By Aliki Kraterou
This woman turned her sorrow over the loss of her beloved pet into a wonderful idea- a resting place for animals in their final days- after she didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to her dog.
Alexis Fleming, 37, from Kirkcudbright, Scotland, launched her own hospice ‘ Maggie Fleming Animal Hospice’ on March 2016, almost a year after she lost her bull mastiff, Maggie.
Maggie was sick with lung cancer that later metastasized and had to undergo surgery- she survived and was ready to be released from the hospital until the day before, she was rushed to emergencies.
Alexis was two hours away and was told there was nothing that could be done to save her- she then had to make the decision to put her down, over the phone- so she wanted to make sure that no one would through the same pain as her.
She said “She was my best friend- and I knew I was never going to see her again, I was devasted.
“The next day we went to the hospital with my parents, I just turned to my mum and said ‘The Maggie Fleming Animal Hospice’- it just came to me.
“In a way, I think it was my way of coping- it was easier for me to cope, doing something in her memory, there was nothing I could do to change what happened.”
“I took six months to prepare myself physically, emotionally and psychologically and make sure I was ready for it- I thought ‘If I can cope with Maggie’s loss and I’m still here, I can clearly cope with anything’.”
And that is how the idea of the hospice started to become real- Alexis along with her partner Adam and the support of her parents Flora and Erchie, created a place for terminally ill animals, where they provide a nice last experience and a dignified death, in Dumfries and Galloway
The hospice may have been built because of a dog but now offers help to chickens, pigs, sheep and other domesticated animals.
The first animal to attend the hospice was also a bull mastiff named Osha, neglected and dumped- she had a tumour and was given only six months to live but with Alexis’s help she got nine.
On her last day Osha had a long walk in the sun , posed for some pictures with Alexis, ate her favourite food which was pasta and eventually fell asleep.
Alexis knows that animals do not feel particularly comfortable with strangers so she mostly accepts animals with at least a week to live- that way she can get to know them better and offer better care for them.
She added “I want to take as much of their pain as possible- I don’t want them to stress about being hungry, thirsty, cold, hot or lonely, in their final days- no one deserves that.
“It’s a nice experience for them, they do whatever it pleases them, long walks, good food, cuddles.
“On their last day I tell them goodbye and they get sedated, they have a very peaceful end.”
“At that moment you have to find the courage and pull it together but for them it’s a nice feeling.”
Another impressive example of her work was a neglected German shepherd named B that was given only two weeks to live- is now in full remission and has the life span as any other dog.
Alexis wants to underline the importance of end of life care to animals and to humans- the family sticking together can really make a difference.
“It really matters to animals to be happy before they die- because I am sure they know it when their time comes.
“They deserve a peaceful end- In our society we have systematically denied a peaceful end to almost all species.
“The hardest thing I have to do is not to speak, when an animal with a condition that could be prevented is brought to me- vets always ask me ‘Why didn’t’ you bring him sooner?’ and I have to explain everything.
“It is a very hard thing to do but I wouldn’t want to do anything else- I am very lucky.”