SEBRING — Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care volunteers are delivering goody bags to patients who have pets throughout Highlands, Polk and Hardee counties.

The bags, which include animal treats, a bandanna, pet waste dispenser and other goodies, also carry an important message. “Cornerstone knows the importance of family pets staying with patients as long as possible because they provide comfort and ease anxiety for the person who is facing his or her most difficult journey,” said Dorothy Harris, Volunteer Specialist in Highlands County. “We want to make sure patients and their family have a plan for who will care for their furry loved one once the owner passes and are offering resources in the bags which help identify ‘fur-ever’ homes for the pets.”

Cornerstone is part of the national Pet Peace of Mind program which is dedicated to helping families plan for their pets. It also offers volunteers who help Cornerstone families by walking or feeding animals and even taking them to the veterinarian.

Charlie Stroup of Sebring helped assemble Cornerstone’s Pet Peace of Mind goody bags. “From my experience as a caregiver and having worked for hospice agencies, I know how important it is to have pets close by as the veil starts to lift,” said Stroup who has been a Cornerstone Hospice volunteer for three years. “I’ve watched animals that rarely left their owners’ sides. Animals are as much a part of the process as we are.”

Harris invites all families with pets to make a plan in the event they can’t care for their animals any longer. The Cornerstone Hospice Pet Peace of Mind Resource Guide is available by emailing or by calling 866-742-6655.