Space Age Pet Pain & Mood Management

January 1st, 2021 by Heaven At Home Staff

Throughout the ages, the mysterious forces of electricity and magnetism have been thought to possess healing powers. While it might sound a little “Sci-Fido,” current research in targeted Pulse Electro Magnetic Fields (tPEMF) is producing new treatment options with promising results for cats and dogs.

“tPEMF, when administered correctly, is a great way to give an senior cat or dog non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical pain relief through the reduction of inflammation,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. Read the rest of this entry »


In Memoriam: Kodiak

December 17th, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Kodiak’s Story:
My dear sweet boy, Kodiak. Rest well my dear pups; thank you for everything you’ve taught me about life & how to live it.

You were adopted as a 7 week old puppy in 2007 from a good friend of mine who passed away in 2015. I wasn’t a very good owner during the 1st year of your life, having no clue on how to raise a “Good Dog”. Fortunately for me, you were always a good dog who didn’t require me to be a good owner, and unfathomably smart as well, learning to be potty trained in around a week from adopting you, much to everyone’s surprise.

I had just turned 24 years old when I adopted you, simply to make my girlfriend at the time happy. Of course, like any pretentious & arrogant 24 year old, I smugly had “life” figured out w/ everything falling perfectly into place, where I viewed you more as an accessory / property that shouldn’t be a bother nor inconvenience to me, & certainly not a family member. I’d get mad when you knocked something over when trying to play inside or didn’t do as I asked, and especially if you annoyed me by pawing at my shoulder when I was busy doing “important” stuff for work to get ahead for the next promotion… I’d put cowardly put you in your crate in the back of my closet, whining & yipping for affection & comfort if you did something I thought was naughty, just so I could get back to work or having fun w/ “friends”… I was so selfish…

Then the recession of 2009 came where I found myself jobless, losing my girlfriend, our home, all of my prized possessions, a lot of “friends”, as well as my pride & self-respect; however, you were always there right by my side, like a shadow, pawing at my shoulder, eventually “noodling” under my arm & into my lap when I was hurting & needed comfort. Always with a wagging tail, bright happy eyes with your adorable face, and an infectious eagerness to do absolutely anything besides mope around w/ self-pity. You likely saved my life during those well needed (& deserved) hard times, Kodiak.

We became best friends over that following year while I looked for work, learning & earning each other’s respect, friendship, & love as we played in the backyard, using fetch as our way to earn each other’s lifelong camaraderie. We eventually grew bored of playing in the backyard & started going on longer & longer hikes thru the woods in our backyard, then the state park, & along the beach for miles on end, playing fetch every time I needed to take a break because you’d literally NEVER tire out, even after 10 to 15+ miles while playing fetch, doing flips & leaping 5 feet or more into the air to catch the frisby or ball mid-air, for hours on end!

You never left my side, nor would stray more than eye sight when off leash & encouraged to go explore while I lagged behind, always coming right back as fast as you could muster w/ tail wagging high & your bright happy eyes after just a quick whistle or soft click w/ my tongue to call you back, regardless of how enticing the smells & sights of the woods were. You did like to roll your back & neck fur in bear & coyote poop though, but were so sweet to everything from squirrels to cats & thankfully skunks & opossums too (Those minks would often throw you for a loop though w/ their odd behavior.)…

After that summer of bonding & founded friendship, I came close to having to give you up for adoption after receiving an offer out of state where the relatives I’d be staying with said, “Absolutely NO!” to having you come along too… I had no options left, as our home was foreclosed w/ forceful eviction coming soon. I lost over 30 lbs of weight, causing my parents & friends to be concerned about how skinny I was becoming in order to afford food to keep you fed & happy. It broke my heart having to consider losing you, where I very seriously thought about living in my car “down by the river” near my relative’s home out of state so we didn’t have to part ways. It was both a great year having you by my side, but also the worst time of my life…

God answered my prayers to provide a home and job that allowed me to keep you as my best friend at the literal last possible minute (bags packed, travel arrangements made for me, & agreements made for your adoption w/ a new family).

Over the next two years, all was well once again. We’d hike & explore our new town on the weekends & after work, playing fetch in the backyard & literally dropping jaws at every dog park we’d visit with how incredibly fast & tenacious you were in getting the ball before any other dog could, where every other dog would either tire or grow disinterested due to never being able to get the ball before you did. You were always the friendly alpha in every dog pack you’d find yourself in: Never mean or aggressive & always friendly & curious, but always had to be “top respected dog” w/ a harmless, albeit assertive “check” if another pups was acting out of place & becoming aggressive to you or other dogs that you believed to be in YOUR pack.

When you got sick in 2012, with a mysterious “abscess” on your chest (who’s cause was never figured out after lots of testing & lab work) that nearly killed you & required extensive surgery to remove, we started camping, backpacking, & hiking together into further & further away destinations in order to make “the best of the rest”, as I realized you were not going to be around forever…

We snowshoed deep into federal & state forest lands & wilderness areas, were you begrudgingly needed me to carry you on some stretches because the snow was too deep & you couldn’t hop high enough to get out of the hole you dug trying to get out. We would illegally hike & camp in Millennium park in the forested areas that no one ever goes to, making sure we were quiet w/ a tiny fire you’d tightly ball up next to w/ your eyes always on the watch for intruders, being as quiet as a fallen leaf so no one would find us. It was the start of something a bit more than just owning a dog; we had some awesome, & some scary, adventures over the next few years.

Fortunately, I once again found myself unemployed in 2015, after having selfishly wasted so much of your best years with me being only partially present in 2013 & 2014, treating our time together more like a chore when I was busy with “super important” work projects in attempts to chase the never ending goal of “being more important”… This time around though, I had the financial means to take some well needed time off from finding new employment to make it up to you.

We spent that following 18 months going on week’s long, & eventually month’s long adventures backpacking & camping every awesome trail, forest, & wilderness area I could find. From the GPS logs I’ve kept, I estimate we spent around 130 nights in the woods over that year from April to December, with an additional 40 nights the following March thru June. We had the best of times, except for that one night early November 2015 where we almost died from a sudden & unexpected freezing rain storm while we camped out on the beach w/ 75MPH wind gusts… That was more than scary, but you slept thru the whole thing without a care in the world, comfortable & sprawled out on my sleeping bag while I sat on my knees all night & early morning to hold the walls of our cheap $30 tent up with outstretched arms, borderlining on hypothermia due to being soaking wet.

You never tired in the slightest bit, always wanting to play fetch well into the evening & morning hours, even after constant 20+ mile a day hikes where I’d be half dead & too sore to gather much wood for a campfire. On nights I was too tired & sore to start a campfire, the milky way was bright w/ stars blanketing the sky in an awe inspiring display, or the moon would be out making the woods & dunes appear in an eery bluish cast as if we were on another planet. I’d throw the tiny twig that you’d gingerly bring to me into the pitch black darkness; you’d always come back w/ that same exact tiny, tattered, slobber soaked twig a minute or so later, without fail, wanting me to toss it “just one more time” for as long as I was willing to stay up with you. Unbeknownst to you, I’ve kept a lot of your small twigs & chewed up sticks in the basement that we’ve collected over the years from memorable trips & adventures taken over the years. I’d occasionally bring one up to play fetch w/ in the backyard, where you’d go absolutely nuts for them, as if you also remembered where they came from & the memories had fetching them at some of our favorite spots.

We did that year of work hiatus right, Kodiak; it’s been the most cherished time of my life thus far, doubt it could be topped. We kept it up this time too, as best as I could afford with my new job, for the past 5 years since then, always trying to “out do” our last trip. We succeeded in making memories & earning lessons in humility and self-reliance that few folks will ever have the privilege of experiencing or knowing. We’ve seen views & sites that few people know about, we’ve traveled & hiked areas that no one has visited in decades, bushwhacking & navigating our way thru dense thick forests for a promising spot I’d seen on the map, or sometimes just letting you lead the way until we found a clearing in the woods. You always loved when we’d “bushwhack” & navigate by compass or GPS off established trails to find our own “secret spots” & hidden gems that only we know about.

As you “grew old” over the past few years, showing signs of being tired & a bit sore after hikes & trails that you used to do without skipping a single beat, I bought an SUV so we could “overland” and do camping & hiking from a basecamp, allowing us to adventure to new areas with a heavy comfy tent, plush thick bed, & luxury gear to relax when we were done exploring & playing fetch for the day. The campfires grew in size, where I’d have to drag your blanket & pad further away than you wanted, as you always liked to snuggle right up to the fire like we used to do when we backpacked. I’d sometimes find in the morning that a small ember burned a small bald spot in your fur. I found it adorable, where over the next few months this bald spot would remind of our adventures & to start planning the next one.

Over this past year, you were such a happy & good boy, acting like your normal self when we were on the move or playing, but growing strangely more tired over the past 6 months, a bit less enthusiastic when I’d rattle your collar or bounce the tennis ball after a previous long hard day out in the woods…

I should have taken notice of the signs sooner & brought you into a vet for a checkup when I noticed these signs in July, but “COVID” panic caused pause in doing so, as no one was wanting to see you for a routine checkup & care (only emergencies), most wouldn’t even call back after leaving them a message……. I foolishly told myself you were just becoming an “Old Dog” as you were still in high spirits & acting like your usual self, just a bit more tired than the crazy, “never stop” self you once were as a pups.

We spent your 13th Birthday early September at our most favorite “secret spot” playing fetch while I setup camp, meeting lots of awesome new friends to go on trips with & their dogs when hiking trails and swimming in the nearby river; however, I could tell you were much more tired than you’ve ever been, not following me around like a shadow after we’d get back to camp. You wanted to play with as much enthusiasm & vigor as you’ve ever had when I’d waive your favorite toys & sticks that we’d bring along; however, you tired so quickly and needed to take a day long break in-between days of giving it your all…

The day you became sick at the end of September, nearly four weeks after your 13th birthday, I took the rest of the week off work to care for you, expecting things to pass w/ a bit of care & comfort; however, you didn’t get better after a few days… I wasn’t prepared for the diagnosis of end stage liver failure from an inoperable massive liver neoplasm…

The heartbreak was harsh, knowing that our time together was limited, but mostly of gut-wrenching regret & guilt for not having done something when I 1st noticed you were growing tired, as well as remembering all of those times over the past 13 years where you wanted to play, wagging your tail w/ your adorable face & bright eyes wanting my affection, but I was simply “too busy” to give anything more than annoyed pat on the head & telling you to go lay down, which you always did without fail, albeit not without a bit of whimpering & sad eyes to let me know that I was breaking your heart…

We had lots of good days since that heartbreaking diagnosis two months ago. We went on two more week long camping trips to our favorite spots, hiking & playing fetch as you’d see fit to do, nearly completing our bucket list of “one last time” visits to our “secret spots” around the state, plus countless illegal backyard bonfires where we’d play fetch for a few minutes at a time so you wouldn’t get too sore, while I smoked Salmon & chicken thighs for us to eat as treats over the following week. We made some lifelong memories over the past few months, pups; however, we were on borrowed time…

Last week, you were so tired when we’d play but just for a few minutes in the backyard. I set the date, once again, after having canceled several previous “last goodbye” times after a miraculous recovery after a few bad days… It broke my heart to do so, but I knew this was the final time… There’d be no miraculous recovery…

The day before you passed, I had a subconscious feeling that you were not going to make to our scheduled date to say our final goodbye. You were so tired & weak when we were playing fetch in the backyard that I had to stop things before you hurt yourself, as you wanted to keep going…

We spent that evening watching your favorite nature documentaries that you used to excitedly woof & wag your tail at, along with a few “tear jerker” dog movies for me, where you’d perk up occasionally & give a tired muffled “woof” seeing an animal on screen before falling back asleep. You nibbled on a bit of your favorite treat of smoked Salmon when it was time to go to bed, and intently watched me eat some ice-cream, but was too tired to get up & beg to lick the bowl after I was done like you used to…

The next morning, you gazingly watched me from your bed as I went about getting ready for the day as you always have, seemingly comfortable & content, but oh so tired & increasingly weak compared to the day before… For some inexplicable reason, I went to the hardware store to buy a bird feeder for the backyard, instead of spending these last moments of your time with you, knowing in the back of my mind that today was likely the last day I’d have to look into your bright eyes & thank you for being such a good boy to me…

I felt like such a coward having left you when I got back home, as it was an escape for the inevitable I’d be facing that day, finding you scared and struggling to breath after partially falling off your bed & getting into a bad position while I was away, likely from you trying to get up to come with me or see where I was… I should have been there for you, but once again I decided to childishly prioritize something foolish instead of prioritizing you.

I hastily brought you outside & tried to create “the scene” I had envisioned for your passing that was scheduled for the following day, with one of our illegal bonfires & some soft music playing in the background. We finally got you into a comfortable position on your bed that I brought outside for our last goodbye. I could see you watching my every move, as you usually did w/ your bright eyes, following every frantic step & gesture I made while I speaking on the phone w/ the doctor.

The doctor came… You were ready… I gazed into your fading bright eyes for one last glimpse of “you”, as you fell asleep for one last time. I held you softly until it didn’t feel like you anymore, then I held you some more… It felt like forever watching you disappear into the skies above me during your cremation; however, knowing you’ll be raining down & nourishing the Earth once again with your presence helps with the hurt.

I know you’ve forgiven me for every time I’ve broken your heart over the past 13 years. In time, I’ll forgive myself too… I hope that I’ve made you feel as loved & comforted, as much as you loved & comforted me. I miss you more than 13 year’s worth of memories and over 13 thousand photos I’ve taken can comfort. In exchange for teaching you some fancy tricks, you taught me a whole lot of life lessons.

Rest well, Kodiak. You’ll be loved & never forgotten. Can’t wait to see those bright happy eyes & wagging tail when we meet again to throw a few sticks.


Life-Enriching Gifts for Your Senior Pet

December 1st, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

The holiday season is upon us in this year “like no other” and there’s a good chance your bond with your fur-friend has been strengthened from all the quality time you’ve spent together. Pay it back with holiday gifts that will improve the quality of your senior pet’s life. Read the rest of this entry »


Holiday Manners for Pets Who’ve Gone “Wild”

November 11th, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

After months of working in your pajamas, it’s easy to forget “fashion BC” (Before COVID). It might be just as hard for your pet to remember his or her “manners BC” for the holidays.

Joyous Jumpers

Let’s face it – your heart is jumping for joy to see a long-lost loved one. Will Fido remember them too? Behavior research suggests yes. While dogs don’t excel at traditional long-term memory, they do possess “associative” memory. A pro-social dog with a fond association of your guests might forget the “no jumping” rule.

“A behavior has to be a very well rehearsed with broad contextual understanding in order for your dog to recall it in moments of excitement,” said Kristi Swan, Certified Professional Trainer and owner of A Dog’s Life. “Dogs don’t generalize well.” Read the rest of this entry »


In Memoriam – Chihiro

November 9th, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Chihiro’s Story:
Fathered by a Southeast side alley cat, Chihiro needed a home. A yellow tabby without a whole lot going on, he nevertheless instantly captivated Caitlin, who was six or seven years old at the time. We tried our best to keep him inside, but between five kids opening and closing doors and, in his later years, grandchildren doing the same, we never quite succeeded. He spent his days roaming the woods behind our home having all kinds of adventures. He gave us 18 years of companionship. When we were with the vet on our back deck saying our final goodbyes, a huge buck came to the edge of the yard as if he was offering his respect. The mice, voles, and rabbits may be sighing with relief, but we will always miss him.

Thank you so much for giving Chihiro such a beautiful departure.


In Memoriam – Sadie

October 28th, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Sadie’s Story:
Sadie was born in 2008, but did not make her way to our family until early 2011.  Our family was thrilled to welcome in our beautiful, rambunctious new black lab, and she immediately became both a companion and an exceptional guard dog.
Sadie enjoyed opening the pantry and eating her favorite people foods, mostly bread and peanut butter.  She once opened a jar of peanut butter all by herself, although her family is still not entirely sure how she managed without thumbs.  In her younger years, Sadie enjoyed sneaking out the door when her young family members would open it.  She would run enthusiastically through the neighborhood before eventually returning for dinner and water.  Although she slowed down in her senior years, she still enjoyed a good game of fetch in the backyard.  Sadie was always thrilled when a bunny or squirrel would find themselves in the backyard, as it meant that the chase was on.  Although she never caught one of these small critters, she never stopped trying.
Sadie walked with our family through a marriage, the birth of a baby, a move into a new home, vacations, trips to the beach, and many other memorable and everyday events.
Sadie crossed the rainbow bridge peacefully at home on Saturday, October 24th, 2020.  Despite being diagnosed with cancer, Sadie continued to enthusiastically catch treats and play tug of war until her very last day.
She leaves behind her Mom, her Dad, and two sisters all of whom loved her more than they had ever loved any other dog before.  In addition to her immediate family, Sadie leaves behind two sets of human grandparents, as well as her best friend canine, Roscoe, who will all miss her dearly.
She was very special.


In Memoriam – Monkey Bair

October 20th, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Monkey’s Story:
My wife and I adopted “Dobie” from the Lake County Animal Shelter in Crown Point, Indiana only a few months after getting married. We changed his name to Monkey due to his unusual curly tail and his boundless energy.

Monkey loved being in the sun, chasing birds, destroying squeaky toys, eating snow, and long walks around parks and the neighborhood. He had a particular dislike for the rain and fireworks, both of which would set him into an intense tizzy. Every storm and Fourth of July brought lots of sleepless and emotional nights.

Monkey helped us grow and mature into being first time dog parents and, later on, human parents. He took his role as the protector or guardian of the household very seriously. We will always remember him as our “baby” and for all of the ear kisses he gave us.

Monkey passed away at home on September 10, 2020 after a lengthy battle with a number of chronic medical conditions.

Monkey’s final months and last day were incredibly difficult and painful, but they would’ve been much more so without the help of Dr. Hoss. She was patient, kind, and generous throughout the entire process. From the outset of our hospice journey, we always felt comfortable and at ease interacting with her. While words will never express our sentiments adequately, we truly valued her empathy, compassion, and professionalism.


Fear-Free Care for Cats and Dogs

September 28th, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

Your pet’s life can be improved by understanding the elements of fear-free handling. Many pet parents are unfamiliar with the science that has led to the relatively new understanding of the permanent emotional damage, behavioral issues, and lack of quality of life that fear and stress may impart on our pets.

A growing body of evidence shows that animals have heightened memory of handling when fearful, which creates a cycle of increased anxiety, and sometimes aggression. Fear and anxiety cause autonomic arousal of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and accompanying release of stress hormones, leading to increased susceptibility to disease secondary to suppression of the immune system.

Dr. Laurie Brush of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice has the opportunity to hear directly from the champion and founder of the Fear-Free movement during the upcoming International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC) annual conference.

“The Fear-Free movement spearheaded by Dr. Marty Becker has revolutionized veterinary care and is especially relevant to my work offering peaceful, pain-free, fear-free palliative care and at home euthanasia services,” Dr. Brush said.

Dr. Becker had an epiphany in 2009 while listening to PHD animal behaviorist Karen Overall describe the permanent damage fear causes in the amygdala – the part of the brain that is home to the fight or flight instinct. She said fear was “the worst thing a social species could experience. “

He realized the traditional pet-handling techniques he was taught as a veterinarian were inducing stress in his fur-clients, from the stress of being put up on a table to the fear pheromone scent detected in urine outside the clinic.

Simple protocols, such as using calming pheromones and offering anxiety-reducing medications, plus using gentle handling down at the animal’s level with a complement of treats, could break the cycle of fear.

He reached out to peers across the country and over the course of six years developed a protocol and certification program that promotes fear-free techniques that “put the treat in treatment.”

Today, 21 of the nation’s 30 veterinary schools require certification in fear-free veterinary techniques to graduate. More than 75,000 veterinarians in the U.S. are certified.

“One man’s vision has altered the quality of life of millions of companion animals,” said Dr. Brush.

If you’d like to learn more about adopting fear-free strategies at home, visit FearFreePets.com for tips.

 


In Memoriam: Annie

September 24th, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Annie’s Story:
Annie came to my husband from Curious World Pet Store. Yes, they actually sold puppies at these stores many years ago. All her other brothers and sisters had been adopted and she was all alone. She went home that night to our family full of kids that would smother her with love.
She was such a loyal girl and would always be by our sides. She lived to the healthy age of 16 which is pretty long for a Labrador. She was spunky until the end. She was always the first one to greet us at the door and to bark when it was food time. Which was always. We swear she could tell time as she always sat by the dining room window when she knew we would be home from work or school soon.
Saying our girl loved to eat was an understatement. She loved her car rides to get a doggie sundae and knew if she stuck that cute head of hers out the window far enough the drive thru would give her chicken nuggets. Our memories of her will keep us going until we meet again. We love and miss you Annie girl. Run free pretty girl!!

I cannot say enough good things about Heaven at Home. From my initial phone call with Mary to Dr Laurie coming out to the house. They were compassionate and caring and I would never choose any other way to care for my animals at the end of their life.


Signs of Pain in Cats & Dogs from the IVAPM

August 31st, 2020 by Heaven At Home Staff

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, during which time the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management educates pet parents on signs of pain in their companion animals. As providers of pet hospice at home, Heaven at Home would like to take this opportunity to help pet parents ensure that their cats and dogs do not suffer needlessly as they age. Our hospice veterinarians are available for Quality of Life telemedicine consultations to help pet parents evaluate pain in their senior pets.

Can you imagine not being able to tell your doctor that you were in pain? Animals suffer from pain just like we do. Pain comes in many forms: surgical pain, arthritis, and cancer, just to name a few. Acute pain is obvious and distressing. Chronic pain can be subtle, and masked as “getting old” or “slowing down.” Age is not a disease, but pain is. There are many options to treat the various causes of pain in animals including pain medications, physical rehabilitation, and acupuncture. In addition, there are many environmental strategies that can help reduce pain, such as slip-proof and padded flooring, altered-height feeding, ramps, and other supports. Contact us if you’d like assistance identifying and managing pain in your aging pet. Here are some of the key signs to watch for:

Common Signs of Pain in Dogs

  • Decreased social interaction
  • Anxious expression
  • Submissive behavior
  • Refusal to move
  • Whimpering
  • Howling
  • Growling
  • Guarding behavior
  • Aggression; biting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Self-mutilation (chewing)
  • Changes in posture

Common Signs of Pain in Cats

  • Reduced activity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Quiet/loss of curiosity
  • Changes in urinary/defecation habits
  • Hiding
  • Hissing or spitting
  • Lack of agility/jumping
  • Excessive licking/grooming
  • Stiff posture/gait
  • Guarding behavior
  • Stops grooming/matted fur
  • Tail flicking
  • Weight loss

Download or Share this Poster that illustrates Signs of Pain in Pets

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