ORANGE COUNTY (CBSLA.com) — A growing number of veterinarians, specializing in care for old or terminally ill pets, are providing support and comfort through hospice for pets in their final days.
The end-of-life animal care through Lap of Love aims to provide this comfort, for both the animals and their families, through helping the pets pass on peacefully, at home and in an environment they are comfortable in.
"Veterinary hospice is about caring when we don't have a cure and people don't want to say goodbye too soon," Dr. Mary Gardner said. "Their pet is comfortable and is getting the best health care."
Dr. Mary uses hospice euthanasia as a means to provide a calm, gentle way of passing for pets who are beyond cure or who are severely arthritic, such as the Twing family's dog, Roxy.
A purebred British Labrador, Roxy suffers from arthritis, and she has difficulty when walking.
After a number of difficult, tearful discussions, the Twing family decided to give Roxy the chance to pass peacefully with the use of hospice euthanasia.
"Roxy is probably the quirkiest, smartest dog. She's just been the most loving, trusting, open, available dog," Lori Twing said. "I'm kind of selfish. It's my one last thing that links us all together, and I don't really want to see her go."
Through the hospice care, Dr. Mary says that, while no loving person wants their pet to go, they also don't want them to suffer, and the pet gets to spend quality time with their family, regardless of how regrettably limited that time may be, during their last stages of life.
"Most of us want their pet to just curl up in the middle of the night and pass in their sleep," Dr. Mary said. "It's just about caring when we don't have a cure, and people don't want to say goodbye too soon. While they're preparing for the end, and while they're waiting for that day, their pet is comfortable and is being treated properly, and is getting the best health care."
As peaceful as the eventual passing may be from a medical standpoint, Lori Twing and her family know that nothing makes the decision easy in the end.
"(I thought) 'Are we doing the right thing', because she still seems so happy," Lori said. "But then again, today she lost her bowels three different times, and her nose is all dry and crusty."
Dr. Mary says the passing is made easier on the pet by their familiar surroundings and by being in the presence of their families.
"The dog or the cat can have all their other family members present. Other dogs or cats that are their friends are present," Dr. Mary said. "It's not as scary for them, they're in their own environment."
When the time finally comes, the initial process includes a sedative injection to keep the pet relaxed.
"The final medication is an overdose of anesthesia," Dr. Mary told the Twing family. "The best thing you want for her is to pass in her sleep, and you are doing that."
Throughout the end, Roxy was surrounded by her family, giving her both comfort and love.
When Roxy was finally at rest, Dr. Mary made gently used her paw to make a print for her family to have.
"I hope it helps people let go of their pets when their pets are ready, and not when we're ready," Lori said. "Because I would keep her around forever."
For Dr. Mary, she considers herself lucky to be able to provide these pets, as well as their families, with some peace in the twilight of their lives together.
"It's such an honor to be the one to help these families to say goodbye to their love. I know this pet has had the best life, and will have the perfect goodbye."
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