In Memoriam – Buster Brown

December 31st, 2019 by Laurie Brush

Buster Brown’s Story:
It is hard to imagine the day your best friend is no longer by your side. Life feels awkward and uncertain without him. It’s like I’ve lost a part of my own body. I realize now how my every gesture, thought and decision pivoted around my beautiful boy Buster. After almost 15 years of the most boundless love and truest loyalty, it was time, however heartbreaking, to show him the same love and devotion by letting him pass on to that big ball throwing field in the sky. With Heaven at Home Pet Hospice and my loving sister, Cheri, by our sides, Buster left this world in peace, with grace and dignity. He seemed as beautiful in death as he was in life. Dr. Laurie is a true angel. Her loving support and genuine care and concern for both Buster and me made this difficult event more bearable than I ever imagined it could be. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone at Heaven at Home.

There are not enough thank you’s in the universe to let you know how much I appreciate what you do. You helped make Buster’s passing more bearable than I ever imagined it could be.


In Memoriam – Beans

December 17th, 2019 by Laurie Brush

Beans’ Story:
Beans was by far the coolest cat that ever lived. He had a personality like a dog and really loved people. You could not come in our household without Beans greeting you. He constantly had to be with people. You couldn’t sit down for even a minute without him jumping on your lap. His personality was hilarious and was one no one could ever forget. I am so happy I got to spend 16 years with Beans. I’ll miss falling asleep with him in my arms every night, and my family will miss the constant love and entertainment. It was his time, but we will forever miss our best friend.

Beans was able to leave this world comfortably in his own bed in his house with family thanks to this service. We are so thankful that we did this as it made saying goodbye less painful.


In Memoriam – Rambo

December 17th, 2019 by Laurie Brush

Rambo’s Story:
I got Rambo and his sister, Meow, when they were 6 weeks old. Meow left us at 11, but Rambo almost made it to his 18th birthday.
He went from a household of six kids to grown ups. He detested dogs, which he was cursed to live with his whole life. He finally accepted his fate this past year.
I work from home so Rambo would keep me company while working on my laptop by putting his paw on my arm. He also waited outside my bedroom door every morning and sat on the chair with me while having my coffee.
He also curled up on the footrest of my reclining chair every evening while I watched tv.

I can’t say enough about the importance of having Rambo rest comfortably at home and not having to get in a kennel and hear him cry the entire car ride to the vet. My experience with Heaven at Home was wonderful from the phone call, to the arrival of Dr. Tay, her compassion and professionalism and sensitivity to my loss. Thank you for what you do. I know it’s hard, but it is greatly appreciated.


Give Your Pet the Gift of Enrichment

November 27th, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

 

During the holiday rush, owner distraction and plummeting temps can leave your fur-friend feeling bored. And boredom can spell trouble. If you don’t want your pup to redecorate the house, or your senior pet to withdraw, consider pet enrichment tips to make your fur-friend’s season “merry and bright.”

Canine Enrichment

What Is Canine Enrichment?

With an increasing population of senior pets, research has focused on ways to stave off cognitive decline through play and engagement. Evidence now suggests that mentally-engaging activities help reduce the clinical incidence of canine cognitive dysfunction.

“Creating an enriching environment with enriching activities is one of the greatest gifts you can give your senior pet,” says Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.“It vastly improves a senior pet’s quality of life.”

More Than Fun for Fido

In one study, older dogs receiving environmental enrichment plus an antioxidant diet showed the most improved cognitive scores, while environmental enrichment alone improved scores more than the group given the dietary treatment without enrichment. Increased perfusion to brain tissue, decreased bodyweight, upregulation of growth factors and improved synaptic plasticity may all be molecular mechanisms underlying the benefits of enrichment and activity therapies. Providing low-stress and predictable social interactions, play, outlets for other natural behaviors, and sensory-stimulating opportunities all serve to create an enriched environment.

Dogs Love Novelty

Researchers who were trying to uncover why dogs tire of toys have discovered that dogs possess “Neophilia” – the love of new things. (WE could have told them that!) You can make an old toy seem new again by changing its scent, or you can restrict access to toys and offer them in rotation to re-pique your pet’s interest. Otherwise, be sure that Fido’s on Santa’s list if you want to keep him busy throughout the long winter ahead.

Food Puzzles – A Win-Win

“Sniff and Nudge” type toys are engaging for pets of any age. Think Busy Buddy or Westpaw toys where you hide treats for Fido to find. For senior dogs who are experiencing cognitive decline, puppy versions of these toys work well if you make sure you show your pet how to get the treats.

Sensory Exposure

From snuffle mats (shaggy mats in which you hide treats) to jaunts BEYOND your back yard, new smells stimulate the mind of your fur-friend like nothing else can. That’s because the part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than ours.

Training & Playing Don’t End in Puppyhood

Spending a few minutes each day on reward-based basic obedience or simple trick training is a great method for mental stimulation and appropriate social interaction, especially in less mobile animals. Likewise, encouraging play even in older animals offers opportunities for engagement. A play partner should support the appropriate level activity and not pester or distress the older animal. Toys can also be a good outlet for older animals but daily rotation, food and owner facilitation may be necessary.

“Dognition”

For the pup who has everything, Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center has created Dognition.com – a science-based website you can join for assessment tools and monthly enrichment games. Dognition is dedicated to enriching the relationships between dogs and their owners through cognitive science. By tailoring fun, science-based games to subscribers and by offering everyday “citizen scientists” a chance to contribute to research that furthers the study of dog cognition, The Dognition Experience helps owners discover what is extraordinary about their dogs, while contributing to the greater good of all dogs. Annual membership is currently $79; a one-time assessment is $29.

Give your fur-friend a December to Remember with the gift of enrichment!

 

Feline Enrichment: Kitties Need Enrichment Too!

Similar to dogs, senior cats can also suffer cognitive decline and benefit from enrichment. However, while there is some overlap in strategy, feline enrichment caters to the unique makeup of cats. As a result, activities that cater to visual stimulation, hunting instincts and spatial awareness prevail. Here are some ways to keep your aging kitty engaged:

  • Provide safe outdoor time for cats with bungee harnesses or cat-specific fencing. Screened porches or outdoor enclosures do not encourage as much activity as walks or large fenced areas, but will help present new sights and sounds.

  • Access to windows, preferably with perches, provides mental stimulation as your cat looks out the window. Regularly move beds and perches. This mimics a changing outdoor environment and encourages cats to explore.
  • Ensure there is vertical space for cats both indoors and outdoors to help foster activity and provide safe places in a multicat household. Cats like to be up high, physical condition permitting. Providing access to elevated places makes cats happy. Provide your cat with a carpeted tree or condo, preferably with hiding spots, cat perches and shelves. Single perches with room for only one cat at a time are a good way to help your cat escape from any other household animals.

  • Cats will get bored with a toy after a while, so it is important to provide only a few toys at a time on a rotating basis to keep your cat’s interest. Social activities with humans can be the single most effective way to enrich your indoor cat’s environment. Schedule playtime a few times each day, and rotate toys and games you use each time.

In Memoriam: Capois

November 7th, 2019 by Laurie Brush

Capois’s Story:
We brought our big beautiful boy home when he was just 6 wks old. Even though the time we had with him was not near long enough. We enjoyed the wonderful 8 years we had together. It would take me days to go through all of the wonderful things about Capois and the joy he constantly brought into our lives. He was an ambassador to his breed. The first day that we had to come home without you greeting us at the door was incredibly painful. The silence since you have been gone has been deafening. It has only been a little over 10 months since you were called home. And I am just now able to write this. It has gotten easier. But the missing you part will most definitley never go away. It took months for me to be able to go through your things. Your bed is still next to ours. But I have a good plan in mind of where it will go. There are so many things to miss about you. The keep away games you played with your tennis ball or always making sure you had a ball to greet people with. The way you intently watched tv and some of the commercials you were sure to let us know you hated. We miss how you wanted to be friends with whoever you would meet, human or animal. People would always compliment on how handsome,funny and smart you were. They didn’t even know the half of it. You were like an old soul. We will miss you always running after the garden hose, taking our socks, barking at the television, always ready to go for a car ride. You were always excited to go anywhere for a bath and even to the vet! You found joy in just about anything. A cue all of us humans should take from our furry companions. I miss so many things about you. The symptoms of your cancer came on so suddenly and within days we had to make the heart wrenching decision to let you go with peace and dignity.
Tomorrow, November 6th, would have been Capois’ 9th birthday. No matter how painful this has been, I would do it all over again for him. People often say “He was lucky to have you.” But I truly feel “WE” were lucky to have him. So this is a Happy Birthday to our big beautiful boy. And one day we will see you again… Just on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

I am very grateful to all of the staff and to Dr. Laurie for her willingness to come over late into the night to help with your passing. You helped to keep me calm and answer my questions all while explaining each step and for giving us a few moments alone after. Even as we loaded him into your vehicle and said our last goodbyes. You saw that I was lost and falling apart. So you offered a hug. Thank you for your compassion. And we are so glad people like you exist.


In Memoriam – Rusty

November 7th, 2019 by Laurie Brush

Rusty’s Story:
We got Rusty as a puppy and he was such a cute puppy. He was a red heeler and irish setter mix. He was a very protective dog of all of us. Rusty could catch a frisbee and loved the water. He was more than my dog, he was my friend. My nickname for Rusty was rusty boy. I would talk to Rusty like he was a person. He acted like he understood me. We had Rusty for 15 wonderful years. We really miss him, he was part of our family. I know he is at the rainbow bridge with our other animals.

It made it nicer to have Heaven at Home. They are a great place. Very caring and understanding


Knowing When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

October 28th, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

Making the decision to euthanize a pet is the hardest thing a pet parent has to do. However, deferring or avoiding the decision can allow a degree of suffering that no one would deliberately wish on their loyal companion. Natural death is rarely humane. But how do you know when the kindest act you can offer is to plan to say goodbye? How do you know when your beloved companion is ready to cross the “Rainbow Bridge”?

Some people have a difficult time with the thought of euthanasia. They might feel like they’re “playing God,” and feel besieged by guilt. It’s important to remember that the illness, disease, or injury is causing the end of life, not you. Here are some of the key questions to ask yourself:

  • Has your pet lost his/her quality of life?
  • Is your animal suffering?
  • Can you maintain your pet’s normal routines?
  • Are there behavioral problems that compromise the safety and well-being of your pet or others?
  • Are there human limitations (emotional, timing, or financial) that you must consider? While it may be difficult to admit that any of these limitations may be the reason you are considering euthanasia, they are among the most common reasons for euthanasia.
  • What do you think your pet wants?  

Quality of Life Assessment Help

Your routine veterinarian, or the Heaven at Home Pet Hospice team, may be able to assist you in assessing the quality of life of your senior pet, but we can’t make the decision for you. Pet parents play a pivotal role in assessing a pet’s quality of life because they are direct observers of the day-to-day signals of their pet’s condition. Your veterinarian team can help you manage aspects of pain, reduce suffering, and make changes that help in daily care.

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Many of Heaven At Home’s clients have found assistance and comfort by using the resources and assessment tools of  Ohio State University’s “Honoring the Bond” program. The 2019 edition of “How Will I Know” addresses making difficult medical treatment decisions, dispells many euthanasia myths, and offers a  comprehensive assessment questionnaire, together with anticipatory grief advice for pet parents, companion animals, and children.

In addition, our team finds this short “Quality of Life” Scorecard below helpful for our clients.

Contact us if you’d like assistance in your assessment, or feel ready to plan a peaceful and compassionate end to your fur friend’s life story.

Knowing when to say goodbye is hard, but with the right support, advice, and planning, it can be a beautiful final gift to give your beloved pet for his or her years of loyal companionship.

Quality of Life Scorecard

Score patients using a scale of 1 to 10. (1=no/disagree; 10=yes/agree).

Score
Criterion
1 – 10
HURT – First and foremost on the scale:  Is pain control adequate? This includes breathing ability.  Is the pet’s pain successfully managed? Are extra measures like oxygen necessary?
1 – 10
HUNGER – Is the pet eating enough and getting proper nutrition? Is hand-feeding necessary?  Does the patient require a feeding tube?
1 – 10
HYDRATION – Is the patient appropriately hydrated? Can they drink enough on their own, or do they require supplementation via subcutaneous or intravenous fluids?
1 – 10
HYGIENE – Can the patient keep themselves clean?  Does it require assistance?  (Patients should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after elimination. Appropriate bedding to avoid pressure sores, keep any wounds clean/dressed, etc).
1 – 10
HAPPINESS – Does the pet express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive and interactive to things around him or her (family, toys, etc.)? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet’s hospice area or bed be close to the family activities and not be isolated?
1 – 10
MOBILITY – Can the patient get up and about?  Does the pet need human or mechanical assistance (e.g., a cart)? Does the pet feel like going for a walk? Is the pet having seizures or stumbling?
1 – 10
MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD – Do the good hours or days outnumber the bad ones?  When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware the end is near. The decision needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly, that is okay.
*TOTAL
*A total over 35 points generally represents acceptable life quality

 

Adapted from Villalobos, A.E., Quality of Life Scale Helps Make Final Call, VPN, 09/2004, for Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology Honoring the Human-Animal Bond, by Blackwell Publishing, Table 10.1, released 2006.


The Elements of Animal Hospice Care

October 24th, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

Nine years ago, a mere 30 veterinarians gathered to discuss ways to help bring comfort to aging pets and help pet parents know when it’s time to say goodbye. That was the dawning of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC). Earlier this month, ten times that number gathered in Chicago to learn about trends in the emerging field.

“Research shows that more and more Americans are opting for pet hospice,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice and early graduate of the IAAHPC’s new certification program.

“I got involved in home hospice in the early days because I firmly believe in pro-active comfort management and helping pet parents make small changes that can greatly improve a pet’s comfort.”

To celebrate the upcoming National Animal Hospice awareness day November 2nd, we’re sharing some of the elements involved in “Animal Hospice.”

It’s More Than Home Euthanasia Services

Animal hospice and palliative care provide comfort to companion animals as they approach the end of life. Services from the veterinarian team may include treatment for pain and anxiety management plus nutritional management specific to the pet’s condition. The primary goal is to relieve – or avoid – suffering.

The veterinarian team can also help pet parents assess the pet’s quality of life and teach pet parents ways to improve end-of-life care. Good pet hospice care is a team effort.

Things to Consider in Pet Hospice

 Pet parents can manage many aspects of pet hospice themselves, while they will need veterinarian assistance with other aspects. These are the key areas to consider:

  • Environmental Assessment: Review mobilizing, feeding area, litter box, bedding, and enrichment.
  • Mobility Support: Consider non-slip mats, carpeted stairs, ramps, slings, harnesses, wheel carts.
  • Toileting Solutions: Use incontinence pads, diapers/belly bands, and consult vet for stool softener, catheterization.
  • Pain management – Monitor pain signals and medication together with vet; use multi-modal approach (alternative therapies & environmental supports.)
  • Nutrition: Devise superior diets specific to illness with vet, ask for appetite stimulants if needed.
  • Behavior Modification: Discuss medication and strategies for managing anxiety, restlessness, vocalization, sleep disturbance, and cognitive dysfunction.

Together, pet parents and hospice veterinarians can dramatically increase the quality of end-of-life care a pet receives.

 

Heaven at Home Pet Hospice offers private hospice consultation, but also periodically hosts group workshops and webinars. Contact us for more information.


In Memoriam: Murphy Command

October 24th, 2019 by Laurie Brush

Murphy’s Story:
It was March of 2007 when we decided we needed a “keeper dog” at our house. After raising and training a PAWs Puppy for 17 months, we knew it was time to add a dog of our own to the family. I made many “puppy visits” to find just the right fit pup for us. I had my eye on a darker, smaller Golden, but a larger guy (biggest in the litter) with a blue collar kept returning to my side/lap/etc…over and over again. So, that was that…..Murphy picked us as his family! From the start he was so smart and loved to learn. He was gentle, laid back, and so eager to please. He had the perfect temperament for visiting and hanging out in my second grade classroom. He was our gentle giant….carrying 110-115 pounds his whole adult life and tall enough to put his muzzle on the table and check out “dinner”. His size could be intimidating which wasn’t always a bad thing…especially when walking him alone at night! He loved “stuffies”, peanut butter, playing fetch, sharing snacks, people/kids, other dog friends, car rides, Beach days, “guarding the yard”, going to the trails, and just living the Golden Life! Each of our family members had a special bond with his gentle spirit! He was such a good listener and shared unconditional love with all who knew him. He was the best “neighborhood dog”…always trotting over for a visit with all who passed by!
It’s been over 4 months since we made the heart wrenching decision to say goodbye and I finally feel able to write this! June 19 was by far one of the most difficult days for our family! Our strong, beautiful 12 1/2 year old Murphy had been failing for a few days….no appetite, struggling to go outside for breaks, and just not feeling well. I tearfully contacted Heaven at Home. I cannot express how wonderful this Hospice for pets was for our family! When Dr. Tay arrived she explained that she felt our boy was full of Lymphoma. After explaining our options to us, we made the hard decision for a compassionate ending. We could not have asked for a more peaceful passing for our Murphy. He was in his favorite place surrounded by his “people” and left us in quiet dignity. We are so grateful that Heaven At Home was an option and will share our experience with any pet owners facing this hard decision.

Thank you Heaven At Home for providing this special service. Every person we dealt with was compassionate, understanding, caring, and took time to listen! I highly recommend using this service for your pets end of life needs!


Better Ways to Say Goodbye: Pet Hospice & Euthanasia

September 30th, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

It’s a tough subject, but our companion animals age faster than we do. It’s hard to see them suffer, and even harder to imagine life without them. What if in their final chapter you could reduce their pain? What if, when the time was right, they could end their life story in the comfort of their favorite place, with the people they love?

“Those are the questions that fueled the rise of the home hospice movement not all that long ago,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.

“Answering those questions became the mission of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, and my team’s mission as well.”

IAAHPC celebrates its 10th anniversary this October at its annual conference, where specialized veterinarians like Dr. Brush join together to learn new ways to bring comfort to aging pets and give them compassionate and increasingly sophisticated home care.

“By integrating palliative services early in the management of chronic or life-limiting disease, we can now ameliorate needless suffering and even extend a pet’s life in some cases,” Dr. Brush said.

For example, finding ways to support or improve mobility through cold laser therapy, supplements, management of pain medication and environmental accommodations can make a world of difference to an arthritic pet. Early intervention and management of diseases such as diabetes can also give Fido or Felix a new lease – or leash – on life.

In addition to raising awareness of options, the IAAHPC has also founded a hospice and palliative care certification program for licensed veterinarians and veterinarian technicians. Dr. Brush was among the program’s first 100 graduates worldwide. The 100-hour AHPC Certification establishes a standard of care that reflects excellence. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) now advises pet parents to work with AHPC-certified providers for hospice and palliative care.

Dr. Brush points out that AHPC veterinarians don’t seek to replace a pet’s routine care veterinarian, but to work with them for continuity of care.

“We’re trained specifically to provide both the technical and emotional support required to give the human-animal bond the dignity it deserves during a pet’s sunset years and final farewell. Every pet deserves a compassionate and peaceful, pain-free passing.”


 
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