Pet hospice helps owners say goodbye |

When LaDawn Allen and Pat Stillwell got the news in October that their 11-year-old female malamute Sakari had bone cancer, they were devastated.But thanks to a new hospice program for pets, the Serra Mesa couple was able to buy a precious bit of extra time for their beloved dog, whose pain was eased with home treatments of acupuncture, reiki energy massage, anti-nausea pills and IV infusions. Sakari was euthanized under her favorite front-yard tree four months later, a passing Allen described as “peaceful and loving as could be.”“These dogs are our children,” Allen explained. “We have the income to take advantage of this and we want to provide the best for our fur babies to the very end.”Allen and Stillwell are among a small but growing number of pet owners who are using the kind of end-of-life services once exclusively reserved for humans. With improvements in veterinary science, pets are living longer, and many pet owners are willing to invest in concierge care to extend the life and comfort of their animals.Sakari, an 11-year-old malamute whose end-of-life care was managed this past winter by Into the Sunset Pet Transition Center in Sorrento Valley. — Pat StillwellSakari was a client of Into the Sunset Pet Transition Center, a 1-year-old Sorrento Valley business that owner Vivianne Villanueva Dhupa describes as one of the first brick-and-mortar pet hospice clinic in the country. There, a team of veterinarians, nurses and counselors help dog and cat owners plan out and mentally prepare for their pet’s final months and memorial.Would you use a pet hospice service?NOYESSee results“It’s nice to give people control in an uncontrollable situation,” Dhupa said. “They can take comfort in knowing that they did everything they could for their pet.”But the industry has struggled to gain a foothold, Dhupa said, because hospice is a touchy subject in animal care.“Vets get what we do, but they struggle with referring patients because that’s admitting there’s nothing more that can be done for the pets,” Dhupa said. “But we’re not giving up on your pet. The body always wins, but we can help customize the pet’s final journey and help the clients plan crisis management.”Many vets have offered in-home euthanasia services for years. Kristi Freeman’s Graceful Departure Pet Center was one of the first San Diego veterinary practices to focus solely on hospice and euthanasia. She said she got the idea while staffing a pet loss hotline while in veterinary school at UC Davis.“I remember one couple begging me to do this as a service (because) there was a crucial need for this,” she says, on her website.Early last year, Christine and Doug and Evans of Carlsbad became overwhelmed with the late-stage medical needs of their 20-year-old cat, Mayreau, so they called Stephanie Velez, a registered veterinary technician and certified pet grief counselor. The 28-year-old Velez runs Furry Legs of Love, a Vista-based mobile business that offers care and sitting for medically fragile pets as well as euthanasia counseling.Mayreau had high blood pressure, kidney disease and a host of other geriatric issues that Velez treated until it was clear the cat’s quality of life had ebbed and she recommended euthanasia.PAGE:123

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