Cornerstone Hospice Launches Program to Help Care for Patients’ Pets

Cornerstone Hospice Launches Program to Help Care for Patients’ Pets

June 18, 2015

By Elira Benavari, Correspondent
Orlando Sentinel


cornerstone hospice pet care programTAVARES — Letting go of a pet is never easy, especially at the end of the pet owner’s life.

To keep that relationship going for as long as possible, Tavares-based Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care recently launched a program called Pet Peace of Mind.

Trained volunteers assist with tasks including walking dogs, transporting pets to veterinary appointments and bringing pets for visits to owners receiving inpatient care. Volunteers also help plan educational events for the community and create pet outfits, blankets, toys and bandanas that can be sold or raffled to raise money for the program. So far, about 20 volunteers have been trained to assist with the program, but there’s always room for more.

“We take care of patients and their families and sometimes their family happens to have four legs,” said Lisa Gray, volunteer services manager at Cornerstone, which serves Lake and six other counties. “Oftentimes family members are not able to care for the pets and their dying loved ones at the same time, so we are here to assist any way we can.”

Cornerstone received a $5,000 grant earlier this year from the Banfield Charitable Trust in Portland, Ore. — whose vision is “to ensure that every wanted and loved pet stays in their home” — to aid the Pet Peace of Mind program. Cornerstone is the first Florida hospice to implement the program. The grant has created funding for veterinary care, food and supplies for the animals if the owner is unable to provide for the pet.

“All of our staff and volunteers have pooled together to make sure this program works,” Gray said.

Even before the grant was awarded, professional pet sitter and Cornerstone volunteer Linda Peckham of Leesburg got a call in November asking her to drive two hours to pick up a small Pekingese dog whose owner had just passed away. The patient’s family lived out of state and could not care for “Opal.”

“It is often difficult in the last days of someone’s life for the animals to be taken care of as well as their owners would,” said Peckham, who has been volunteering with Cornerstone for more than 10 years. “We are here to help and ease the patient’s mind because they already have a lot of anxiety at this time and don’t need to be worrying about their pets.”

Hospice staff had already been taking care of Opal, 15, while caring for her owner at home.

Rosemary Gray of The Villages, who had just adopted a dog a week before, agreed to foster Opal but wasn’t sure about keeping her. After meeting Opal, she and her husband, Richard Gray, fell in love with her and decided to make her part of the family.

“Old Opal fits right in and she has perked right up since she came to live with us,” said Gray, a volunteer at Cornerstone’s Villages Hospice House. “No matter what their age, these pets need a loving home and we are so glad we were able to provide it for her.”


About Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc.
Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc., a not-for-profit, community organization since 1984, provides comfort and care to Central Florida families experiencing life-limiting illnesses.
Cornerstone is Joint Commission accredited for hospice care, a national symbol of quality that reflects the organization’s commitment to meeting high performance standards. Over 7,000 people in Lake, Sumter, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties benefit from Cornerstone programs each year. Enhanced patient and family care is made possible through the generous support of individuals and groups. For more information, to donate, or to volunteer, call 866-742-6655 or visit

Contact: Nanci Schwartz
The CommConnection, Inc.
(305) 788-8256