Gwen King lives in Garden City. She’s dying. She has stage four lung cancer. Rather than take up a hospital bed she wants to spend her remaining days at home. She has a cat and a dog named Jack. Jack is a big, hairy retriever.
Neighbour Sandy Motheral says he is a sweet, well-behaved dog. She helped King pick him out at the pound last fall.
“She didn’t hardly stop and look at any other dogs. She went directly to his kennel. They are a match made in heaven,” she said.
King’s family is scattered across Canada. They are in and out to help their mother as much as they can. They have hired a private care service to stay with the woman. Those private care providers have been wonderful. Motheral is there too. She has known King for 30 years.
Home care helps fill in the gaps. The private provider is flexible. They have found staff who are not allergic to the animals that provide King such comfort, that don’t have a problem with animals.
Government-run home care helps fill in the gaps, especially overnight.
The family qualifies for their help but there is a blanket policy – pets must be locked up in another room while the home care workers are there.
“Someone showed up that wouldn’t come in the house when she saw the dog was there unless he was locked in a room for the entire eight hours she was there, it was like, you’ve got to be kidding me. That’s not fair,” she said.
Motheral doesn’t understand why accommodations can’t be made for her ailing neighbour.
“It doesn’t matter who is paying you, you’re being paid to do a job. So I don’t understand why palliative care can’t canvas their employees and find out who is willing to be in a home where there is a dog and who isn’t and then try to match up your clients with your staff,” she said.
I visited the family and Jack.
Motheral describes caseworkers who don’t have a clue and the inflexibility of government. Some of the government-run home care workers have no problem but the policy is such that the pets need to be locked up.
That would be a deal-breaker but King needs someone to stay with her overnight.
“It’s a very harsh policy for people,” she said.