I recall that first family that brought me to the understanding that what we were doing was animal hospice. I remember the hours spent scouring the internet, calling strange veterinarians on the phone. I was looking for a sympathetic ear, a peer to encourage, mentor or otherwise be a resource for me as I tried so desperately to support this family.
Thankfully, this dog, Bella was not in pain. She still needed creative care as we supported her to live 5 years past the veterinarians suggested euthanasia. She didn’t just live, she really loved in those days. That girl and her person had their best times in that phase of her life. Her veterinarian was willing to support them on this journey – as she wasn’t in pain, he just didn’t know how.
Bless them for knowing that I didn’t know how either. Some true, basic nursing and common sense modifications for her home area and routine were all this girl really needed. I spent hours with her. When she was sleeping, I would read. I read about pain management and how to identify pain. I read about dying naturally and what that could look like. I read about the spiritual side of transitioning, the stories of human hospice workers and oncology nurses. Every waking thought was about how to support this family, what might come next and how to make sure Bella stayed comfortable and what to do if she didn’t.
As I look around today and see veterinarians, technicians, pet sitters, dog walkers, groomers and many others entering the animal hospice arena, I am cautiously optimistic. On one hand, I am thrilled. Together we can really love and support families when hospice is indicated. What a brave and beautiful army. The caution comes from the dark side of any monetized industry. Pet parents beware. Yes, please seek help with your animal hospice support. This can’t, shouldn’t, and doesn’t have to be done alone.
Due diligence is especially important as some try to jump on the buzz words and bandwagons to make a quick buck. Ask questions. Ask for references. Get specific stories. Years of experience is a great help, but how can we check those that have the right heart and intention that are new?
Help us create a great list of questions for people to screen their hospice support team. What would you ask to determine if someone is qualified to help you with your cat or dog?
A real review of a euthanasia at home. The focus is on the experience and interaction with the veterinary clinic and staff.
Legend: (=) neutral experience, (-) negative experience, (+) positive experience
- (=) Dr. and staff were late to leave hospital. Could have been a positive if communicated. Since the family was treasuring every second, they started to worry when they were not there or communicating there adjusted arrival – this intereupted their time with the dog. The family appreciated the extra time.
- (=) The Dr got lost on the way. Again, no problem as the family appreciated extra time. Directions were clarified when they called for them. The lack of communication and the blaming for the directions on the phone were the only reason this was not seen as a blessing.
- (-) Overall, the family made comments after the fact to other areas and past experiences with the clinic. The team not communicating regularly enough regarding status, leaving family on pins and needles anticipating their arrival. As a result the family questioned past experiences with the clinic and their future use of the clinic.
- (-) The Dr and staff member pulled up in a mercedes sedan – no possibility of transporting the 80# dog back to the clinic for the requested private cremation, no communication or arrangements made with the family for them to handle dead body transportation.
- (-) On their eventual arrival, the Dr got out of the car loudly complaining about how whoever gave the directions was wrong and telling us what they should have been. This was communicated to a liasion that met the team at the driveway and after subdueing them, led them to the family expresssing their desire to be calm and quiet and peaceful around the dog.
- (-) On the short walk to the family and dog, the Dr again complained to 2 others regarding the directions, again loudly as nearing the dying dog and his grieving family.
- (-) When the Dr and staff member joined the dog and family they proceeded with small chat and self focused conversation, disrupting the tone and dishonoring the moment the family had carefully created for themselves.
- (=) The Dr explained the process of the euthanasia and approximately what to expect. Explanation was sufficient at best. Having had a better explanation previously from a third party they did not feel unaware.
- (-) During the short process, the staff member had to go back to the car for additional supplies. The family considered something might be going wrong or unexpected in the process, raising concern for the comfort of the dog.
- (-) The Dr and staff member left. They left before discussing or helping with the logistics of moving the dog from the yard where he was euthanized to a vehicle for transportation for cremation as arranged with the clinic.
- (-) The Dr left before verifying their clinic would be open after hours for cremation drop off. The family had to make an additional call to the clinic in this raw moment to make sure they could take the dog after being left with him. Since the clinic did not answer the first call, they called another clinic to see if they would be open and available to help with their dog. This disrupted the beauty and peace of the moment after the euthanasia.
- (-) When arriving at the clinic with thee dog, no one was ready or available to help. The family had called in advance and were expected. The car had to moved 3 times to accomodate the clinics request for getting the dog inside and the family members had to carry his limp body.
- (-) The assistant asked the family member if they could put the dog in a garbage bag before removing from the car. This process surprised the family member and while he acted strong said “sure,” it was clear he would rather not have known this logistical piece.
- (-)When confirming we’d like a paw print, the staff member sounded surprised. The receptionist had confirmed that paw prints were standard when making the initial inquiry for the euthanasia house call and cremation arrangements. The family member almost took back the request to be accomodating, but couldn’t part with the memorial.
Overall score: 2 neutral, 12 negative and 0 positive
Have you had an experience that should have or could have been almost a nice way to say goodbye that was tainted? Share in the comments your story – how can we improve the experience?
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