MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Older, ailing dogs are often the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized at a shelter. This spring, nonprofit Secondhand Hounds started a hospice program for those otherwise unwanted dogs.

Norah is an older beagle. She likes to lounge, and sometimes needs help getting on the couch.

“She just moves at a slower pace, so you just kind of have to move at Norah’s pace when you’re doing anything with her,” Teri Woolard said.

In May, Woolard decided to foster Norah as part of the new program. She’ll keep the 10-year-old until her final day.

“We keep her comfortable, we keep her happy,” Woolard said. “We keep her as healthy as we can. So in a lot of ways I think it’s really similar to hospice for humans.”

Secondhand Hounds founder, Rachel Mairose, had been flooded with requests for this type of foster program.

“When they enter the shelter, they’re euthanized pretty much on admission, because nobody wants to adopt a dog that has terminal illnesses and really isn’t going to make a recovery,” Mairose said.

She organizes Hospice Play Dates with fosters to get the dogs out together.

The program began with 17-year-old Elvin.

“He’s so ugly he’s cute,” foster Vicki Hutton said. “His spirit for life doesn’t match the condition of his body. He deserves to die where he’s loved and comfortable.”

The program has grown to include 10 more dogs.

Norah has playmates around all the time. Wooland fosters four other dogs, plus has one of her own.

“She’s kind of been the grandma of the group and a little bit of a diva,” Wooland said.

It’s where she’ll live out her golden years.

“I think every dog deserves to live out their last years in a warm, loving home,” Wooland said.

Some dogs may live a few days or weeks, others will live a few years. If you can’t foster a dog, but are interested in helping, there are other ways. Secondhand Hounds accepts food, medication, bedding and donations for the program. Click here for information.

Jennifer Mayerle