Best Animal Stories of 2023: Humphrey
As the only animal shelter in Douglas County, Lawrence Humane provides care to all stray animals found inside county lines. In 2022, we cared for nearly 1,000 stray cats alone. Most are relatively healthy and some need a little extra care and attention, but every once in a while, we see a cat in exceedingly rough shape.  On a sunny, summer day earlier this year, a member of the public brought in a cat and upon peeking in the carrier, we were shocked by this cat’s condition. This elderly, gray, gentleman cat had clearly experienced a very challenging life – his fur was so terribly matted that it formed a multi inch-thick exoskeleton over his body, he was severely dehydrated, and the few teeth that he had left were infected and rotting inside his mouth. But despite the obvious pain and discomfort he was in, he was sweet and bright-eyed.
Not wanting to make him experience such discomfort a moment longer, our clinic staff sedated him and began the arduous process of shaving away the years of neglect. It took 3 hours, from beginning to end, to shave away the painful mats, his skin tissue paper-thin. The medical shave also revealed how terribly skinny and malnourished this poor boy was. A cat of his size should weigh 12-13 lbs, but he was barely 6 lbs. Yet the shaved mats collectively weighed 1 lb! The gray gentleman was bathed, dried, and dressed in a sweater to stay warm. His bloodwork was sent off for analysis and he went to foster care where he was promptly named, “Humphrey.”
It was clear to us that Humphrey was once someone’s very loved cat. We don’t know how he ended up in the condition in which he came to us, but we hoped that wherever his family was, they could know that he was finally safe, warm, and once again loved. Humphrey received round the clock care from his foster family – a variety of medications and antibiotics to address the infections raging in his body, subcutaneous fluids multiple times a day in an effort to keep him hydrated, and special food to help him add some weight to his malnourished body. Most of all, he received companionship, soft beds to soak up the sunlight on, and a family to be a part of. Humphrey became very comfortable in his foster home, always seeking affection from his foster family and enjoying chasing the sunlight from room to room. 
Humphery was an older fellow and the challenges he experienced had put a significant strain on his body. We wanted him to find a comfortable, soft place to land as he lived out the rest of his days so the foster home he went to was something called a “fospice” – a combination of “foster and “hospice. This special kind of fostering provides loving homes for super-senior or terminally ill homeless animals so they can live out the rest of their days happily and in the comfort of a home as opposed to a kennel. These animals are able to spend their remaining days in dignity, comfort, and support, receiving treatment similar to palliative care for humans. And during this time, the shelter provides all of the supplies, medical care, and is there to support both the animal and the fospice parents at the end.
Humphrey’s foster mom agreed to care for him until the very end, loving and cherishing him for the good cat he was regardless of how much time they would have together. Later in the year, Humphery passed away peacefully one day, asleep in a sunbeam on his foster mom’s bed. 
While Lawrence Humane staff provide the best possible care and love for the animals at the shelter, foster care will almost always be preferred. In foster care animals don’t have as much stress or noise, they’re able to decompress, and they can be the apple of their foster’s eye, basking in attention and affection. The importance of foster care exponentially grows when addressing the needs of very young, very old, ill or injured animals. Knowing that we could offer a comfortable space for Humphery in his final months means so much and we couldn’t do it without the wonderful people who take in animals for fospice. A great fospice parent needs compassion, patience, and flexibility. Losing an animal that one has cared for is heartbreaking – regardless of whether they’ve been in your home for a few days, months, or years. But many fospice parents describe it as a uniquely fulfilling experience. While Humphrey’s passing was heartbreaking, what matters most is that he didn’t die alone, in painful discomfort on the street. Not only did his quality of life drastically improve in fospice care, but quite likely his life was lengthened as well. He got to be a cat again before he passed – warm, happy, and with a full belly. When the end is all you have, the way the end plays out matters the most.

If you think that you might be interested in fospice or would like to learn more about what it means as a foster to provide care, comfort, and a home to an animal as they prepare to cross the rainbow bridge, please let us know. You can sign up to be a foster at

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