East Bay non-profit offers hospice care for dogs

LAFAYETTE, Calif. (KTVU) - An East Bay pediatrician started a non-profit to help dogs that are old or sick and considered not adoptable.

She's offering them hospice care with the help of volunteers.

Dr. Maria Steelman is a pediatrician in Lafayette. Her love for dogs led her to start Pals East Bay.

Steelman partners with Oakland Animal Services to provide rescue services, especially for elderly or sick dogs. Some of the dogs have almost lost their lives before entering the program. She started the Rainbow Bridge Fund to help pay for their hospice care.

Pals East Bay is looking for homes that are willing to offer hospice care to sick dogs or elderly ones. In exchange they will pay the medical bills.

Wendi Felson opened her heart and home to 12-year-old "Lady" a month ago.

Felson says Lady needed hospice care because, "Nobody's going to adopt her."

Originally, Lady was thought to only have about a month to live at the shelter. But now that she's in Felson's home, she is doing better.

"To have her spend her last days in a little cement kennel just didn't seem right," said Felson.

Maria Rivero is a dog lover. She and her boyfriend Derek Kerr of San Francisco own three.

Both Rivero and Kerr are doctors who work in the field of end of life care for humans, and they wanted to do the same for dogs.

So, the couple brought home Canela who had cancer.

They cared for Canela for two months until he died May 2nd. The couple says they would do it again.

"They're living until they die. There's an important relationship - an intimacy that happens caring for someone who's losing their life, human or non-human," said Kerr.

Dying with dignity is what Pals East Bay hopes to offer canine companions whose families can't afford their medical care in their final days.

Learn more about how to get involved with the program here.