RALEIGH, N.C. — In-home hospice care can mean everything to those with ailing or elderly pets.
Having a vet who can come to a pet’s home during its final days — either for palliative care or euthanasia — saves pets the anxiety of trips to the vet and gives owners peace of mind.
There’s a growing demand for such services, with at least three Raleigh, N.C., businesses devoted specifically to hospice or euthanasia care: Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice, Azure Holland Mobile Veterinary Services and Peaceful Passing Mobile Veterinary Services. (Peaceful Passing provides only euthanasia care, not veterinary hospice care.)
Lap of Love veterinarian Betsy King said the length of time a pet requires hospice varies depending on the pet’s condition.
“Some pets that have mobility issues or bad, degenerative joints, things like that, they may be in hospice care for months,” King said. “Others that have more advanced conditions like terminal cancer, they may only be in hospice for a week. Sometimes those are situations where the owner isn’t sure whether it’s time to say goodbye. They need our advice; they need to feel like they’ve done everything they possibly can to make them comfortable and have them with them in comfort for as long as possible.”
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Julia Hamrick, a Peaceful Passing customer, said Dr. Jennifer Frey helped put her mind at ease about putting down her beloved Dachshunds, Roly and Lilah.
“You always, even though you know it’s the right time, there’s always that tiny bit of, ‘Oh my God, could we have made him last a little longer?’” Hamrick said. “(Frey’s) presence is so calming and so peaceful that I was able to be clear that the time was right, and it was the right thing to do.”
Dr. Dana Lewis, of Lap of Love, said when determining an ailing pet’s needs, it’s an advantage to be able to see the pets’ homes.
“We can evaluate anything at home that might impact their quality of life,” Lewis said. “Like, say if they have arthritis, and they have a lot of stairs in their home, or slippery floors or other pets that might be creating too much stress for that animal. We can make suggestions on how to do things in the home.”
Tough but rewarding work
Both Frey and Dr. Azure Holland, founder of Azure Holland Veterinary Services, said it’s difficult to stay emotionally stable in their jobs.
“I have to focus on the love,” Frey said. “There’s so much love in every appointment, every home that I visit. That’s what gets me through. It is emotionally stressful, especially when there’s children involved and they’re reading letters and cards. It breaks my heart, but I do realize every patient leaves a legacy. Honestly, I’m only serving the best of the best in the area who want what is best for their pet. I am honored to be in the presence of such a union, such a bond.”
Holland said helping her own family put their golden retriever to rest peacefully at home inspired her to start her business.
“Something I always think of is that none of the people who I have loved in my life ever said to me, ‘We want to die in the hospital,’” Holland said. “I really think that if we could have these honest conversations with our pets, they would feel very much the same way. I have two kitty cats, and for the most part, their whole world is our home and our house.”
‘Her house, her bed, all at peace’
Billy Fansler, whose dog, Lou, had cancer of the spleen and was euthanized by Betsy King, of Lap of Love, said he and his girlfriend knew they wanted a peaceful and calm environment for Lou.
“We’re kind of private people, maybe we’re not super-social people, so when we’re in that emotional state, it’s tough to let a stranger into that environment,” Fansler said. “There’s always this little worry — I don’t want a stranger here taking away from this moment. (King) was just a total pro; she knew exactly what to say; she let us do our thing. That last moment, Lou’s last moments were just laying in the living room with her. I gave her Doritos, because she would always steal Doritos from me, and I’d fuss at her. It was just this peaceful moment, and then Betsy left, and Lou got to pass in her most favorite place — her house, her bed, all at peace and everything.”