Pet Hospice: Helping owners and pets say goodbye in comfortable surroundings

Posted at 8:35 PM, May 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-10 23:10:41-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- There's a special bond people and their pets, and a sense of loyalty to one another. But as our pets begin to show their age, things like routine visits to the veterinarian can be tough, especially as certain medical conditions progress.

That’s why some people who want to make sure their beloved pet is cared for and comfortable in its final days are turning to the new and growing industry of pet hospice.

Dr. Laurie Brush, a local veterinarian, founded Heaven at Home Pet Hospice five years ago. She tells FOX 17 says she felt "a calling" to be able to help both pets and their owners during the difficult process of saying goodbye.

Dr. Brush says she wants to make sure the pets pass away at their homes where they can be most comfortable. “It's stress-free for the pet to be in their own home,” she says.

“One of the most wonderful things we can give our pets as a last gift is euthanasia. Not everyone I talk with is in favor of euthanasia, but it’s certainly an option for pet owners when they can no longer keep their pets comfortable.”

Dr. Brush says the desire to help has allowed her to share in some very private moments, and she never knows where it may take her.

“I’ve been in closets, I’ve been under decks, I’ve been in barns and been in basements. I’ve crawled into some strange places, if that is where the pet is comfortable.” Said Dr. Brush.

Heaven at Home provides end of life care that offers a different atmosphere than a typical vet’s office.

“She helped me to understand when my pet was comfortable and when he was in pain,” says Karen Krummel, a former client of Dr. Brush, "and to know he was really getting good quality of life. And she helped me to know what I could do for him, so that I could really have good quality of life also.”

“I would want someone to take care of me the same way if I became critically ill,” says Betsy Bougie, a client of Dr. Brush. “I’d want to be treated humanely and have my life be as pleasant as possible toward the end.”

Coming to terms with letting go and doing what’s best for your pet is a difficult process.

“When the pets are able to be in their own homes with what’s familiar to them with their owners right there,” says Dr. Laura Tay, associate vet Heaven at Home. “Talking to them and talking them across to the other side.”

When it comes to costs, pet hospice is about the same as office visits. The families we spoke with say having the option of home visits is definitely worth it.

Heaven at Home also works with Clock's Timeless Pets for cremation and memorial services as well as Sleepy Hollow Pet Cemetery, where people can lay their furry friends to rest.