Safe Place provides peace of mind for pets’ terminal owners

By Carol Thompson

Mid-August 2018: Stevie Wonder, legendary soul, rock n roll and blues singer pays his last respects to the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin as she fights her last battle with pancreatic cancer.

Best known for her rendition of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” Franklin changed the meaning and soul of the song, spelling out in capital letters what the song and times demanded: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect for her as a woman, as a woman of color, as a singer, of the civil rights movement, of human rights, the song became a hallelujah anthem for women around the world. Sadly, she lost her battle Aug. 16, but her song and intent lives on.

What does that have to do with pets? Well, there was another lesser-known Stevie Wonder, an aging, blind cat much loved and adored by his dying owner, Linda. She also was in the last stages of dying, and her hospice workers were encouraging her to go to the hospital where her pain could be alleviated. She was resisting this because she was concerned about her old cat. Who would want, much less adopt, an old, blind cat with a mournful meow at dinner time?

Hospice workers made a few phone calls and shortly Colorado Springs friendly pet community responded with a solution that has lasted over 20 years. All Breed Rescue, the Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region, Junior League and local veterinarians joined together to form a nonprofit group called Safe Place for Pets to assist other terminally ill patients with pets.

This all volunteer group provides all sorts of services to help pet and patient remain together as long as possible. Once a terminal illness is diagnosed, volunteers help to walk, feed, groom, see to their medical needs, whatever is needed, to allow the patient the comfort of their pet as they face their end-of-life battle. There is no charge to patients, as the John C. Duncan Charitable Trust provides preventive and medical care to the animals.

After the owner passes, the pet is fostered in a temporary home until a forever home is found. There is a rigorous screening process for both foster and permanent placements. Any pet in Teller or El Paso Counties are eligible for this service. Dogs, cats, birds, iguanas, turtles (but not snakes!) have been helped throughout the years.

Whatever happened to Stevie Wonder the blind cat? Happily, he was fostered in a temporary home which also had a golden retriever who took it as his personal responsibility to guide Stevie in his new life. The two became so close that his temporary home became his permanent one and they make beautiful music together!

Safe Place for Pets has no paid staff, but of course they do need donations to keep things running smoothly. Their new location is directly to the right of the Colorado Springs Senior Center on Hancock Road. This is a clean, cheerful welcome center, containing two rooms of cages for cats, otherwise known as the “Cattery.” Each cat has its own separate quarters and litter box. Play spaces, toys and cuddle chairs for volunteers are available as are snacks for both cats and helpers. There is also an isolation spot for ill cats. Dogs and other animals go directly to temporary homes to be fostered.

Volunteers are always needed and currently recruitment efforts include someone to greet visitors to the new center. Flexible hours are available according to each volunteers need. Drop in volunteers who wish to just cuddle a cat but not adopt are also welcome. Chairs, toys, blankets and snacks are there to make the play experience fun for all. To register for the next volunteer orientation, call 359-0201. The center is also air conditioned, and soft music is played to keep things interesting.

Other ways to volunteer are by donations. Checks can be mailed to SP4P, P.O. Box 38202, Colorado Springs, CO 80937 or online. If you shop online, Amazon Smile.org, ResQWalk, Bark Box and several others allow a portion of your purchase to be directed to SP4P. Check out the website for wish lists and companies: www.safeplacepets.org. You can also donate by giving litter, food, blankets, cleaning supplies or attend upcoming fundraiser events.

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