Mercy helping animal lovers in hospice care navigate with ‘Pet Peace of Mind’ program

The move to hospice care can be difficult for a person and their family.
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 5:59 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The move to hospice care can be difficult for a person and their family. As you can imagine, for pet lovers, what is happening with their pet while dealing with their own end-of-life situation is really important.

That’s where Mercy’s Pet Peace of Mind program comes into play.

“Shanga, get over here,” 91-year-old Howard Crowell said across his living room inside his South St. Louis County home.

“You better put your butt down,” Crowell said as he motioned to the nearest treat bag.

“Let’s see if she does what she’s supposed to do,” The Korean War Veteran said as the bag started to crinkle.

The one constant for Crowell lately, has been the unconditional love he receives from Shanga.

She first came to Crowell’s neighbor years ago, from a Native American reservation in North Dakota.

The property owner didn’t allow pets, so Shanga needed a new home.

“The guy wanted to know what to do with her,” Crowell shared. “I said, well, throw her over the fence.”

Since that moment, she’s been by Crowell’s side or on the couch across the room, ever since.

“She’s my rock,” Crowell explained. “No matter where you parked, she knew. She’s pretty good.

Crowell isn’t sick. Just getting older each day. His wife passed a few years ago, and now he and Shanga are under the care of Mercy Hospice at home.

“They are funny together. Even though she doesn’t say anything, they bicker. I love seeing them together,” Mercy’s Nancy Preheim said.

Preheim runs Mercy’s Pet Peace of Mind program. It was started in July 2019, just before the pandemic, and for close to 100 patients, just in time.

Nancy handles a list of things, including food, water, trips to the vet, and grooming appointments.

“Sometimes pets is the only reason a person gets up in the morning, why they get off the couch,” Preheim explained. “It just reminds them of life before their illness.”

The constant care is a relief to Crowell’s nephew, Dean Evan, who says the program does bring his family peace of mind.

“Sometimes I can’t make it over every day, and with hospice being around, it’s awesome because they can provide some companionship,” Evans said.

For Crowell, it’s a comfort knowing Shanga has her next person lined up to love on and be loved in return.

“I hope I go first,” Crowell shared. “She’s company.”

It’s best if a loved one who is considering hospice care makes a plan beforehand for their pet.

If a plan hasn’t been made, Mercy Peace of Mind will help find that pet a new home.

This is a national program that only Mercy provides in the St. Louis region. It’s available at Mercy St. Louis, Mercy Washington, and just recently added at Mercy South.