Many More Families are choosing home euthanasia. Wondering why? Just Watch!
I continue to be amazed and impressed by all the families I am meeting.
I get to witness the human animal bond at its strongest, immersed in a sea of gratefulness and grief. Seeing pets at the end of their life and their owners suffering through loss is hard. But this sorrow is balanced by seeing the best of the human animal bond.
Let me give you some examples…I’ve seen...
Bucket lists fulfilled including Sushi night
Parties of 20 plus people celebrating life and saying goodbye
Friends and family coming together to support one another in loss
Pets looking up at their owners filled with love and trust
Other pets in the house acknowledging their friend passing and comforting their family
Beautiful paintings and portraits memorializing their beloved pets
And so much more
Pet owners and pets continue to amaze me in how much they love one another unconditionally. And that love allows them to make that hard decision of letting pets pass with grace and dignity.
People tell me all the time that “this must be the hardest part of your job”…..
And yes it’s hard and has its challenging, but I leave every single house in awe and gratefulness that I get to do this and witness the beauty of the human animal bond. It is an honor for me to walk with people and pets during their last leg of their journey together and I am truly blessed by the people and pets I meet.
Laughter with Loved Ones…………
Stuffed bellied filled with Holiday treats……………..
For some, these Holiday joys can be coupled with Holiday grief, including pet owners. It can be overwhelming and under-acknowledged.
Here, at Unleashed with Grace, we support you in your grief and hope that you allow yourself the time you deserve to process the passing of your beloved pet. Here are some tips that may be helpful:
The Melody Between Life and Death
I gently place my stethoscope just behind the elbow on the side of the chest, hearing the familiar slowing of the heart until it gracefully fades away turning into a peace filled silence. It is the same melody I have heard over hundreds of times as a veterinarian having helped many pets pass from this world to the next when it was most needed.
It’s a song that never grows old, never taken lightly, and truly respected as the pet is allowed to pass with dignity and peace. It is during this time that I find myself kneeling in the chasm between life and death. I feel the weight of the sorrow in the room as the family’s tears and sniffles tell the story of the great love they have for their pet. Each tear representing a special memory, favorite pastime, or special grin that the person shared with their furry friend that will always be cherished but now will be no more in this lifetime. I also feel relief for the animal, knowing that their discomfort will be no more or go any further because their family made the tough yet compassionate decision to let them go.
It is during these moments that I often hear, “This must be the hardest part of your job.” I am always amazed and humbled that in their moment of suffering that families have the compassion to think of me and how I must feel about this moment. I used to just mumble something like, “Yes, it’s hard because these animals are just so wonderful…” But the more years I’ve been in this profession, and the more experiences I’ve gained around saving a life and ushering one into peace, the more I’ve begun to really ponder how I feel about this particular aspect of my job.
I’ve seen pets who have suffered with owners suffering alongside them, and witnessing that truly is the hardest part of my job. I got into this job to be a healer, a fixer, to save the lives of so many. The reality is though; that I take so many more lives than I am able to heroically save. It’s just the nature of the job and with such a short life span for these animals; it is simply just the way it is. Once I came to accept that reality and stopped seeing euthanasias as a burden or failure, I was able to see them as what they truly are: a final gift to a beloved pet who deserves a peaceful end. They no longer bogged me down or threw me into a spiral of “compassion fatigue”, instead they gave me purpose.
It’s a time where the family, if they wish to be present, gets to spend their final moments with their pet in perfect peace. Where they get to say their final goodbyes and where I have the great responsibility of making sure that their pet passes in the most comfortable way possible. It is also where I am allowed into the families’ most vulnerable spot: their suffering. It is a privilege and an honor to suffer with others: to kneel with them before their pet and get a lump in my throat as their eyes start to glisten. It is a great privilege to accompany them in this final leg of their journey with their pet. I don’t take this lightly, I never get used to it, but I do deeply respect this precious time.
This special time usually ends in a familiar beautiful tune. It’s a mixture of what I’d expect to be the pleasant sounds of a “major” melody as families laugh about some of the memories and troubles their pet gave them, then gently switch over to the “minor” keys of more serious interludes of grief stricken loss. Then there’s the undertone: usually a steady beat of relief. No more fearing for the worst or worrying that their pet may be suffering. The end was peaceful and now the families can breathe slightly easier while they grieve together. All of this honors their beloved pet to the fullest and I truly feel blessed to get to witness this precious moment. The song playing between life and death is one filled with deep respect, sorrow, and a whole lot of love and I am blessed to sit and listen to a tune such as that.
Losing a beloved pet is extremely difficult. It is a HUGE loss yet what makes it most challenging is that life around the loss seems to carry on as normal. This is SO hard for someone who has lost a pet because they start feeling like their grief isn’t normal when in fact, it is, and it’s important to acknowledge that. Here’s what you can do to help a friend who has lost a pet:
Booties!!! Slow positive reinforcement is key to success! Take it Week by Week with these actions followed by a few treats and praise
Week 1: show your pet the booties daily immediately followed by a treat
Week 2: tap booties to their paws then treat
Week 3: put one bootie on and give treats and praise for one minute then remove
Week 4: put all booties on and give treats and praise for 5 minutes
Week 5: put all booties on and give treats praise and take outside: play distract have fun!
Jackets: in the picture you can see my little chiweenie’s parka. She will not poop without it! So if you have an older pet, they may have trouble with real cold temperatures. Please purchase a warm winter coat for them to do they duty in and get extra points if it’s stylish!!!
Walk outside with them: My girl will stop dead in her tracks if her paws get to cold and will make me pick her up! Make sure your older pet isn’t getting stuck outside or slipping on any ice. Watch them closely because even though they may not have had trouble when they were younger, they may find some as they get older and their joints become stiffer.
Warm up afterwards with a nice heated throw blanket or just a large hug!
A note on road salt: Winter sidewalk/road salt can dry out and crack your pet’s paws. So try to find a “pet friendly” salt like Morton’s “Safe-T-Pet” salt or make sure to wash their paws after their walks.
These few tips will make the winter friendly and warmer for both you and your pet!!!
There is no magic formula that will tell you if it’s time to choose to put your beloved pet down. For most families, this decision falls in the grey area and causes a lot of agonizing stress. Here are my top 5 tools that I have used over the years to help pet owners look at their pet’s quality of life.
1. Talk openly with your vet! We are here to help you through this. We know the disease or diseases your pet has and we know in general what you could expect. It is our job to help you through this process. Unleashed with Grace offers Quality of Life phone calls for only $50 for 30 minutes to help guide you through this tough decision. You do not have to make this decision alone!
Chances are if you are reading this, you are facing this difficult decision. Do not be afraid to reach out, we are here to help...you are not alone.
Max was one of my first home euthanasias 7 years ago that I will never forget:
He was laying down in his favorite spot on the farm, surrounded by his family. Even before I gave him any medication, I could tell he was very much relaxed and at peace. He passed gracefully, and his family was so relieved that he went with dignity and love.
Losing a pet is excruciatingly hard and is always filled with sorrow.
However, on that day, I saw euthanasia in a different light: it could be both sad yet beautiful.
Tears of his family represented the years of stories and moments Max gave them.
His last resting place represented his ultimate comfort zone, where he was most himself.
His graceful passing represented the honor and respect he deserved as a beloved companion.
His family's sorrow represented the strength in the human animal bond.
The way we love our pets is beautiful and the way we say goodbye is meaningful.
This is why we are honored to come along side pet owners during this emotional time. We share in your sorrow and honor the beauty of your bond by providing a dignified and graceful passing for each pet.