VANCOUVER, Wash. – Clayton Jones was afforded little time to be a kid, which is why his parents got him two puppies – Bonnie and Clyde, pitbull-border collie mixes, who are sister and brother.
The Vancouver boy was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in November 2017. He died in July at only 4 years old.
“We wanted him to have a puppy and experience that,” his mother Taylor Jones said.
Tending to the puppies became a challenge, though, when Clayton was placed in hospice care for a month with Community Home Health and Hospice in Vancouver. The family – Clayton’s mother, father, Ryan Jones, brother Milez, 10, and sister Pyperann, 1 – wanted to be with him at the end of his life.
But who would take care of the puppies at home? Who would walk them? Who would play with them? And who would clean up their messes?
That’s where Community Home Health and Hospice’s Pet Peace of Mind program stepped in. The program paid for Bonnie and Clyde to be in a kennel for two weeks during the last half of Clayton’s hospice stay.
“They’re part of our family,” Taylor Jones said of the dogs. “It was a huge relief for us knowing that they were being fed, going out for walks, they were being taken care of. Because we couldn’t at the time. We knew it wasn’t fair to them.”
Sheryl Reeder and Debby Carter, who run and coordinate the program for Community Home Health and Hospice, said it covers all pets of hospice patients. The program is funded through donations.
According to a press release from Community Home Health and Hospice, Pet Peace of Mind “provides grooming and veterinary care, pet food and supplies to hospice patients’ homes, pet exercise and waste management, pet care transport, temporary foster care and at times, adoption services.”
The program has re-housed horses for patients, who wanted to make sure they had a good next home, and hired someone to clean a fish tank for a patient’s goldfish. Dogs and cats are the most commonly cared for, but the program has also helped snakes and bunnies.
“In some cases that might be the only companionship that a patient has,” Carter said.
Pyperann has become especially attached to the puppies. Her first word was “puppy,” her mother said, and she likes to give them hugs and kisses.
The puppies, who turned 1 not long ago, have also proven to be aptly named. They became highly skilled at escaping their kennels, which called for the kennels to be rearranged to prevent breakouts.
“They live up to their names,” Taylor Jones said. “They’re escape artists.”
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