Every dog deserves love, respect, and a little bit of pampering at the end of their lives. Sadly, hundreds of seniors and terminally ill pups pass away in shelters across the UK each year.
Thanks to Nicola Coyle, that number is just a bit smaller. For her, The Grey Muzzle Canine Hospice Project isn’t about rescuing as many dogs as possible; it’s about filling their final days with joy.
Coyle works with shelters and rescue groups in the Nottingham area, taking in one or two end-of-life dogs at a time. The only criteria is they must be in the final six months of their lives due to old age or terminal illness.
For some Grey Muzzle dogs, it is their first taste of life as a cherished pet. According to Coyle, many are guard dogs or breeding dogs that have outlived their usefulness.
Along with her two teenage children and her good friend Lisa Emmans, Coyle spoils each pooch rotten! They are treated to steak dinners, romps on the beach, trips to the McDonald’s drive-thru, and special birthday celebrations.
“I don’t know when their birthdays are so we make sure we throw all of them a birthday party,” Coyle told Metro UK. “If they’re well enough, we take them for a day at the seaside, they get fish and chips on the beach and ice cream. We’ll also take them down to the local pub, it’s really dog friendly.”
All told, Coyle spends about £500 per pooch. She receives donations, but also spends a good deal of her own money making sure the dogs feel special.
In addition to the hospice, Coyle serves the community with her “Friends Before the End” program. She raises funds so senior dogs that may otherwise end up in shelters can stay at home with their owners.
The dogs spend anywhere from two weeks to one year in her home. When the time comes, Coyle and her children – Harry, 14, and Olivia, 15 – love and comfort them through their final moments.
“We all get very attached to them, it’s very emotionally intense and we do mourn and grieve for them,” says Coyle. “We do need to have breaks between them.”
Despite the emotional toll, the family eventually heals and prepares for a new Grey Muzzle (or two).
“It can be an utterly heartbreaking job,” Coyle says. “But I just can’t bear the thought of them spending their final moments without the love they deserve.”