the medical care the animal will need, including euthanasia when the time comes. All you need to provide is food (which we can help with), water, shelter and love. If interested, call 445-2666, ext. 18.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.