The name started with my first dog. He would walk so much faster in the sun, then slow to a snails pace in the shade. It was such a dramatic shift in his speed and his desire to walk, he earned the nickname “2-speed.”
As I worked more and more with seniors animals, I noticed my “2-speed” was not alone. Some dogs would walk slower going away from the house and double time-it on the way back.
One of my loudest messages as a senior pet care provider is to honor your animal. I’m not talking about letting a young dog rule the roost. This is about when you sleep wrong and you kink your neck, you don’t turn it to the left that day. Listen to your body. In this case, we’re passing that respect on to our senior pets. If they seem to be having a slower day, let them. Its OK to have a less than 100% day. By honoring what our pets bodies are telling them, we can help them have comfort and quality in their life.
2-speeds are the exception to this rule, sometimes. Maybe. My dog wasn’t tired of the walk, he wasn’t even super hot. He was a wise, older animal who had figured out his joy was not found exercising, especially in the sun.
I honored him by changing the times of day we walked. I made sure it was cool. He would still act tortured to be out on a walk. I didn’t see any gait changes or subtle signs of pain in him, but wanted to respect him in this phase of life. I then shortened our walks, they were almost to nothing. We added in swimming to help him move with relief on his joints.
Maintaining comfortable mobility is a major quality of life component in comfort care for hospice animals. Mobility is a longevity and comfort staple. All the 2-speeds to date have taught me that animals, like people, don’t always want to do what’s best for them. Caring for them well sometimes means taking that walk, even if its shorter.
Imagine an old man whose doctor asked him to walk once a day for his health and his wife may sometimes have to…encourage him to take that walk. Serve your pets well. Keep them comfortably mobile and honor them, as opposed to being swindled by these wonderful souls.
Have you had a 2-speed in your life? I’d love to hear about them! Use the comments below to share your story.
Implementing an animal hospice plan does not exclude euthanasia.
I found a huge misconception around animal hospice when I was recently asked to present on animal hospice at a Senior Dog Social. The training facility had blocked out an hour every Saturday in the month to bring in presenters to interact with senior dogs and their people in a slower paced, senior friendly setting. Topics ranged from games and life enrichment with senior dogs to nutrition and support for aging bodies. Prior to my arrival, the guests hadn’t been told anything other than the topic for the week would be animal hospice. They weren’t informed what they would get out of the session, what type of information to expect, nothing other than the doom and gloom topic of animal hospice.
Lets just say that this shifted my presentation game plan. Who wants to go hear about animals dying? Who wants to face their dearest buddy’s mortality? I sure wouldn’t, I would be off finding something more fun and more about living to do with my dog that day. The unfortunate thing is learning about hospice and palliative care is ALL about living and living well. I’m going in, already prepared to really surprise people with beautiful news and information to support their pets as they age.
I started off the session asking the attendees about their thoughts and impressions regarding animal hospice. What I expected to hear were concerns regarding monitoring comfort and measuring pain. I expected questions regarding quality of life, perhaps concerns regarding transference (imposing our ideas onto our pets). I was sure someone would bring up the general question, what is animal hospice. What I heard instead was a clear, matter-of-fact statement from a woman that hospice was not for everyone or every situation. OK. I absolutely agree with that; I asked her to elaborate and explain.
The woman went on to tell the story of her most recently deceased dog. She explained in great detail the caregiving and supportive care she provided once the terminal cancer diagnosis came. She told us how she labored to find the best information, nutrition changes, modifications to the home, pain management and ultimately a well choreographed and honorable euthanasia at home. She went on to talk about the ways the family enriched her dog’s life during the last few months, weeks and days of his life. Careful thought and planning went into when and how to help him cross the rainbow bridge. The woman’s body language changed as she shifted from recounting was was obviously a great memory and a time she was very proud of to an assertion of why animal hospice would not have been a great fit for her dog.
She believed animal hospice meant dying without the aid of euthanasia. She thought her dog would suffer if allowed to live to a natural death, she was very sure of her support for her dog and the lack of suffering. As things got more complicated and more difficult to assure comfort, they made the arrangements for euthanasia and memorializing her dear dog.
It was my great pleasure to clarify and congratulate her on a well managed hospice plan. Animal hospice does not mean that euthanasia will or will not be a part of your family’s plan. Animal hospice is a philosophy around how you care for, live with and love your pets. For Animal RN, we don’t even assert a timeline on it. We believe while we have a prognosis to give us an idea, while we can ascertain with our experience approximately how long a pet may have here with us, we do not know it was the last 6 months until that animal passes. At Animal RN, we don’t focus on the dates and longevity, we focus on today and making sure today is a day without pain, without suffering. Today should be a gift, filled with love and joy.
When supporting animal hospice, Animal RN includes education around natural death (death without chemical or medical assistance). This does not exclude euthanasia for families. As our pets age well, the chance they die on their own increases; Animal RN believes it is our responsibility to be prepared for that possibility, regardless of choice of natural death versus euthanasia.