In April 2016, my 12 year-old dog, Vega, started showing swelling in her neck area that didn’t seem normal. She had been healthy most of her life, so of course my husband and I were concerned and brought her in to see Dr. Ku the following day. After a physical exam and lab work, test results were still inconclusive as to why she was swollen. As the days went on, we tried antibiotics but that didn’t seem to help with the swelling. We continued testing, radiographs and a biopsy until results gave us an answer…it was a form of aggressive cancer.
So now what? After discussing our options with Dr. Ku, we knew that we didn’t want her to put her through surgery at this stage in life, and financially we could not put ourselves in debt for the small chance that we’d have more limited time with her—it’s always hard to make that decision when you can say, "we did the best we could." And we did. She had a wonderful life with us and we soon made plans to continue our happy lives with her for as long as she was comfortable and content.
Vega was our first dog. This was our first time we were planning to say goodbye to a beloved fur-baby. Of course, sometimes other pet owners don’t have that luxury to plan their goodbyes, so we are grateful we had this opportunity. We knew for sure that when the day arrives, we would take her out for a burger, fries and vanilla cone (she’s always had dietary restrictions due to sensitive stomach issues, so this would be the ultimate treat for her!). But as we talked about remembering her in the future, we reached out to our friends and family for advice and support:
*Cherish the memories you shared. Pictures or small items that have meaning will help during this time of adjustment and something to look at fondly in the future.
*Use pictures to tell your pet's story. Frame a photo to display. You can get creative with scrapbooking supplies or order a nice printed book from an online retailer.
|Photo Credit: http://www.mixbook.com/blog/pawprints-on-our-hearts-5-pet-photo-books-ideas/|
Or make a collage or shadow box to display with love.
|Photo credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/78/eb/e3/78ebe3553f5bf96069fbc022e778496e.jpg|
|Photo credit: https://aliexpress.com|
*Have a friend or photographer do a photography session to capture special moments.
|Some of our "family" pictures taken by a wonderful friend.|
Photo credit: Photography by Tammy Nguyen Le
*Custom-made jewelry can be very special like charms with imprints of your pet’s paw.
|Photo credit: https://img0.etsystatic.com/038/0/5304031/il_fullxfull.660390986_h12a.jpg|
Yolo Hospice Pet Loss Support Group
First Monday of every month from 6:30-7:30 p.m.
1909 Galileo Court, Ste. A
For questions, please call (800) 491-7711 or (530) 601-5756 or visit www.yolohospice.org.
This service is provided for free.
There are also books for children and adults about dealing with the loss of a pet. Here is a link to a list of books: http://petlossathome.com/pet-loss-books
Like most people, we had questions about what to expect towards the end of her life. We also asked Dr. Ku if she had any advice on the process we will be going through for the last of her days…
"As a veterinarian and pet owner, the question "when is it time?" is inevitable. For each pet and each situation that time may vary, but some of the things I ask pet owners to consider, and I ask myself are:
- Is the pet interacting with their surroundings and loved ones still?
- Are they still eating and enjoying meals as well as before they became ill?
- Do they still react positively when you come home? Have energy to greet or respond to you? Recognize you?
- Can they control their elimination behavior and if not is it manageable for all parties?
- Are you sleeping? Is you pet sleeping?
End of life issues are not only extremely variable by circumstance, but also very personal as to how we address them. Our own beliefs about life and suffering, and pain and comfort, are based on a lifetime of experiences that help us make the decisions we make. There is no right, and there is no wrong, way to do things. But we doubt ourselves because we do not want to be in charge of this decision. It is however, a responsibility as pet owners that we will all most likely face as our pets do not live as long as we do. Most often, once we accept that inevitability, and we consider life and health from the perspective of love for our pet, the decisions become more clear." -Dr. Gloria Ku
2 months later, my husband and I said our goodbyes to Vega as Dr. Ku was by our side. And as we go through our daily life at home, there are wonderful reminders that she will always have a place in our heart and home.
Danielle (receptionist at HVH)
with Husband and Vega.