Columbus Hospice helps more than patients

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 18, 2014 

Readie Hornsby says life is tough enough without having to worry about her beloved dog Angie.

Because of the Pet Peace of Mind program, she doesn't have to fret.

Hornsby, 90, is a Columbus Hospice patient and recently has spent time in the nonprofit organization's facility, Columbus Hospice House, on Moon Road.

Angie has been her close companion for about nine years.

"Knowing that my dog is being taken care of and will be after I'm gone is a great relief," Hornsby said. "I know my pet is safe."

Hornsby's great niece, Kimberley Sparks, said the program has meant a lot to both Hornsby and her family.

A United Way partner agency, Columbus Hospice, which serves 10 Georgia counties and five in Alabama, began the program in 2010. It allows its patients to keep pets when the person is no longer able to physically or financially care for them.

The Columbus Hospice program makes sure the pets are cleaned, groomed, get their shots, are well fed and any medical problems are treated. When the owner dies, the best placement for the animal is sought.

Volunteers and some staff members care for the pets, and some have adopted them.

"We have a lot of pet lovers," said Terri Roberts, Columbus Hospice's director of volunteer services.

Roberts began the program by applying and receiving a grant from the Banfield Charitable Trust, a public charity that focuses on pets.

"Sometimes a pet is the only family a person has," Roberts said. "Nothing is more important to them. The pet provides unconditional love. We have done all kinds of pets. We even had a bird's wings clipped."

The program depends on donations and fundraisers such as the annual "Purse Party for Pets," which is Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the RiverMill Event Centre on First Avenue in Columbus. Admission to the champagne brunch is $35.

Thirty purses will be auctioned off.

"We have several men model the purses. It's a lot of fun," Roberts said.

Other items, including some gift baskets, will be available in a silent auction.

Those seeking more information should contact Roberts at 706-243-0044 or by Friday.

Roberts said Columbus Hospice is always seeking more volunteers.

One of the most dedicated volunteers in the pet program is Charlene Rallo. This is her third year.

"I believe in Columbus Hospice," she said.

Rallo said nobody likes to see an animal mistreated. Helping patients in this way is something she loves because she knows these pets are family to the owner. "This is perfect for me," she said.

Rallo has taken care of numerous animals.

"You do it one time and you are hooked."

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