In 2015, Jessica Sempek was working at a hospital in Penfield, Ill. when her friend, a hospice nurse, noticed how anxious his patients were about the future of their pets. He told Sempek they were less concerned about their families than their pets.
Despite having never worked or volunteered with animals, Sempek took action and founded Hospice Hearts, an all-volunteer animal foster group in Central Illinois. The organization provides foster care to elderly cats and dogs whose owners can no longer take care of them due to nursing home admission, serious illness or death.
When Hospice Hearts is contacted about a pet in need, the animal undergoes a full veterinary examination to see if it's in condition to change environments — they won't force an animal into foster care if it can't adjust. Once a pet has medical clearance, Hospice Hearts works to find a suitable foster home. On average, their dogs are adopted within two weeks; cats can take upwards of six weeks or more to find a home.
"We want to focus on the older pets who wouldn't do well in the shelter environment," Sempek said.
Hospice Hearts showcases its fosters through marketing, social med