NEW YORK (AP) – Clarence the giant schnauzer came into Penny Wagner’s life as a puppy at an extremely upset time for her and her husband.
The couple lost their 21-year-old daughter in a car crash nearly eight years ago. Soon after, their other child went to college, and Wagner’s spouse returned to work, leaving her home alone with her grief. That’s when they brought Clarence into the family.
Earlier this year, their beloved pet fell seriously ill with advanced kidney disease. Their vet did not allow them to stay with him until the end of the clinic due to COVID protocols, so they decided to have him dropped off at the home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at a preferred laundry location.
Work with a company called Pet Loss at Home, a veterinarian greeted Clarence and the Wagneres upon his arrival. She gave the couple all the time they needed before giving two injections, one to relax the 90-pound dog and one to let him go. The couple cuddled him while crying, and their other dog, Cooper, was also able to say goodbye to him.
“He will always have a special place in my heart,” said a tearful Wagner. “I think he took great comfort in the fact that he was home and being with his loved ones until the moment we said goodbye.”
Private departments that offer home euthanasia for pets have been busier than ever since the pandemic resulted in restrictions on humans in veterinary surgeries and animal hospitals. But home euthanasia is not for everyone. It tends to cost more, and some pet owners believe it unduly bothers young children and other pets in their homes.
The vast majority of pet euthanasia still takes place in a clinical setting, although some veterinarians have started offering end-of-life home care as part of their practices.
For Wagner, human contact was a gift. The same goes for Diane Brisson, 72, in Pinellas Park, Florida.
Brisson used Love tower when it came time to say goodbye to Champagne, her 12-year-old Yorkie, last December. Champagne was the only dog his mother, since deceased, liked. Champagne fell seriously ill with pancreatitis and other organ failures, and Brisson couldn’t bring himself to leave him alone at the vet in the end.
“I couldn’t have asked for something more peaceful,” she said.
Lap of Love allowed her to have a neighbor with her to support him. The neighbor took photos as Champagne sat on Brisson’s lap in her favorite chair, the only piece of furniture she brought from her hometown of Massachusetts when she moved to Florida. The vet waited patiently for Brisson to be ready to let go. The doctor placed champagne in a small wicker basket with a white satin pillow and lavender satin blanket after his death to take him for cremation.
“I stayed with him for about 20, 25 minutes and said, ‘OK, you’re going to be with nanny now. You’re going to watch over me with her and you’re going to take care of her up there, and she’s going to take care of you, “Brisson recalled in tears.
Lap of Love returned the ashes of Champagne to Brisson. She plans to scatter them at sea in Massachusetts, with her own ashes when the time comes.
Dani McVety, a palliative care vet in Tampa, Florida, founded Lap of Love in 2009. She found her ability to help people deal with grief to be rare among vets.
“A lot of times doctors aren’t necessarily comfortable with this because they haven’t been trained to do it,” she said.
She and her senior medical director, veterinarian Mary Gardner, teach a course in end-of-life care at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida.
“When I started Lap of Love, I thought it would be a part-time job. I don’t think any of us knew that it could be a full-time activity where he there would be enough people in a given area who would want this help, ”McVety said.
His company operates in 35 states with more than 230 veterans.
In general veterinary practices, McVety said, the costs of euthanasia vary widely, depending on the services sought. It can be as cheap as under $ 100. In an emergency hospital, it can be more. Like Pet Loss at Home, Lap of Love fees vary based on location. In Tampa, for example, Lap of Love charges around $ 300. Each client receives a clay paw print.
Most clients pay for the vet to take their pets for cremation. Others drive there themselves or choose to bury their pets at home.
After Clarence left, the vet who helped the Wagneres sent a condolence card with marigold seeds inside, suggesting they plant them in honor of the dog. They did and sent her a photo when the flowers were in bloom.
Pet Loss at Home has served more than 35,000 families since 2003. It operates with approximately 75 physicians in 50 metropolitan areas, including Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Houston and Minneapolis. The pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in business, said Rob Twyning, who founded the business with his wife, Karen, a veterinarian.
“Right now, the phone is ringing without picking up,” said Twyning, in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. “We have so many calls that we just can’t help everyone. “
Pet Loss at Home costs between $ 300 and $ 600 or more, depending on the city and travel time.
“It’s a matter of comfort,” he said. “At home, your pet knows smells and sounds. A veterinary clinic is filled with the smells of other animals. It is filled with other noises, like barking dogs. It is usually a shiny table where the animal will be raised. Most of the time, he’s not a vet. He’s a technician. At home, you can take your time. “
Twyning vets primarily serve dogs and cats, but have also treated other species, from snakes to parrots.
In Marietta, Georgia, Linda Sheffield, 73, went in a different direction last year when her rescue poodle, Timmy, fell ill with a collapsed larynx. She consulted with animal communicator Nancy Mello, although she did not say that Timmy had been diagnosed and was taking strong medication. With Timmy showing no outward symptoms for four or five video shoots, Sheffield made the decision to put him down.
“She told me Timmy didn’t have long to live,” Sheffield said. “I’m very skeptical, but she claimed he told her, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’ over and over again. I thought the medicine was really working. “
Sheffield, a seasoned dog rescuer who welcomes elderly pets, gave Timmy one final drive. She drove him to his vet, who met them outside and administered the euthanasia medication in the car as she held him on her lap. She then placed him in his bed on the seat next to her and led him to the crematorium herself.
“He was the vet he knew who looked after him,” Sheffield said. “He liked to take car rides and he was able to be with me. “
Follow Leanne Italy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/litalie