‘Natural death may not be kind, easy or peaceful for pets’

Cruel to be kind: animal hospice gives pets better way to die

To help pet owners make decisions about end-of-life care, Villalobos developed a decision tool based on seven indicators. The scale is often called the HHHHHMM scale.

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Nearly 14 years ago, my daughter and I were grieving the death of my mother, and it seemed nothing could lift our spirits. Then we got Fluffy, a bouncing bundle of gray and white puppy, and everything changed.

Fluffy kept us busy with pee pads and squeaky toys. She made us laugh in spite of our sadness, and the gray clouds of grief began to recede

Over the years, our 10lb fluff ball was a constant in our lives. We dressed her up in holiday sweaters, celebrated her birthdays and scolded her for sneaking food from the cat’s dish. But in recent weeks, as our walks slowed down and her naps grew longer, it became clear that our time together was limited. I hoped that in the end, Fluffy would have a natural death, drifting off to sleep for good on her favorite pillow

A natural death is what many of us hope for with our pets. They are members of our family, deeply enmeshed in our lives, and for many of us, thoughts of euthanasia seem unfathomable, so we cling to the notion that a natural death is desirable.

In most cases, a natural death, she said, means prolonged suffering

But my veterinarian said that my end-of-life scenario for my dog wasn’t realistic. In most cases, a natural death, she said, means prolonged suffering that we don’t always see, because dogs and cats are far more stoic than humans when it comes to pain.

Dr Alice Villalobos, an oncology veterinarian in California, said that many pet owners idealise a natural death without thinking about what a “natural” death really means. A frail animal, she noted, doesn’t linger very long in nature. “When animals were domesticated, they gave up that freedom to go under a bush and wait to die,” Villalobos said. “They become very quickly part of mother nature’s plan due to predators or the elements. And yet in our homes we protect them from everything so they can live a long time – and sometimes too long.”

I had reached out to two at-home vet services that both offered compassionate guidance and confirmed my fears that no treatments were available to improve her condition

Villalobos has dedicated her career to helping pet owners navigate end-of-life issues. She created an animal hospice program she calls “pawspice.” She coined the name because she doesn’t want to confuse end-of-life care for animals with the choices we make for human hospice.

Her program is focused on extending a pet’s quality of life. That might mean treating a cancer “in kind and gentle ways,” she said. It can mean supportive care like giving fluids, oxygen or pain medication. In some cases, it might mean hand-feeding for frail pets or carrying an animal to a water dish or litter box. And finally, she said, it means a “well death.”

Villalobos has advocated what she calls “bond-centered euthanasia,” which allows the pet owner to be present and play a comforting role during the procedure. She has also championed sedation-first euthanasia, putting the animal into a gentle sleep before administering a lethal drug.

To help pet owners make decisions about end-of-life care, Villalobos developed a decision tool based on seven indicators. The scale is often called the HHHHHMM scale, based on the first letter of each indicator. On a scale of zero to 10, with zero being very poor and 10 being best, a pet owner is asked to rate the following:

HURT Is the pet’s pain successfully managed? Is it breathing with ease or distress?
HUNGER Is the pet eating enough? Does hand-feeding help?
HYDRATION Is the patient dehydrated?
HYGIENE Is the pet able to stay clean? Is it suffering from bed sores?
HAPPINESS Does the pet express joy and interest?
MOBILITY Can the patient get up without assistance? Is it stumbling?
MORE Does your pet have more good days than bad? Is a healthy human-animal bond still possible?

Villalobos said pet owners should talk to their vet about the ways they can improve a pet’s life in each category. When pet owners approach end of life this way, they are often surprised at how much they can do to improve a pet’s quality of life, she said.

By revisiting the scale frequently, pet owners can better assess the quality of the pet’s hospice care and gauge an animal’s decline. The goal should be to keep the total at 35 or higher. And as the numbers begin to decline below 35, the scale can be used to help a pet owner make a final decision about euthanasia.

“Natural death, as much as many people wish it would happen, may not be kind and may not be easy and may not be peaceful,” Villalobos said. “Most people would prefer to assure a peaceful passing. You’re just helping the pet separate from the pack just as he would have done in nature.”

Complete Article HERE!

8 Ways To Help Your Grieving Pet

Do Pets Grieve? The loss of a beloved family pet can overwhelm everyone in the household.  Your remaining pets can also be deeply affected by the loss of a companion animal. They may show immediate signs of depression or other behavioral changes. Some pets become so despondent, they die soon after their companion of what seems like a broken heart. Although it is not intentional, […]

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Do Pets Grieve?

The loss of a beloved family pet can overwhelm everyone in the household. Your remaining pets can also be deeply affected by the loss of a companion animal. They may show immediate signs of depression or other behavioral changes. Some pets become so despondent, they die soon after their companion of what seems like a broken heart. Although it is not intentional, their needs are often overlooked as you struggle through your own painful feelings of grief. With just a few simple steps you can help your remaining pets understand what happened to their best friend so you can all move through your grief and into healing.

What are the signs of pet grief?

After a pet dies, the hierarchy within the home shifts as the remaining pets adjust to the loss. Some pets will react immediately to the loss of a companion animal while others carry on as if nothing happened. Some pets will suddenly lose interest in food or treats while others will hide or sulk around in a sorrowful way. Many grieving pets will whine, meow, or yowl as they search the house looking for their companion who suddenly disappeared. If the pet that died was more dominant or self-confident the remaining pet can become fearful of things that never bothered them before. If your pets were together for a long time their grief may be more pronounced lasting for days, months, or longer. There are many signs of grief but listed below are a few of the most common behavioral changes.

Signs your pet may be grieving:

– Loss of appetite
– Restlessness
– Lethargic or no interest in toys
– Vocalizations – yowling, crying or whining
– Neediness
– Avoidance
– Changes in normal sleeping patterns
– Inappropriate elimination or marking
– Destructive behavior
– Aggression/dominance
– Sudden fearfulness/anxiety

How to help your pets understand the loss of a companion animal

Our remaining pets are often excluded from the final moments of another pet’s passing. Many become confused about what happened to their companion as they are not able to see the body after death. In the wild, animals inspect the body of their companion which provides closure and an understanding that the life force of the animal is gone. But what happens if you are not able to let them inspect the body? What else can you do?

The best way to help your pet understand what happened is to talk about it. When you communicate openly with your pet, images will flash across your mind as you speak. Those images play like a mini-movie in your head and your pets will be able to intercept those images.
Hearing your voice and watching the images will give them a better sense of the changes that have taken place. Speak slowly and softly as you would to a child of about nine or ten years of age. Another option is to allow the remaining pet to inspect a towel or blanket with the deceased pet’s scent on it. Ideally, try to give your remaining pet the opportunity to sense their companion has died.

Would it help to get another pet?

Every situation is different so decide wisely before bringing a new pet into your home. Some pets are very excited about a new companion while others are not. If the resident pet is older, weaker, or not in the best of health then it may be best to leave well enough alone and not add any new pets to the household. However, a new pet can breathe new life and laughter into a depressed situation and draw some pets out of their grief. Be mindful that a new pet will change the energy within the household and care should be taken to make sure the new pet is a good match for your family. Trust your intuition and if it feels right then it will likely be okay. If it doesn’t feel right, then wait for a better time.

Openly express your feelings
The best way to help your remaining pet is to openly share your feelings. If you are sad and missing your other pet, tell them exactly how you feel. They may not understand all the details about what happened but hearing your words will ease their mind and help them heal faster. Although it is a painful and difficult time, honor your grief and allow yourself to feel all of your emotions. As you move through your grief into healing your pets will likely do so too. They can absorb your emotions like a sponge and will naturally feel more balanced when you do. Watch your pet closely and consult with a trusted veterinarian if their condition continues or worsens.

Embrace every precious moment

When you are ready, celebrate your memories of the pet you lost and remember to make their life more important than their death. Your remaining pet will feel the love in your heart and know that their beloved companion has left this life with dignity and peace.

The 8 steps to help your grieving pet heal faster

1. Spend more time with them and focus on their needs with extra love and TLC

2. Talk openly about the pet you lost and share all of your favorite memories

3. Bring home a new toy, cat tree, or a new, cushy bed

4. Take more walks or engage in playful activities to help them release pent up emotions

5. Do not leave them alone for long periods of time after the loss of a companion pet

6. Tell them you will grieve together and you will move into healing together too

7. Picture the outcome you desire such as all of you being happy, healthy, and living life to the fullest

8. Keep their routine as normal as possible and avoid any trips, changes in diet, or other disruptions to their schedule

Complete Article HERE!

Knowing the Right Time to Say Goodbye to a Pet

End-of-life decisions for animals are difficult. A veterinarian has developed a scale to help clear up the confusion.

By Tara Parker-Pope

Nearly 14 years ago, my daughter and I were grieving the death of my mother, and it seemed nothing could lift our spirits. Then we got Fluffy, a bouncing bundle of gray and white puppy, and everything changed.

Fluffy kept us busy with pee pads and squeaky toys. She made us laugh in spite of our sadness, and the gray clouds of grief began to recede.

Over the years, our 10-pound fluff ball was a constant in our lives. We dressed her up in holiday sweaters, celebrated her birthdays and scolded her for sneaking food from the cat’s dish. But in recent weeks, as our walks slowed down and her naps grew longer, it became clear that our time together was limited. I hoped that in the end, Fluffy would have a natural death, drifting off to sleep for good on her favorite soft pillow.

A natural death is what many of us hope for with our pets. They are members of our family, deeply enmeshed in our lives, and for many of us, thoughts of euthanasia seem unfathomable, so we cling to the notion that a natural death is desirable.

But my veterinarian advised me that my end-of-life scenario for my dog wasn’t realistic. In most cases, a natural death, she told me, means prolonged suffering that we don’t always see, because dogs and cats are far more stoic than humans when it comes to pain.

Dr. Alice Villalobos, a nationally recognized oncology veterinarian based in Hermosa Beach, Calif., said that many pet owners idealize a natural death without thinking about what a “natural” death really means. A frail animal, she noted, doesn’t linger very long in nature.

“When animals were domesticated they gave up that freedom to go under a bush and wait to die,” said Dr. Villalobos. “They become very quickly part of mother nature’s plan due to predators or the elements. And yet in our homes we protect them from everything so they can live a long time — and sometimes too long.”

Dr. Villalobos has dedicated her career to helping pet owners navigate end-of-life issues. She created an animal hospice program she calls “pawspice.” She coined the name because she doesn’t want to confuse end-of-life care for animals with the choices we make for human hospice.

Her program is focused on extending a pet’s quality of life. That might mean treating a cancer “in kind and gentle ways,” she said. It can mean supportive care like giving fluids, oxygen or pain medication. In some cases, it might mean hand-feeding for frail pets or carrying an animal to a water dish or litter box. And finally, she said, it means a “well death.”

Dr. Villalobos has advocated what she calls “bond-centered euthanasia,” which allows the pet owner to be present and play a comforting role during the procedure. She has also championed sedation-first euthanasia, putting the animal into a gentle sleep before administering a lethal drug.

To help pet owners make decisions about end-of-life care, Dr. Villalobos developed a decision tool based on seven indicators. The scale is often called the HHHHHMM scale, based on the first letter of each indicator. On a scale of zero to 10, with zero being very poor and 10 being best, a pet owner is asked to rate the following:

Hurt: Is the pet’s pain successfully managed? Is it breathing with ease or distress?

Hunger: Is the pet eating enough? Does hand-feeding help?

Hydration: Is the patient dehydrated?

Hygiene: Is the pet able to stay clean? Is it suffering from bed sores?

Happiness: Does the pet express joy and interest?

Mobility: Can the patient get up without assistance? Is it stumbling?

More: Does your pet have more good days than bad? Is a healthy human-animal bond still possible?

Dr. Villalobos says pet owners should talk to their vet about the ways they can improve a pet’s life in each category. When pet owners approach end of life this way, they often are surprised at how much they can do to improve a pet’s quality of life, she said.

By revisiting the scale frequently, pet owners can better assess the quality of the pet’s hospice care and gauge an animal’s decline. The goal should be to keep the total at 35 or higher. And as the numbers begin to decline below 35, the scale can be used to help a pet owner make a final decision about euthanasia.

“Natural death, as much as many people wish it would happen, may not be kind and may not be easy and may not be peaceful,” Dr. Villalobos said. “Most people would prefer to assure a peaceful passing. You’re just helping the pet separate from the pack just as he would have done in nature.”

I discovered Dr. Villalobos’s scale as I was searching for answers for Fluffy in her final weeks. When she did get up, she often stumbled and seemed confused. Sometimes at night, I heard her whimper.

I had reached out to two at-home vet services, VettedPetCare.com and Instavet.com, that both offered compassionate guidance and confirmed my fears that no treatments were available to improve her condition. Fluffy was a very old dog, and they suspected her decline was a result of some combination of kidney and liver failure, but discouraged extensive testing since the physical symptoms were obvious. One visiting vet gave Fluffy subcutaneous fluids to help with dehydration and make her more comfortable and advised me to spend a final happy day with my dog before calling her for a final visit to end her suffering.

I trusted her judgment, but my tears and the fact that Fluffy still ate a little and wagged her tail when I stroked her clouded my thinking. I turned to the end-of-life scale and was able to see how poorly she was doing, despite the tail wag. I took my vet’s advice and spent a quiet day with Fluffy, giving her the cat food treats she so loved, without any scolding. I revisited the scale several times, just to remind myself that I was doing the right thing. The scale allowed me to make a more detached assessment of Fluffy, and it was a tremendous source of comfort during a very difficult time.

It wasn’t an easy decision or a pleasant one. But it was the right decision. And in the end Fluffy did drift away on her favorite soft pillow, just as I had hoped.

Complete Article HERE!

The animal lover giving a peaceful end of life to terminally ill creatures

– while defying death herself

 


 
Alexis Flemming has dedicated herself to giving terminally ill animals the best last days of their lives – despite recently almost dying herself.

The animal lover, who lives with autoimmune diseases, was recently given only a few days to live before an operation helped control her condition.

Now recovering, she is back giving care to the variety of animals she has taken in at her animal hospice and sanctuary in Scotland.

She was inspired to set up the Maggie Flemming Animal Hospice in 2016 after her beloved bullmastiff Maggie died suddenly at the vets.

Alexis’s beloved bullmastiff Maggie died while away from her at the vets in 2016.

“Not being able to be with someone you love when they die can be quite traumatic,” she says.

As she walks through the sanctuary to the hospice, she knows every pig, sheep and chicken by name.

She wants all the animals to have a dignified end.

“They come here to spend however long they have left, a few days, a few weeks – sometimes even a few years – and I do end-of-life care to give them peace, comfort and friendship,” she says.

Alexis works hard to see which activities the animals enjoy most.

At the hospice, situated just outside Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway, Alexis makes a point of discovering what the animals like.

For some it’s sweets and reading. For her 19-year-old pal Bran, it’s adventures in the car.

“Bran was dumped on the street when he was about 17, he had a tumour on his spleen. Bran came to us with just six weeks to live and that was two and a half years ago,” she explains.

Bran is still going strong at 19, defying the terminal prediction of vets two years ago.

Bran is still going strong but Alexis admits her own health problems have made it harder to keep up with the care demands.

“It’s very hard to deal with that much grief. There was a time last year when I did 10 end-of-life cares in one month, that really took its toll. I was really ill at the end of that because my health isn’t very good anyway,” she says.

Inevitably her own recent doomed diagnosis – while thankfully avoided – has made her re-evaluate her life and work.

Bran enjoys a new lease of life, after being taken in by Alexis, that involves adventures out in the car.

“I almost died twice. Even if you think you’re the most life-grabbing, go-getting person, when you’re told you’ve only got a few days left and you survive that, every day is just… you make the most of it,” she says.

On dealing with the mortality of her farmyard friends, she says: “I know how I felt thinking it was almost my end and I know it’s almost their end so let’s just make the most of it, let’s not hang around and think of the sadness.”

She is now developing what is the first purpose-built animal hospice in the UK. She believes it could be one of the first of its kind in the world.

“We try to never turn anyone away if we can help it, but it’s very important to do end-of-life care properly, so we have very small numbers [and] we only do end-of-life for three animals at any time,” she says.

The passionate animals rights advocate believes “most animals in our society are denied a peaceful life and death”.

But she says she remains focused on helping the animals living out their final days in her care.

“Doing this kind of work you realise anything can happen at anytime and it could be today, it could be tomorrow, it could be a month from now, I just don’t know,” she says. “I try not to dwell on it too much.”

Complete Article HERE!

A cartoonist drew a touching tribute to his dying dog.

His readers gave him an outpouring of sympathy.

Stephan Pastis’s tribute to his dog, Edee.

By Michael Cavna

Stephan Pastis ducked into an Arizona coffeehouse last September and began to grieve. He sketched and cried as he wrote the words, “We put our dog to sleep on Wednesday.” The plot twist was, about 800 miles away, Pastis’s dog was still alive, though her time drew near.

Edee, a loving and gentle springer spaniel, was the only dog Pastis had ever had. Now here he was, a cartoonist who uses drawing as a coping technique, on a personal trip far from his Northern California home, unable to comfort Edee and say goodbye to her one last time before she was put down.

The resulting art was not the sort of sentiment that readers usually expect from Pastis, a former lawyer. As the creator of the popular comic “Pearls Before Swine,” he entertains millions of fans by often trafficking in darker and snarkier human emotions, as channeled through a gallery of animal characters, including the self-serving Rat and the wide-eyed innocent Pig.

Although some comic-strip creators draw upon events from their personal lives for inspiration, most cartoonists don’t share their experiences directly through their work, free of fictive elements or filtering techniques. But on that emotional day in Phoenix — where Pastis was visiting his father, who has Alzheimer’s disease — the cartoonist decided to get as directly personal as an artist can get. “I’ve always run to my creativity to cope with life,” Pastis says.

The main characters in “Pearls Before Swine,” by Stephan Pastis.

So he wrote that Edee had cancer. He wrote that she was so sweet that “even kids that were afraid of dogs would pet her.” He wrote that she would “protect” him from squirrels and a stuffed mallard duck while he worked in his Santa Rosa studio. And he wrote of the “hurt” in the hearts of his family, including his wife, their 21-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter.

The punchline-free purity of that comic strip, published in December, struck a chord. Hundreds of readers contacted Pastis. And this week, his syndicate, Kansas City-based Andrews McMeel, announced that the Edee strip was its most buzzed-about comic of 2018, with nearly 500 comments and almost 1,200 “likes.”

That speaks, his syndicate says, to the power of going personal.

“It connects the readers to the comic at a whole different level,” says John Glynn, president and editorial director of Andrews McMeel Syndication. “It can, however, be jarring if the audience isn’t used to it.

“Stephan has done it well and regularly enough over the years,” Glynn continues, “that his readers know that they see a version of the cartoonist that you don’t see in most comics.”

A recurring character in “Pearls Before Swine” is an avatar of Pastis, comedically depicted as a beer-bellied, stubble-faced, overambitious and pun-happy hack whose work is insulted by the very characters he has created. But on occasion, Pastis the avatar will share an honest, true-life slice of himself.

When those genuine ideas come, Pastis says, he typically tries to draw them, even if he ultimately doesn’t publish them — because he doesn’t want to gum up the creative flow.

“When I sit down to write,” he says, “what’s there is there. When something tragic has happened” — from the death of a relative, say, to the enormity of a terrorist act — “the ideas seem to have a narrow spigot, and what’s there is something you have to get out — you have to write it.”

Last September, though, Pastis was feeling especially emotional. He had just come from being on set for a Disney film adaptation of his kids’ book series, “Timmy Failure.” Now here he was in Phoenix, where his father did not recognize him, and then his wife called to say that Edee would need to be put to sleep within hours to minimize the pet’s suffering — much sooner than they had expected.

“I was all by myself out there,” he says.

Edee, the family pet of “Pearls Before Swine” creator Stephan Pastis.

The cartoonist walked to the Lux Central cafe, pulled his ball cap down low and got lost in his art, listening to such mournful music as “To Build a Home” by the Cinematic Orchestra. He was trying to communicate through pictures both his love for his pet — he never had a dog as a boy and had come to fear dogs after once being bitten — and the degree to which Edee had become a part of the family over six years.

Edee was due to be put down at 11 a.m. Pastis finished drawing and headed to the Phoenix Art Museum — where he gazed at Frida Kahlo’s 1938 painting, “The Suicide of Dorothy Hale” — before calling his wife to hear how Edee’s final moments went.

Pastis had touched many readers in 2003, when he created a heart-wrenching comic after watching a news report about a bus attack in Jerusalem that killed six children. And the cartoonist got especially personal in 2012 when a poignant “Pearls” strip eulogized his father-in-law.

For Edee, Pastis let that creative spigot again flow.

“Sometimes when you write from the heart, in a moment like that, it has a way of distilling the essence of what is in you in a very straight, direct way,” Pastis says. “What comes out is sometimes pretty meaningful.”

When the strip ran Dec. 9, the immediate response was strong and uncommonly large, the cartoonist says. Many of the readers who contacted him had recently lost their pets.

Wrote one commenter on the syndicate’s GoComics.com site: “Your comic is really hard to read. I can tell because my eyes are starting to sweat.” Some readers offered thanks and condolences and spoke of a pet’s afterlife across “the Rainbow Bridge.” Another commenter said: “Sometimes the best comics are the sad ones.”

A comic strip like that, Pastis says, “provides a sort of release of emotion — it becomes this thing they can connect to.”

And comics have the ability, he continues, “to comment on your life in a way that helps you and the people around you.”

Complete Article HERE!

4 Amazing End-of-Life Celebrations for Beloved Pets

By: Joel Boyce

John Grogan, the author of “Marley and Me,” perfectly sums up the unique love that humans have for their animal companions:

Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.
It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.

And he’s far from the only person to lament the short time we have with a beloved pet. After all, we’re together in sickness and health.

So what do you do when your animal friend inevitably faces the end of their life? Here are a few anecdotes that demonstrate just how important pets can be to their human families.

1. Mayor takes cross-country road trip with 10-year-old dog

As the mayor of a town in Massachusetts, Paul Heroux hadn’t taken a vacation in over three years. But that changed when his beloved Mura was diagnosed with an aggressive blood cancer and given only a few months to live.

Heroux dropped everything and embarked on a cross-country road trip that was all about making his dog happy. Mura has even been picking their destinations, apparently pulling him south toward California once they hit the Pacific Coast.

I definitely agree that when going out for a walk or a ride, your dog should be at least as involved in making decisions as you are.

2. Photographer spends 100 days remembering her beloved cat

Preston Gannaway, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, processed her grief for her recently departed best friend, Isis, the only way she knew how: by poring through 17 years worth of photographs to share on Instagram for 100 days.

Sometimes pets are lost suddenly, and we don’t have much time to give a proper goodbye. In Gannaway’s case, she needed months after Isis’s death to finish saying her final farewell. The result is a testament not to a cat’s final days but to her entire life with her human companion.

3. Foster Family Has Goodbye Party for Dying Dog

It doesn’t happen as often, but sometimes it is the animal that loses their human first — and this was the case with Peanut. Fortunately, after her owner died, a rescue shelter and a foster family worked together to ensure that her final days were good ones. They even gave her a big goodbye party – an incredibly kind gesture to celebrate a dog that they had known only a short time but had fallen in love with nevertheless.

I’m sure the owner that predeceased her would have appreciated this loving gesture.

4. Veteran and His Dog Have a Perfect Day

In an excerpt from the book, “Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die,” author Jon Katz tells the story of Harry, a former soldier, and his canine best friend Duke. Suffering from a weakening heart, the dog was expected to pass away soon. To celebrate his life, Harry spent an entire day with Duke, visiting all of their favorite places — and even prepared a special dinner of sirloin steak for the animal.

Many little moments in this story make it special, but there are two important takeaways for me. First, Harry didn’t plan this perfect day just before an appointment for euthanasia. He didn’t let the day be soured by the thought that it would be his last day with his dog, because it wasn’t.

Second, this day was not about a huge grand gesture like a big party or a trip, but it was still special. It was all about revisiting and enjoying familiar sights, with a focus on making Duke happy — which, in turn, made Harry happy.

Complete Article HERE!

Heartbreaking Photo Series Documents the Raw Final Moments Owners Spend With Their Dying Pets

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Any pet owner will tell you that losing them is as great a pain as losing any member of the family. It’s in these moments we’re at our most vulnerable. One brave photographer has taken on the task of capturing such fragile moments in a series that documents owners struggling to cope in the last moments of their animal’s life.

Ross Taylor’s powerful new series is one that’s sure to bring a tear to the eye of any pet owner. His inspiration came after being “profoundly moved” by witnessing a friend struggle with the deteriorating health of her pet and her subsequent decision of euthanasia. The collection of images, he says, explores the intimacy of the human-animal bond, specifically “the last moments before and after the passing of a pet at home with their owner.”

Leigh Zahn fights back tears as she lays with her dog, Spencer, in her lap a final time, just moments after Spencer passed.
“She’s always been my companion. Coco was there for me when he was on deployment,” said Rebecca Cassity, as she fights back tears. Her husband, Drew, was in the military. Dr. McVety reassures her with a hug and consoling words: “This is better treatment than any one of us would get.”

The images were taken in Tampa Bay, Florida throughout 2017-18 and involved working closely with the families involved. The pet owners seen in the images were aided by veterinarians from Lap of Love, a pet euthanasia service that allows for a peaceful passing at home. Founded by Dani McVety, the organization has been working with Caring Pathways, all of whom Taylor expresses utmost gratitude for. “It couldn’t be done without their willingness to participate and belief in the project… They have my respect,” Taylor said.

In one of the most intense moments I’ve ever witnessed, Wendy Lehr cuddled beside her dog, Mimosa, shortly after she passed. The muffled sounds of her cries filled the empty room as she nuzzled against her face. She cried out: “Oh my baby, oh my baby. What am going to do without you?”
“It’s tough saying goodbye,” said Carrie Peterson after she dropped sunflowers over the grave of her dog, Asia. The smell of freshly turned earth is what I remember and how peaceful Asia looked within it.

While difficult, the at-home euthanasia process can be one that mitigates some of the painful reality of the end of life. It’s worth noting that the vets I’ve worked with are some of the most compassionate people I’ve met and always offer the families a chance to have a respectful moment afterwards with their beloved pet. It’s in stillness of these moments that I sometimes felt the most emotional for everyone involved.

Bob Zahn touches his dog, Spencer, just moments after the dog passed. His wife, Leigh, left the room immediately, as it was too much for her to take. “She’s going to take it harder maybe than the loss of her parents. Your parents can tell you when something’s wrong, but your dog can’t.”
Vanessa Gangadyal consoles her son, Ian, 8, while her husband, Michael Gangadyal, pets their dog, Ally, shortly after its passing.
“When I was sick, she knew something was wrong,” said Bob Lutz about their dog, Heidi, who looked up at them moments before she was euthanized due to recent substantial declines in health. His wife, Cindy, added: “she helped take away our pain.” At right, watching, is their other dog, Winnie.

If you were as moved as we were by this powerful series, you can see more of Taylor’s work (some of which saw him nominated for a Pulitzer Prize) at his website and Instagram.

Complete Article HERE!