With veterinarians stretched, Midcoast pet owners find comfort with end-of-life home care for their pets

As veterinary offices across the country crumble amid the surge in pandemic pet ownership, in-home pet palliative care businesses have stepped in to help families say goodbye to pets dying in the familiarity and comfort of their own home.

Lap of Love is a network of 500 veterinarians providing home palliative care for animals. Services offered include in-home euthanasia, cremation, virtual consultations and pet loss support. The company was started in 2009 by Florida veterinarian Dr. Dani McVety and continues to grow along the East Coast.

Bath resident Sandy Ryder said Lap of Love was the best way to let her 10-year-old English Bulldog, Poncho, “go out on her terms”.

Poncho the Bath English Bulldog, smiling at the camera. Poncho crossed the Rainbow Bridge on October 3. Photo courtesy of Sandy Ryder

After a cancer diagnosis, several visits to the vet, an oncologist and several rounds of chemotherapy, Ryder said her pup was not improving and it was time to say goodbye.

She said her vet in Bath was worried she wouldn’t be able to get Poncho treated in an emergency due to the busy office schedule. The vet passed Ryder a pamphlet for Lap of Love.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but I was glad I was able to do it when we were ready to do it. Poncho was telling me he was ready,” Ryder said. “Dogs have their own stories He looked at me with his eyes and said, ‘Mom, I don’t feel good anymore.’ I’m glad I didn’t have to wait for him to suffer.

Although the process was emotional, Ryder said Lap of Love made it easier for him and Poncho.

“Dr. Jason is absolutely wonderful, let me tell you,” she said. “He walked in, and his whole behavior and personality, it’s nothing but, ‘I’m here to you. I know what you’re going through. You can’t get that in a vet’s office. It’s just not the same. The dog is comfortable and at peace.

With an overall positive experience, she said the palliative care service went above and beyond calling Poncho’s vet and oncologist to let them know he had died.

Dr. Jason Doll brought his Lap of Love practice to Maine in July to help pets die in the comfort of their homes.

Dr. Jason Doll holding his pet rabbit Buckbeak. Photo courtesy of Dr. Jason Doll

“We wanted to create a space and a movement where vets can walk into homes during one of the toughest decisions anyone has to make on behalf of a family member,” Doll said.

Topsham vet Dr Amy Ruksznis said her practice had seen a 30 per cent increase in clients over the past two years. With 3,000 patients to care for and only two vets, she said home visits are not an option.

She said patients at Topsham Veterinary Wellness Center are referred to a home veterinary service called Vet at Your Door.

In addition to offering bereavement support, Lap of Love offers memorial pages where pet owners can post photos and messages to remember their loved ones.

Ryder said she found catharsis posting on Poncho’s page every Monday since her passing.

For more information, visit lapoflove.com.

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