JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — At 94, Mary Hall has owned a lot of dogs in her life but little Pepper is special.
"It was love at first sight," said Mary with a laugh.
She had to give up her lab mix when he became too big for her, and then her cat passed away.
"It was very lonesome," she said.
But she was a volunteer at Community Hospice and Palliative Care and asked if there was a small, senior dog that needed a home.
"They said, "Well how about a dog (we) have right now?" she explained.
And in came Pepper! He was a part of the Pet Peace of Mind program at Community Hospice.
The program's goal is to help keep pets with their owners a long as possible, helping with food, vet care and sometimes finding them a new home.
"If there are no friends or family that can adopt the pet once the owner is no longer able to care for it, they can sign it over to us and we will promise to find it a good home for the rest of its life," explained Chris Whitney with Community Hospice.
Whitney says one of the hardest parts of her job is seeing someone say goodbye to their beloved pet.
"It is heartbreaking for everybody, but then seeing them find a new home is just amazing," said Whitney.
Pepper has found his loving home with Mary, but there are others waiting.
Some, like Coco, have only been waiting for 10 days. But others, like Candy, have been waiting almost a year. Lady has been waiting a year and a half.
The program also takes in cats; Bailey, Gabby, Katy and Sarah have been waiting for homes too.
Chris says the majority of dogs and cats they take in are mature or senior pets, but are used to living with people and are eager to have a home again.
It is a special love that bonds a pet and its owner. Mary says adopting a pet through their program is a gift to another soul you’ve never met.
"To have a pet that someone has loved and cherished all these years and give them a place to be that is safe and loving... I hope that whoever had Pepper before me is comforted, in wherever they are, knowing he is much loved," tells Mary.
Community Hospice and Palliative Care posts photos of the adoptable dogs and cats on their Facebook page. For more information, you can contact Chris Whitney at CWhitney@CommunityHospice.com or 904-407-5204.