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Hospice Care with Pets


Dogs and cats are vital members of many families. Unfortunately, most hospice programs are not equipped to allow terminally ill patients to keep their beloved companions. Hospice chaplain and former veterinarian, The Rev. Delana Taylor McNac, is keeping people and pets together.

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(Locator: Tulsa, Oklahoma)

Jan Ward: "I'm Jan Ward and this is my husband Dan, and we're the primary caregivers for my mother Lila Crutchfield."

The Rev. Delana McNac: "The husband died when I was still his chaplain, and when I left the hospice sometime later his wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer and became a hospice patient herself."

Jan Ward: "My mother spoiled those dogs. She was their mom. They were literally her life."

Dan Ward: "When she really started to deteriorate, she expected Jan to give them the attention that she gave them. And not only was she trying to care for her mother, but was expected to do these special things the dogs got all the time."

The Rev. Delana McNac: "There actually came a point in time when they were considering finding the pets another home. I think that would have been devastating for her."

The Rev. Delana McNac, Pet Peace of Mind: "My name is Rev. Delana Taylor McNac and I am deacon with Haikey Chapel Indian United Methodist Church here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I started the Pet Peace of Mind Program back in 2007 because I saw a need for trying to help patients and pets stay together during the time a terminally-ill patient is in hospice."

Jan Ward: "And she said. 'Now, what's going to happen when I die?' And I said. 'What do you mean what's going to happen?' I said. 'You're going to go to heaven and you know we'll see you someday.' She goes, 'You know what I mean. I'm talking about my dogs.'"

The Rev. Delana McNac: "So the hospice brought the dogs from an adjoining town and would take them every day to come visit her."

Jan Ward: "They were there the day before she passed away. They were so comforting to her. She knew that her dogs were taken care of and she really appreciated that. I could not have done what I done for my mother, provided the level of care, if I would not have had them and the Pet Peace of Mind program involved in helping take care of her dogs."

The Rev. Delana McNac: "One of the things that I tell our new hospice coordinators about is how important pets are to children in the homes of hospice patients. A case in point is a family with a single mom and her eight-year-old son named Brady."

Brady: "Grandpa's been sick and he has just been sleeping in his room all day."

Mom: "Dad was in the hospital doing really bad and the doctors said hospice is going to talk to you. And I was like, 'Oh really?'"

Brady: "He has like six months I heard, and so it just feels kind of sad."

The Rev. Delana McNac: "The stress of being a full-time caregiver, that's a lot for an eight-year-old to manage. But fortunately they have a cat named Lucas."

Brady: "My cat's not like any other cat. If I feel sad then he comes up and plays with me and makes me feel happy again."

Mom: "He just seems to sense that Dad's not feeling well. And he always seems like he wants to be in there with him, looking after him in a funny way."

Brady: "Since I can't always be here, because I got school, I like how he just goes in there and just lays with Grandpa since I can't."

The Rev. Delana McNac: "And so Brady's mother Donna was faced with how to care for this cat that meant so much to her son."

Donna: "He was at an age where he needed to be neutered. And it was something I definitely had to consider and I was trying to figure out, how am I going to get this done? If anybody out there knows what it's like to have a pet, they know those things are not, they can be expensive, especially when you're on a strained budget."

The Rev. Delana McNac: "Pet Peace of Mind came into the situation and offered to have the cat neutered and up to date on his vaccinations so that they would be assured he was healthy."

Donna: "So it's been a huge burden lifted throughout out this time."

The Rev. Delana McNac: "His antics lighten up the room. You would almost be able to forget for a while that there was going to be a loss in that home."

Brady: "It would just be really hard to live without him."

The Rev. Delana McNac: "Hospice patients unfortunately find themselves having to deal with everybody else's reaction to their illness. People come to visit them who are actively grieving and the patient is put into a position where they have to be the one to comfort people. So, to have someone in their lives who doesn't respond to that, who treats them the same as they always have, who doesn't care if they are having a good day or a bad day, is a very important spiritual and emotional resource for a dying patient. What we want to do is help hospices see that pets are part of the family. We have in mind changing the face of hospice care in the same way that our culture has changed. So that when people consider pets important to their well being, that hospices understand that and have the resources that they need to make that happen."


The Rev. Delana Taylor McNac writes a blog about the people and pets she meets through Pet Peace of Mind. To learn more, visit

Posted: March 8, 2011