Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Animal Hospice in action... now let's give it to humans too!

Animal Hospice is really the best of both - or even all - worlds. Let me explain...

Animal hospice brings all the dignity, respect, time and calmness we compassionately offer to humans when faced with the very last part of life but it also offers us the blessings of humane and peaceful euthanasia at home - meaning a good death - which is what most agree is what our loved ones, furry or not, should have after a good life.

If you are an animal, all that can be achieved without ever leaving your beloved home, full of only your own fluff balls, smells and favourite things - so at that point leaving home then is just for pleasantries such as walks, bird watching and other niceties. Never going to the vets again. Vet practices, much like hospitals, are for curing, fixing, recovering, good and bad stress, happiness, new puppies and kittens, emergencies and all the things that comes with really good clinical hospital care. And for those that have a life ahead of them.

But the last part of life, the end-of-life stage, does not belong in a busy clinic or a hospital when there no longer are any cures or investigations that will change anything because at a certain point life is just slowly dimming or sometimes, fading fast and our home is where we all long to be. Always. Our very own place, our own bed, our own people (or no people even - certainly not nurses and doctors poking you about) and just our own space and time. Control and dignity exists at home and very little control exists in a clinic or a hospital.

In animal hospice, together we have the time, the tools and all the knowledge made available to us to care best for our loved ones with fur when they are faced with the inevitable and this is really what life is - and should be - all about. We certainly cannot easily explain to our pets why they need to be away from us. When they are preparing to die. Some prepare longer than others - some for just days or weeks but the hardy ones (and we all know them, right great grandma?) can be "dying" for years! Even after a diagnosis of a devastating terminal disease.

Even if we all prefer to not think about it, it actually is much better if we do and did, and we need to think over and over and so almost trivialise this thought in order to finally make peace with the indisputable facts of life - the facts of death - and that we would not have life if it wasn't because of death. Or paid for with death.
This binary is the ultimate yin/yang of life. We would not have mountains if we didn't have valleys. We would not appreciate our nights if we did not have days, the sunshine and the rain, the chocolate and the broccoli - well you get my drift.

By having - or rather - by giving a good death in case of animal hospice and home euthanasia, this beautiful and inevitable life event - paves the way for remembering only the many happy memories of what these treasured creatures bring to our lives - the joy, the wags, the kisses, the purrs, the cuddles, the companionship, the listening without talking back and all that good stuff - and this is probably why most of us choose to invite them into our lives. Time after time after time.

We know when we invite them into our homes, our beds, our hearts that they are here much shorter than us. They go through their cycles of life with such haste that it reminds us sometimes just how mortal we are ourselves, seeing all seasons of life; spring, summer, autumn and winter come to our beloved pet over the course of 5, 8, 12 or 15 years even - well sadly for most. And our children have barely reached their late teenage years in that same time frame.
Yet we know all that joy, love and company is so worth the "pain" at the end but that pain must be only ours and ours alone - and the suffering too - for us to bear while we learn to live with, knowing they were not.

This is possible thanks to the blessings of the ultimate comfort care; animal hospice and with the gift of having the choice of euthanasia when comfort is no longer possible. If anything THAT is a true gift of a "God" and no respectful religion should speak against this if it has any decency and meaning at all to the betterment of our lives.

Well it is very much in that spirit, we have asked Liz to share her loving story of Millie, her Yorkshire Terrier through 15 years of devoted life together, and mixed with several new addresses and other animals, and why never having to take Millie to a vet practice during her last 18 months of life and having such a peaceful end, is what life should be all about - after a certain point when no cure is meant to be found. The cycle of life completes, as intended, mixed with compassionate humanity, medical science and all that we have learned through history.

In Millie's case this was her natural journey with only gentle support and minimal medical intervention to her system to make sure her last season also was a most peaceful, pain - and stress free one. Also for her human family.

Animal hospice and home euthanasia is here to stay.  How about we show some real compassion, stand up for giving this to humans too - it's been "tested" long enough on our furry family members...


Watch her story here....
Millies last season...Animal hospice in action

Saturday, 5 September 2015

"Healing After a Loss Begins Beforehand"

This is my newest article in Cat World Magazine (September 2015 issue)  where I try to offer some advice to help pet owners prepare to get through the most difficult and challenging time of being a pet parent. After thousands of consultations at the end of life, it is now very clear to me what may be helpful to do beforehand to ease the pain - just a little - of having to say goodbye to a beloved companion.
It will however always be the hardest, most heartbreaking part of loving a pet though... If you have loved an animal, sadly you will have had to go through this too (but it is ALWAYS worth it I believe...)
Read the full digital article by clicking the link below:

Also keep an eye out for my story of the most amazing cat love story, Alfie's story, coming in the November 2015 issue of Cat World Magazine...

Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Inside Story - Saying Goodbye to Buddy

family with dog
Buddy and his family
What we ALL as pet lovers go through on the inside - in our tormented minds - here in a wonderfully written story about all the heart wrenching consideration we have when we reach a certain point with our furry family members. It just says everything so well.... 
Please click on this link from Woman's Day Magazine and read this beautiful piece: Saying goodbye to Buddy

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Cat World May 2015: Our very own tender tale about peaceful Animal Hospice

Meet delightful Rosy Lee (originally from Mauritius where they are mostly allowed to love dogs as pets) and her "furry baby" Fifi, her lovely 16 year old stay-at-home Tortie kitty, in this months touching hospice case story of ours featured in Catworld Magazine's May Issue...In stores now.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Not exactly "a walk in the park"...

It's Saturday afternoon, it's September and there's a bit of a chill in the air between the more distant rays of sunshine and the white clouds are moving fast across the sky. More importantly - for some unlucky pet owners - most local vet practices are now shut for the weekend and so my workday as an on-call emergency vet is about to begin - any minute.

2.15pm - the phone rings. It's the cafe proprietor in Buckingham Park in Shoreham, she reminds me who she is and how I went to help her dog at home just a few weeks prior. She explains, slightly breathless, that there's an elderly lady who is desperate for a vet to come out as her large, likewise elderly dog has suddenly collapsed in the middle of the Green, is in pain and simply cannot get back up - and there doesn't seem to be a local vet surgery open as she has phoned around all the local vet practices before she finally remembers to try me. Vets2Home luckily just "happens" to be the only visiting vets out-of-hours available for home (or park) visits in Sussex and borders!

Our special service offering urgent out-of-hours home vet visits, was something we started 10 years ago, while I was working as an emergency vet for Grove Lodge in Worthing, soon realising we were having far too many calls to the clinic for a vet to come out to suffering pets after hours. Equally frustrating for all parties however, is not being able to send one out due to the low weekend/night staffing levels and very busy times at both the regional 24HR clinics in Worthing and Brighton.
This was definitely a rather huge and recurring problem I thought seeing house calls were not something readily available to pets and owners in Sussex - or in the UK in general - so it was something I soon decided to change. With an equally frustrated Vet Nurse, Alex, having had the same experiences in her practice, we then started Vets2Home together in 2005.

Fast forward 10 years and my practice have thousands of times been called out to help pets in need - and owners in distress - who cannot come to the emergency practice - very much like Maisy - or when some owners understandably don't want to come in as it may very well be that it is the "very last vet appointment" which in their - and my opinion - is best taken care of peacefully at home.

Luckily this Saturday I have not yet had any other calls so I reassure the worried Cafe Lady that I could get there within half an hour - depending as always on traffic as my flashing blue lights are still just wishful thinking for times like this.

I get to the Park which this Saturday afternoon as always is full of families with children and dog walkers in abundance enjoying this lovely autumn day and I quickly try to gain access into the large center Green in my appropriately stickered up "Vetmobile".  Luckily the nice Park Ranger is waiting to escort me safely onto the pavement and into the middle of the Green with my hazards lights on to alert any "straying" dogs or small children.

As I approach the lady sitting with her dog there in the middle of the Green, surrounded by the bustling of activity all around, it almost looks like they are just having a little cosy rest as the lady, Mrs Burgess her name is, had been served a caring hot cup of (hopefully very strong) coffee by the compassionately concerned Cafe Lady while waiting for my arrival.
Mrs Burgess and lovely Maisy with her face showing her pain

Her lovely old dog, Maisy the 13 year old German Shepherd/Labrador mix, is lying peacefully on her side as if just lying down for a rest. But her face tells a very different story.  It is very clear - to me anyway - that her whole expression, even while being stroked gently by her owner, is very strained  and in excruciating pain. Poor, poor old girl.

As I gently take a closer look at her hind leg, it is clearly in a wrong position, swollen and when touched poor Maisy cries out in agony. It's very bad news indeed - Maisy is an elderly "lady" and Mrs Burgess tells me she has been increasingly lame over the past months but she still loves and wants to go on her usual walk in her park - albeit at a much slower rate now to earlier in her life. The medication she had been given by her normal vet a few months before had helped Maisy - and her owner - to start to enjoy her walks again so Mrs Burgess had been hoping it was just arthritis as many large breed dogs (and smaller ones and even cats) suffer from when they get older.

Sadly, it is very clear to me that her leg is fractured - and at her age with the sneaky symptoms Mrs Burgess described, it is highly likely a nasty bone cancer that has caused the leg to weaken and break so easily when Maisy was just walking normally. She wasn't even running or trying anything when it happened.

I offer Mrs Burgess the option of taking them both in my car (not something I am allowed to do but feel I must help this poor lady best possible) to the nearby emergency clinic - for x rays and confirmation if need be - but Mrs Burgess is not in doubt - her face says it all - she doesn't want Maisy to go through anything painful at her age and it is rather clear she says what the prudent decision is - for Maisy's sake.
She quietly ask me if I can stop her pain - Maisy's that is? I nod - I can luckily take all her pain away - with one quick injection in the back of her neck containing a strong sedative which will make her go to sleep very gently and gradually over just 10 minutes. Mrs Burgess agrees this sounds the best decision - right here in this spot - in Maisy's favourite park - on her favourite walk.
I give her owner a tasty treat to give to Maisy as she despite the pain, is still part Labrador, so I always carry tasty treats in my bag and so Maisy never notices the injection I sneak into her soft blonde fur in the back of her neck.

What happens next is one of the greatest wonders that makes it SO rewarding to be an animal doctor: Maisy's face softens as her grey-blonde muzzle gradually relaxes - and she almost has a subtle little smile on her face as she slowly puts her head down on the soft grass - the "doggy morphine" as I call it, is working wonders in no time and she is clearly feeling that lovely fuzzy warm feeling that just takes all her worries away - all the while she is having cuddles from her "mum" who in turn is being reassured by the lovely, supportive Cafe Lady who, having just gone through a heartbreaking goodbye herself only weeks before, is also getting misty eyed - as are we all - including the (not so) weathered looking Park Ranger and myself who is finding this whole scenario a bizarre mix of sadness and beauty all at the same time - as are a few other people watching the ordeal from a distance.
Maisy relaxing and sleeping in the park -  no more pain!

As Maisy is having a gentle snore, I shave her front leg and give her the final intravenous injection but she notices nothing at all. She is just having sweet dreams - probably dreams of running on all four painfree legs again and enjoying the relief of "ridding herself" of this old painful and well used "shell"...

Maisy passes very peacefully and Mrs Burgess is clearly collecting all her strength while I cannot begin to imagine the turmoil of emotions inside her, having left her house only a couple of hours earlier for her normal walk in the park, only to return home but without her beloved companion.

Looking at Maisy's peaceful face and posture, the helpful Park Ranger and I both seem to discreetly wipe away a stray tear and together we put Maisy in the big dog bed I always have in my car, cover her with a pink blanket and then we load her carefully into the boot of the car.
Despite the strict company policy I don't hesitate for one second - of course I am taking Mrs Burgess home - with Maisy in the boot - and later I will take her to the crematorium.
So we slowly drive off right across the green back towards her house across from the park - with a very heavy heart - all the while the small crowd disperses and the Cafe Lady and the Park Ranger go back to what they were doing earlier but surely forever marked by the turn of events this Saturday afternoon - as were we all. But surely none more than Mrs Burgess who was displaying an amazing amount of inner strength this unexpectedly sad day, where she suddenly had to decide to see and support Maisy safely through to her destined but heartbreaking end - however peaceful it may have been in the end.

As you my dear reader can vividly imagine by now I am sure, actually being able to help this poor Iady and her poor dog in this painfully urgent situation, is exactly what is truly rewarding about being a mobile, emergency vet. As many, many animal lovers like myself know very well, absolutely nothing feels better than helping animals (and people) in real need and particularly when these lovable creatures are in a tremendous amount of pain. Who didn't always want to be the one removing that thorn from the tigers paw.
So enabling animals to not have to be painfully handled and transported to a clinic first, is what makes me get out of bed in the morning (or in the night for that matter) and is definitely what made me spend almost decade of my "best" years going through vet school!

Sweet dreams lovely girl...

Thursday, 1 January 2015


Here's hoping 2015 will be your best year yet - full of adventures, love and happiness for all two - & four legged family members...


Tuesday, 30 December 2014

BEST of 2014: Instruction note for dog-sitter: DON'T take Rolo to the vet!!

Got to be the FUNNIEST dog-sitter instructions we have ever seen in 10 years of being mobile, home visiting vets:

Note pinned on wall in the kitchen for Rolo's (a very large 48kg chocolate labrador) dog-sitter - taped on wall next to dog food... 
Ever since being neutered, Rolo did NOT like vets and was apparently one of the very few dogs that the Principal Vet at his normal vet practice (in Peacehaven) was really scared of. 

Luckily we know he is a real labrador and like his treats very much...

#GrumpyDogs, #AtHomeVets, #GeriatricPets, #MobileVets

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Is there a right time to say goodbye to a pet?

Having been a veterinary surgeon for 15 years, the question of when is the right time to say goodbye to a pet is one of the most difficult questions to answer and perhaps the reason why it's the question I hear the most. But one thing I am certain of: a good life deserves a respectful and gentle departure at the end which paves the way for everlasting happy memories. And this is what I, as a 24/7 on-call hospice vet, want to help pet parents have...

After treating pets at home since 2005, we have become experts in this field and my practice, Vets2Home, now specialises in helping families have time for a peaceful ending with their much loved pet - in the comfort of their own home. 
Although we often hear pet owners express the secret wish that their pet will go quietly in his or her sleep this almost never happens, or usually not without some degree of suffering first - something we allow to happen to humans but which we luckily can spare our animals.
Having visited and helped thousands of pets at home, I strongly believe “the right time” is when your pet and you lose the joy in your life together, whether this is due to old age or unmanageable illnesses. The reasons can be many - from not eating, or eating excessively but with severe weight loss, poor mobility, hidden or subtle pain, vocalising, hiding, not interacting, soiling inappropriately, grumpiness or even aggression to sleeping a lot - or not at all. Some of which could be indications of severe illness or of what I call “petzheimers” which makes your elderly pet a completely different “person”.

I strongly believe the one last gesture of love we can show our pets is giving a calm, respectful end - without stress, pain or suffering, when it is most needed and not before. And that goodbye should ideally be at home, surrounded by loved ones, familiar smells and sounds, pain-free and in that favourite spot.
As a hospice vet and life-long animal lover, I want to leave pet owners with only happy memories of their special furry friend and I feel honoured to be able to give my patients a dignified, pain-free end - without any worry or pain of travel, stress or strange places - that one last time. 

I am grateful and humbled to receive so many kind words from our clients afterwards as you can view on our website or please come meet us on Facebook to ask us any questions or concerns you may have about being a senior pet parent or just to hear what some of our many lovely clients said about us over the years.

Monday, 1 December 2014

What "Pets at Home" Really Should Be...

"PETS AT HOME" = Vets Helping Pets in Their Own Home - In particular senior and terminally ill pets...

At Home Geriatric Care, Animal Hospice & Pet Euthanasia Services 24/7 - Home Vet Care to Your Pet by a Compassionate Mobile Vet Service.

Introducing Susan Gregersen & Alex Gravett, Vets2Home:

Please come "meet" us on FacebookTwitter or Google+
or on the Vets2Home Website