Norman, the mascot of the Cochrane Humane Society and the inspiration for the Palliative Paws Program. Photo provided by Lisa Kedian.

In 1999, a street cat named Norman found his way to the Cochrane Humane Society. He was finicky and didn’t get along well with others. Despite his personality quirks, he quickly found a spot in the hearts of everyone at the humane society, as Lisa Kedian, the communications director for the CHS explains. 

“At first, Norman didn’t like to be touched, he didn’t like pets, he thought humans were absolutely evil. It took Norman quite a long time to feel comfortable around anyone at all. But Norman ended up becoming the shelter cat. He lived in employee offices, he lived in the lunchroom, he wandered up and down the hallways. He became a real fixture here at the Cochrane Humane Society. He basically became our mascot.” 

Norman passed away in 2014, 15 years after having first come to the shelter. This left an absence that everyone at the humane society felt. In his honour, the little store at the humane society was named Norm’s Nook, but more importantly, the idea for the Palliative Paws Program was born. 

The Palliative Paws Program is dedicated to ensuring all animals like Norman are treated with love and respect, no matter how they are suffering. Every animal deserves a loving home and foster families, who house these sometimes chronically sick animals and ensure that every animal finds a home to live out the rest of their days comfortably. 

This is Sammy, he is one of three cats currently being cared for through the Palliative Paws Program. He is being fostered by Karla Bennett, operations manager for the Cochrane Humane Society. Photo provided by Karla Bennett.

No expense is spared when it comes to food and medication, and no matter what an animal is dealing with, they are provided with the care they need. There is no other program like this in Alberta, and it’s not lost on the public who continually support it with donations, as Kedian explains.  

“We’ve developed a sponsorship program for our Palliative Paws Program, and we are very happy with how it has been supported. Global Pet Foods Cochrane has been supporting this program for several years now. They cover the costs of the animals we have in the program, whether that be medication or specialized food. On occasion, if we are running low on supplies, we put the word out there that donations are appreciated, and so many people answer, dropping donations right off at our doorstep.” 

Despite the noble cause, some aspects are hard to handle, as is expected when dealing with the sick. It can be hard on caregivers. Foster families dedicate their time and effort to helping these animals, and seeing them eventually pass on is tough to handle. 

Karla Bennet, the operation manager at the humane society, acknowledges these challenges but still takes them head-on, having fostered multiple animals while the program has been operating. 

“The main consideration for taking an animal into your home through the palliative program is being prepared for the end. We’ve had a number of foster homes that have taken in multiple animals, and they see the value in this endeavour and the gift they are giving to these animals. Nobody wants to think of the day when they’ll have to say goodbye to these animals. In the end, what these caregivers are giving makes up for that heartbreak.” 

Currently, three cats are part of the program, all of which live with advanced kidney disease, a common illness that develops in older cats. Cats are the only animals in the program at this time, but the CHS will admit any animal suffering from a chronic condition, doing whatever they can to make them feel comfortable and loved. 

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