Best Friends Network spotlight: Lifeline Animal Project

Dog with terminal cancer at Lifeline Animal Project is taken home by a giving ‘fospice' (foster hospice) mom to make the most of the time he has left.
By Arin Greenwood

Being part of the Best Friends Network gives animal welfare groups all across the country the tools needed to save more lives, and the chance to work together to Save Them All.

Best Friends has network partners in every single state, and all of them are saving lives daily. We never get tired of hearing their stories, and that’s why we want to share them with you, too. So today, we're proud to present one from LifeLine Animal Project in Atlanta, Georgia.

A dog named Grandma Dot is elderly, deaf and has terminal cancer. But Jessica Miller, her "fospice" (hospice foster) mom, thinks she's just perfect and savors every minute they get to spend together.

In February, Grandma Dot came into the LifeLine Animal Project's shelter in Atlanta, Georgia. While her condition suggested her life hadn't been easy, LifeLine staff fell right in love with the dog that spokesperson Karen Hirsch calls "sweet, loving, happy, and affectionate."

When Grandma Dot was diagnosed with an untreatable cancer a few months into her tenure at the shelter, folks became even more determined to make sure this dog would live out her days in a home where she'd be given every good thing a dog could want.

"We believe she probably never lived in a home as a pet before, and she is so loving that she deserves to know what it's like to be loved back," Karen says.

Grandma Dot deserves to know what it's like to be loved

Grandma Dot goes home

Grandma Dot got that loving home in early July. Jessica, new to Atlanta, was just completing her LifeLine volunteer orientation training. The session ended with a tour of the kennels, and Grandma Dot's was the very last one.

After being introduced to the sweet dog and hearing of her panoply of medical problems — the cancer, heart disease and heartworms (none of which can be treated) — Jessica knew she'd be the one to take her home for foster hospice. That means LifeLine covers medical expenses, and Jessica is responsible for giving her comfort and love.

"I was instantly moved and knew that was my purpose as a volunteer and as a foster mom. I couldn't stand the thought of her spending her final days in a shelter instead of a cozy home," she says.

On July 8, Grandma Dot went home. Everyone from LifeLine was so happy for Grandma Dot they came out to cheer and see her off. Volunteers even put together a big going-home package with a dog bed, treats and toys.

Everyone from LifeLine was so happy for Grandma Dot they came out to cheer and see her off

Spoiling a senior dog

Jessica has busied herself spoiling Grandma Dot ever since. She gets ice cream and home-cooked goodies. Jessica keeps the air conditioning extra chilly since that's what Grandma Dot prefers.

She'd love to take the dog on some road trips and for outings to enjoy even more special foods. Hopefully, Grandma Dot's health will hold up.

Jessica says Grandma Dot feels really good right now and her quality of life is great. "Her genuine joy for life itself makes me incredibly happy! She will get herself so excited she will run around and fall over. It doesn't faze her a bit. She just keeps going."

The rewards of hospice foster

Karen hopes that Grandma Dot's story will inspire others to consider bringing home a Grandma Dot of their own. "We believe that every dog deserves to know what it's like to be cared for and loved," she says. "And if they can experience that for even one week, then our efforts have been successful."

It's been a month and a half of that so far for Grandma Dot, but Jessica doesn't know how much more time they will have. That part, of course, can be excruciatingly hard. Jessica does know to the depths of her soul that however long they get, it's all worth it.

"It makes me feel accomplished, that I'm making a difference in her life," Jessica says. "I know she is loving her new life. Do you see that smile?"

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Jessica knows she's making a difference in Grandma Dot's life

Editor's note:
Grandma Dot passed away after her story was published. Here's a note from Jessica, who loved her until the very end: 
"We made it our goal from day one to spoil Grandma, love her unconditionally, and know that the moment her quality of life began to slip that we would say goodbye. She had progressively gotten worse over these past few weeks and yesterday was the first time where she couldn't lay down and just be comfortable. As hard as that was to watch we consulted with the vets and knew it was time.

I took Grandma to get one last ice cream cone and she devoured it. She ate lots of treats while we waited. And when it was time, she passed very peacefully surrounded by people who loved her. She isn't suffering, she didn't die in the shelter alone, and she finally knew a real and loving home!"

Photos courtesy of The Adventures of Grandma Dot