By Monica Turenne
Imagine if your pet was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and a specialist or your family veterinarian told you that your pet now has a very limited life span. This is a scenario that every pet parent fears. Many thoughts begin to consume us — when will it happen? How will it happen? What will it be like? Will my pet suffer? What decisions should be made and when? Will we decide too soon? Too late? What if we don’t want euthanasia?
As a Hospice Veterinarian, I help to guide pet parents through these difficult questions, and help them to do as much planning as possible so that the time that is left can be spent in peace and being truly present with their pet.
At the same time, the grief before and after the passing of our dearest friend can be enormous. More questions arise — how do we cope with this? Who can we talk to? Who will understand?
So many pet parents have faced these agonizing questions and often do not realize how many other people have experienced the very same emotions. Even today when we spend as much time as we do with our pets and recognize them as part of our family, there still seems to be some hesitation to be completely open with others about our deep bond with our beloved companions.
And yet, many pet parents have told me that when they have opened up they have found nothing but love, understanding, and a huge outpouring of empathy.
While a hospice veterinarian can be an important source of support for pet parents, it should not and cannot stop here. Family, friends, and neighbors — when you know someone who has a pet who is very ill or has a pet who has recently passed away, I ask you to reach out and show them that you care. It can be something simple like a card, flowers, or just a hug. Do not be afraid or worried about the response. I guarantee they will be ever grateful that you understood.
And pet parents, while I know how difficult it is, try to share your grief with others. In doing so you not only give someone an opportunity to comfort you but also spread the understanding of how deeply we love our pets.
My son has a book called Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carol McCloud and David Messing. The lesson of the book is to look for ways to fill other people’s buckets with happiness and to make opportunities for them to fill yours.
I have been trying to apply this lesson to so many aspects of our lives, and Pet Hospice is no different. If we as a community help pet parents as they grieve, we fill their buckets with love and understanding. If we as pet parents share our experience with others, we give others an opportunity to fill their buckets as well.
If you would like to share a comment or an experience here, please do — it might really help someone who is going through a difficult time.
On Sunday, March 30, 2014, at 2:00 p.m., please join us at the Crazy Wisdom Community Room to discuss more about Pet Hospice at an informal roundtable discussion group. Please see http://www.crazywisdom.net/events.html for more information.
Please also know that the Humane Society of Huron Valley hosts a Pet Loss Support Group led by the wonderful Colleen O’Brien. They meet every 3rd Sunday of the month from 1-2:30 p.m. This is a safe, nurturing environment to share your experiences and your emotions.
Monica Turenne, D.V.M., C.V.A., owns Four Paws Veterinary Wellness, an integrative veterinary house-call practice in Ann Arbor. She has been a veterinarian for 15 years and is a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. She is also a member of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. For more information, visit fourpawsvetwellness.com, call (734) 385-7161, or firstname.lastname@example.org.