Merry Nothing

We’ve officially entered “the most wonderful time of the year.” So they say.

For many, this season is euphoric. The bright, sparkly lights, the incessant din of cheerful music, the buzz of excitement in the air- it’s magical. Intoxicating.


But for others, it’s just downright depressing. For some of us, this year brought an empty place at our table. Or on our hearth. Or at the foot of our bed. During the holidays, that empty place might be the only thing we can see.


The holidays are a time to gather with family, reminisce about the year past, and look forward to the year to come. But when the past year stole our loved one, and the gathered family is a little bit smaller, it can feel like there’s not much to celebrate, and we’d really rather not remember.


And for those of us who have lost a pet, it can be especially painful when we have people in our lives making comments like “Well it was just a dog.” This season that brings us all together also brings more opportunities for people to make ignorant and obnoxious comments.


Maybe the holidays remind you of all the beautiful holidays from years past, and the special memories, and the love…and it just throws your pain into sharper relief, casts your loneliness in a brighter light.


Maybe the holidays bring up painful memories from holidays past, and the yearly reminders are just too much to bear.


Maybe the holidays feel like something you just have to make it through every year. If you can get to the other side, then you can breathe.


Or maybe for you, your emotions during the holidays are just complicated. You feel the magic and warmth and find yourself enjoying things, but you also feel guilty, because you are allowing yourself to enjoy life without your loved one.


This season, you may feel invisible. The holidays have a nice way of making all those who are not cheery feel very isolated and unseen, and that can just make everything worse. But if you are one of these “invisible” people, whatever you may be feeling- loneliness, pain, complicated cheer, fresh grief, or “stale” grief- please know, you are not alone (no matter how lonely things might feel).


If you can, try to surround yourself with supportive, loving friends and family. Let those in your circle know how they can help, and allow yourself to reach out for extra support if you need it. There are many resources for people needing help, not only during the holidays, but all year round. There are support groups, therapists, grief counselors, and more- for people missing humans, AND animals. Countless individuals have used these resources and benefited greatly from them. There are so many people who experience grief and hopelessness, especially at this time of year, and being able to know that there is someone who will walk through it with you, and that there are so many people who have already walked this difficult path, can be a beacon of light during a very dark time.


Above all, this holiday season, be kind to yourself. Let yourself feel what you feel. Don’t allow others to belittle your emotions, or incorrectly summarize your experience for you. Don’t allow the insensitive comments to have any bearing on your real, true, valid feelings. If someone says “It was only a cat,” say, “Well, it wasn’t YOUR cat, and you weren’t a part of that relationship.” Don’t allow them to belittle your relationship, and don’t let them tell you the “right way to feel.”


This season, remind yourself that it is okay to be sad. It is ok to be joyful. It is ok to have fun. It is also ok to not have fun. It is ok to miss your loved one, whether human or animal. You miss them because they mattered, deeply.


And your experience matters deeply.


So, if you’re not feeling so merry and bright, remember that you are not alone, and you are not wrong to be feeling what you feel.


We at MN Pets are always here for you, to listen, to validate, and to help you remember that you are not alone.

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You Did A Good Job


You did a good job, human.


You did a good job at feeding me.

Sometimes it was boring food, and sometimes it was my favorite. But you fed me every day, and that was my favorite time of day.

Sometimes I begged for more and you said no. But sometimes your eye twinkled and you said yes.

Sometimes you sneaked extra special yummy bits to me under the table when no one else was looking (And sometimes they sneaked me extra special yummy bits when YOU weren’t looking).

You always fed me, every day.


You did a good job at playing with me.

You’d throw the ball so many times! Even though it was probably never enough for me, I know that your human arm would get tired, and that’s ok. Playing ball with you was the best.

Or you’d dangle that string in my face and I would do everything I could to pin it to the ground. Or steal it from you. Sometimes I would win. And if I wouldn’t, it was because I pretended I didn’t care anymore (though secretly I did). You knew this, and you’d always pick that string up again, and I’d always be ready to pounce once more! I loved chasing that string with you.


You did a good job at cuddling me.

You’d pull my face close to yours, and kiss the top of my head. That was my favorite.

Or you’d wrap your arms around my body and hug me tight and whisper all those nice words in my ear, about how good I was, and about how pretty I was, and about how much you loved me.

Or I’d climb on top of you in the middle of the night and purr in your face, and you would scratch my head no matter how sleepy you were.

Or sometimes for nap time you would let me climb up on the couch with you, and we barely fit on there together, but that made it even better. The closer I could cuddle with you, the more I loved it.

I sure loved being close to you.


You did a good job at taking me to the vet.

I really hated it there. But somehow I always ended up feeling better once I got home.

You forced weird tasting things into my food or into my mouth, and that was so gross. But somehow I always ended up feeling better after that, too.

You did a good job at caring for me.


You did a good job at saying “no.”

Even though I didn’t like it at the time, I know you only wanted what was best for me.

You said “no” if I got too close to the street. Thank you. I was dumb, sometimes, and you just wanted to keep me safe.

You said “no” if I was getting too fat. That’s fair.

You said “no” when I barked too loud. Sorry. I sure could be noisy, couldn’t I?

You said “no” when I hissed at my brother. I still think you didn’t understand what I was saying, but it’s ok. I know you loved him, too.

You said “no” when I played too hard with your nice things and they accidentally became shredded. I am sorry. Also… brother did it.

You said “no” when I dug holes in your pretty garden.

You said “no” when I jumped on the counter.

You said “no” sometimes, and sometimes, you said “no” lots of times! But that was a good thing. You said “no” because you wanted to set important boundaries, and I needed them. You did a good job with “no.”


You did a good job at loving me.

You squealed my name when you got home every day, and I could tell you were so happy to see me. I was so happy to see you, too.

You praised me when I did things right, and that made me so proud.

You laughed when I did silly things, and I could see so much joy on your face. I so loved making you laugh. Your laugh was my favorite.

You rubbed my belly when I asked you to (and you stopped when I asked you to stop).

You always kissed the top of my head, and I always loved that. Come to think of it, the top of my head got a lot of love. I must have had a really nice top-of-my-head.


You knew when I started getting tired, and you made sure to slow things down a little. That made me feel important. It made me feel loved.

You knew when my body started hurting and I needed more medicine.

You knew when my body started hurting and I needed more rest.

You knew when I couldn’t go on walks anymore, and even though I missed them so much, I am glad that you knew what was best for me.


You loved me even though my face got all grey. You still called me handsome.

You loved me even though my legs started giving out and we couldn’t play much anymore.

You loved me even though I started having accidents. I felt so bad, but you called me your best sweetie anyway.


And when I finally got too tired, and my eyes started letting you know, you loved me so much that you knew it was time to say goodbye.

I didn’t want to say goodbye, because I didn’t want to leave you. I loved you so much, too!

I loved your nice voice.

I loved the way you petted me and rubbed me and kissed the top of my head.

I loved all my silly nicknames.

I loved my house.

I loved my family.

I loved my life with you.

But I needed help, and you loved me so very much that you were willing to break your heart to ease my pain.


You did a good job when we said “goodbye.”

You told me a billion times that you loved me, and that I was the best sweetie ever.

My nice top-of-my-head got so many pets and kisses.

You gave me my favorite treats, and this time, there were no “no’s.” It was wonderful.

You looked into my eyes, and though I could tell you were sad, I could also see all the love in your soul, looking into mine.


We said “goodbye.” But  I know I’ll see you again. Heaven is a really beautiful place. I couldn’t have picked a prettier spot to wait for you. I can’t wait to show you around.


You did a good job, human. I loved my life with you.



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Quality of Life visits

This post was guest-written by one of our very own MN Pets doctors, Dr. Meredith Lum.

Deciding when to say good-bye to an animal companion can be an extremely difficult undertaking. Our pets become some of the most important beings in our lives and the weight of making the decision to humanely euthanize is incomparable to many difficulties faced throughout our lives. Uncertainty can stem from a variety of places such as a newly diagnosed medical condition in a pet, gradual changes in a pet over a period of time, or other outside pressures. It can often be difficult to put words to what a pet’s quality of life is like in any given moment. Quality of life can be defined as the general well-being of a pet based on standards of health, comfort, and happiness. Scheduling a Quality of Life Consultation is an opportunity to have an in depth discussion with one of the MN Pets veterinarians to assess a pet’s overall quality of life as well as address questions and concerns regarding a pet’s medical condition. This is intended to guide the decision making process and to provide judgment free support, insight, and clarity to help determine what is right for each individual pet and situation. These appointments are a wonderful opportunity for a personalized conversation, they are not a time for in depth examinations, diagnostic testing, or prescribing medications.

What should be expected of a Quality of Life Consultation? 

The doctor will arrive at the home during a scheduled period of time. The appointment will last one hour. They will have reviewed information provided by the owner as well as any veterinary records available in order to have the most productive conversation and a sense of what the pet is experiencing. At the time of scheduling, the owner will be provided with a scale called the JOURNEYS scale to review prior to the appointment. This is a scale that was designed to give objective numbers to more subjective situations to help assess the factors that affect a pet’s well-being including pain levels, eating/drinking, social interactions, and uncertainty of medical condtions. This is a starting place for assessing quality of life and a way to facilitate conversation with both a MN Pets veterinarian and the pet’s regular care provider. The JOURNEYS scale can also be used serially to help identify trends in a pet’s overall well being either before or after the Quality of Life Consultation. This scale can be used by all members of a household to provide perspective on how each person is viewing the pet’s well-being. The numbers given while using this scale provide a point of reference. Generally, low scores indicate a poorer quality of life and high scores indicate a happier, healthier pet but they are assessed on a case by case basis and there are no set rules. 

After thorough discussion of the pet’s quality of life, an assessment is provided. Options for next steps may include continued care with an outside veterinarian, in-home hospice (not provided by MN Pets), at-home monitoring by the family, or euthanasia. If the timing is deemed appropriate by the veterinarian, euthanasia may proceed during a Quality of Life Consultation. No matter what path is determined to be best, a plan is set in place including how to schedule a future euthanasia appointment with MN Pets, what to do in case of an emergecny situation/rapid decline of the pet, and what natural death may look like. It is always the goal of the veterinarian providing this consultation to make this process as clear as possible in a time when pets and owners are often at their most vulnerable. The entire MN Pets team is here to support families through difficult times. 

In order to schedule a consultation, please contact our office by calling (612) 354-8500.

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Interactive Quality of Life Assessment

This scale, called the JOURNEYS scale, is designed to help you rate your pet’s quality of life. Each letter stands for a different aspect of quality of life for a pet. This assessment will walk you through each aspect and prompt you to assign a numeric value to it. This will help you gain a little more clarity on what your pet’s current quality of life is.

Interactive JOURNEYS scale

Once you rate your pet’s quality of life, your results will be emailed to you. You can use this assessment as many times as you’d like. By having the result in email form, it will help you keep track of your pet’s quality of life rating. We recommend tracking your scores on a calendar or notepad to watch changes day to day or week to week. If you have questions about the trends that you are seeing, you can reach out to us for discussion and support at 612-354-8500.

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What pets teach us about…Commitment.

In 2007, James Bowen was a drug addict, attempting to recover, living in halfway housing, and trying desperately to make ends meet by busking on the London Streets. He had struggled with homelessness and heroin addiction for many years, and was trying, yet again, to get back on his feet.

James was part of a rehabilitation program in which patients take the drug methadone as an alternative to illicit drugs. James had successfully transitioned from heroin to methadone, but he was still addicted and fully dependent on methadone. To help cover the cost of this program, and of his housing, he brought in what spare change he could by playing guitar and singing on the busy London streets.

One night, as James returned home to his building, he found an orange cat in the hallway. At first James ignored it, believing it must belong to someone else. But the next day, James found that the kitty was still in the spot where he first saw him. James discovered that he had no identification, and was also badly injured. He tried to find the cat’s owner amongst the other residents of his building, but when no one claimed the kitty as their own, James decided it was his responsibility to help him

He brought him into a nearby clinic, and with the very little money he had, he pursued treatment of the kitty’s wound. For the duration of the two-week treatment, James continued to look for the owner of the cat, while keeping the kitty in his care. Once the treatment was complete, and no owner had turned up, James let the cat back out on the streets. Since James was caught in his own volatile situation, was having a difficult enough time caring for himself, and was desperately struggling to remain on the methadone program to heal his addiction, he didn’t feel he could add the responsibility of caring for another life.

But this little orange kitty had other plans.

He began following James around. He even followed him onto the bus! This kitty wouldn’t let James go, so James decided he wouldn’t need to. He adopted this bold little cat, and named him Bob.

Bob became an integral part of James’s life and routine. James took Bob everywhere. He bought him a harness and a leash to keep him safe, though Bob’s preferred method of transport was atop James’s shoulders. They became an inseparable duo. James would busk the streets of London, and Bob would reside beside him.

But this life they led was still volatile. Though Bob’s presence helped with his busking earnings, James still made little money. He quickly learned that caring for an animal was not free, and he wanted to give his new partner the best life he possibly could. The duo still depended on the special housing program, and though it was more stable than James’s previous homelessness, James wanted to move beyond assisted housing.

And most critical of all, James was still addicted to methadone.

James decided he needed to change. He needed to create a better, more stable life-  for his sake, and for Bob’s.

James made the decision to end his methadone dependency, and to become completely drug free. He knew that this would be unimaginably challenging. What he didn’t know was that he wouldn’t be alone.

James ceased taking methadone, and soon his body began to react. He endured days of violent withdrawal symptoms. But through every moment, Bob stayed by his side. Bob’s constant presence, his sweet little purr, was the support James needed to make it through. Bob’s soft body by his side was the reminder of the purpose for all the pain and strife. James knew he needed to do this for Bob and for himself, and Bob never abandoned him. Though James’s body reacted violently, Bob wouldn’t leave him.

Bob had made a commitment to James. From James’s first act of kindness toward Bob, Bob decided that James was his person. And though it took some convincing, James finally agreed.

Bob had chosen his duty. He made a commitment to be James’s companion. And that commitment, from animal to human, from one sweet soul to another, is one that does not falter. Through the happy moments, and even through the scary ones, Bob was steadfast in his commitment to James.

We humans sometimes struggle with this. Everyone’s heard the tiresome trope of a parent requiring a child to first prove their responsibility before being allowed to get a puppy. And we’ve all experienced the trials (read: messy failures) of house training a pet, and the dedication and determination that requires. Sadly, we’ve also heard stories of animals being surrendered, or worse yet, abandoned by their owners. The fact of the matter is, owning an animal takes commitment. Many humans do not understand this at the start, but quickly learn.

Whether it is potty training, walking, grooming, boundaries and discipline, or routine veterinary care, there are a myriad of tasks and responsibilities that are necessary for owning and effectively caring for a pet. Too often humans adopt a pet, but refuse to undertake these necessary tasks. They want the animal, but not the responsibility. And inevitably, the pet suffers.

And yet there are many humans who discover the great and daunting responsibility of caring for an animal, and though they are met with many challenges, they choose to commit to their pet, despite the difficulties. They accept the potty training, the many walks, the grooming, the frustrations of setting and reinforcing boundaries, and the sometimes overwhelming costs at the veterinarian’s office. They understand that when we choose to care for another life, there are many obligations that come with it, but that each of those challenging moments is worth it. That we have made a promise, and that that promise takes commitment.

What our pets give us in return far exceeds those challenges. The joy, the laughter, the comfort, the unconditional love- these things cannot be measured, and they cannot ever be matched.

When Bob chose James, he began to teach James what true commitment looks like. Bob’s determination to stay by James’s side no matter what showed James the depth of his attachment, and James knew his life would never be the same. James, in turn, fully committed himself to Bob, and together, they made a new life for themselves. Though James had greatly struggled with addiction, finances, job responsibilities, and homelessness, having Bob in his life and committing to loving and caring for him gave James the determination he needed to change his life. James sought new job opportunities and worked hard to be successful in them. Gradually, James became more and more financially stable, and successfully remained drug free.

James and Bob became a well-known pair. People began to upload videos of them to YouTube, and local papers wrote pieces on them. Eventually, James wrote a book about Bob, entitled “A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life.” It became a worldwide bestseller. Not long after, it was made into a film.

James is eternally grateful for what Bob taught him. He feels he owes everything to Bob, saying “I believe it came down to this little man. He came and asked me for help, and he needed me more than I needed to abuse my own body. He is what I wake up for every day now… he’s definitely given me the right direction to live my life.”

Bob taught James so much when he chose him and stayed by his side. James in turn committed fully to providing Bob with a beautiful life. Though it took all the strength, determination, and fortitude he had, he worked hard, he changed his life, and he created a wonderful future for his new companion and for himself.

James and Bob are still an inseparable duo. Together they have written many books (including children’s books starring Bob!) and they continue to share their beautiful story with the world.

Our pets teach us so many invaluable lessons during their time with us. And one of the greatest of these lessons is commitment.

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What to Expect During the Euthanasia Appointment

 We often hear questions about what to expect during a home euthanasia appointment. It can be helpful to know how this appointment may be different than visits you have made to the veterinary office with a pet at the end of life. After almost 11 years of working with pets and families, we understand what works best to bring comfort to the pet and people who are present in the home. Following is a general description of what you can expect during the appointment.  Within this framework, we welcome special arrangements such as prayer, silence, music, poetry or anything that brings you comfort.

Appointment process

After arriving at your home, our veterinarian will want to meet your pet and spend a few minutes discussing their condition. We administer a small sedative injection to help relieve pain and discomfort, as well as to help your pet relax. After about 5-15 minutes,  your pet will be comfortable and very relaxed and sleepy.  At that time the doctor will administer the second injection into a vein to help your pet pass away.  The medication first brings about complete unconsciousness, then the heart will slow and stop. This usually occurs within a few minutes or so. As far as we are able to determine, the pet does not experience discomfort with this second injection. They are very sleepy and seem unaware of what is happening.  Following this medication, our doctor will very carefully listen for heart sounds with a stethoscope to confirm that your pet has passed away. We will be happy to make a paw print impression in clay if you wish to have one. All together we plan 45-60 minutes for the appointment.

Payment and paperwork

There is minimal paperwork before your visit. We will send you a confirmation email with an electronic consent form attached. You will be able to keep a copy of this form electronically, and that is the only paperwork necessary. In addition, many clients prefer to prepay for their visit so that they don’t need to discuss payment during the visit. If you would like to prepay, you may do so while you are scheduling your visit, either over the phone with our support specialists or by using the link provided in your confirmation email. If you prefer to pay the doctor in the home, you can pay with a check made out to MN Pets or with cash. Our doctors carry very little change, so it is best to plan to have the exact amount of cash. We also accept Care Credit, which can be processed over the phone with a support specialist before your visit. Our goal is to keep paperwork to a minimum so that you can focus on your pet.


Any room in your home is usually fine for the appointment.  We often visit pets who are most comfortable on their bed or on the sofa.  The floor is also good for some dogs.  Our doctors are comfortable working anywhere there is space to gather around the pet.  It is wonderful to be outside when the weather cooperates. If the doctor will be transporting your pet for cremation, consider having the visit in a location that will allow for an easier and unobstructed exit. For example, the main floor of your home or in a room nearest to your entryway may be best. This will ensure that your pet can be carried out of your home safely and peacefully.


Our doctors bring everything needed to keep the area clean and dry.  There is no need to prepare anything special in your home.


We are experienced and comfortable working with elderly pets, many of whom may be experiencing dehydration. Our doctors are comfortable administering medications under these circumstances and are equipped to handle situations that occasionally arise where a vein is difficult to access.


Your pet can follow a regular routine for eating and drinking on the day of the appointment. They may also take any medications as needed for pain, for example.  We recommend avoiding a heavy meal or a large number of treats just prior to the appointment, to help avoid upset stomach after the sedative has been administered.  It is a good idea to save some of your best dog treats for when the doctor arrives so administering the sedative is a little less noticeable for your dog.  Treats are a wonderful distraction.

Video/Audio recording and photos

MN Pets does not allow video or audio recording of home euthanasia visits, and we request that photos are not taken of our doctors. We value the privacy of our veterinarians and the assurance that photo and video content from pet euthanasia will not appear online due to its sensitive nature. Video-calling with friends or family members is permitted. Photographs of your pet and your family are welcomed, with the request to avoid including the veterinarian in any images. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.


We take great care in making sure your pet is handled with care and dignity after death. If our doctor is arranging cremation services, your pet will be comfortably transported in a blanket with the possible additional use of a bin or stretcher for added security in the vehicle. For pets over 40 pounds, our doctor will need assistance from one other person to help carry your pet to their vehicle. Please consider the path that doctor will need to take with your pet back to her vehicle and help ensure that it is cleared of obstructions.

Unusual Circumstances

Variations from the usual process aren’t uncommon.  Most often this is due to the pet’s disease or body condition, or the way the pet’s body responds to the medications given. Our doctors occasionally make a decision to vary their plan slightly, both to ensure the best experience for you and the most peaceful and comfortable experience for your pet. Our training and years of experience with helping pets at the end of life helps us to know what’s best to do in any situation to help the process proceed smoothly.  If you have questions about something that is happening at any moment, don’t hesitate to ask the doctor to explain. Our goal is to keep everyone informed as much as they would like to be throughout our visit.

Weather and Travel

In the case of inclement weather, such as a severe winter storm, our support team will be in contact with you as soon as possible to update you on the doctor’s arrival window and any necessary schedule adjustments. We will do everything that we can to help you at your scheduled time; however, in order to keep our doctor safe when road conditions are poor, we ask for your flexibility and understanding in scheduling.  While rare, in cases of a MnDOT issued No Travel Advisory, MN Pets will temporarily cease visits for safety reasons and our support team will be in contact with you as soon as possible to reschedule for a safer time or day.

Questions or Requests

If you have any questions about this information or something we haven’t addressed, feel free to contact our support team at (612) 354-8500 or speak with the doctor during the appointment.

For more information about the medications used during our visit, read Medications We Use.

Posted in End-of-life decisions, Preparing for your pet's appointment | 6 Comments

What our pets teach us about…Loyalty

Roselle was a special girl. She was of course pretty (is there any dog that isn’t?), and she was of course the sweetest girl that ever was. Roselle was a lab, after all. She had a heart of gold, and the purest soul, as labs tend to have. But there was something even more special about Roselle. She had a job, and a very important one. She was her owner’s eyes: his guide dog. And neither she nor her owner could ever have imagined just how important her job was going to be.

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Roselle and her person, Michael Hingson, set off for work, as they did every day. She guided his way to Tower 1 of the World Trade Center, and up to the 78th floor, where he was a computer salesman.  She was sleeping under Michael’s desk when the plane hit. The BOOM sounded, and felt, like an explosion. It caused the entire building to tilt. Chaos erupted.

Sweet Roselle, though very brave, had one fear in life: thunderstorms. The noise terrified her. Yet on this morning, what should have been the most terrifying day of her life, Roselle remained perfectly calm. Through chaos, confusion, and deafening noise, Roselle did her job. She led Michael to the stairway, and they slowly began their descent, one floor at a time. The journey was arduous, and hot, and filled with noxious fumes. But on and on Roselle went, faithfully guiding her person, along with 30 others, down every single floor. Once they made it safely outside, Tower 2 collapsed. A massive cloud of dust engulfed them. Smoke and debris flew all around them, even hitting Roselle. But nothing shook her devotion to her man.  Michael tells their remarkable story in his book, Thunder Dog.  In it, he states that   “Roselle’s guide dog training could never have prepared her for anything like this, but she is brave and she does not quit; instead, she uses whatever senses she can to watch out for me.”

Though her very life was at risk, she would not abandon her job. Not only would she not leave Michael’s side, in the midst of noise, screaming, confusion, danger, and chaos, but with great bravery, and with complete disregard for her own fears, she guided him through the destruction. She saved Michael and 30 others, guiding them safely and fearlessly through one of the most terrifying events in our nation’s history.

Our pets teach us many, many things in their short lives, and one of the greatest lessons they teach us is loyalty.

The most common definitions of loyalty involve the words “allegiance,” “support,” “faithfulness,” “commitment,” and “duty.” We humans often struggle with the virtue of loyalty. Our complicated emotions, sticky agendas, and selfishness often get in the way of our aims to show loyalty to those in our lives. But for our furry friends, loyalty seems to be unavoidable, intrinsic in their character. As if they can’t help but devote their lives to ours. As if they exist to “be” and “do” with us, always.

Science, and more specifically, genetics, would suggest that they truly can’t help it. Dogs, descended from wolves, are pack animals. They are highly social, and develop deep bonds and deep allegiance to those in their pack.  Loyalty is truly a part of their genetic makeup.

And though loyalty isn’t necessarily the first word that one would choose to describe your typical house cat, the truth is, cats develop profound loyalty to their loved ones, too. Though they are descended from highly independent wild cats, our house cats exhibit very deep, powerful bonds with their humans- bonds that rival those of dogs (Cat owners are perhaps better able to understand this- house cats sure do get a bad wrap sometimes!)

Roselle and her heroic deeds are just one example of countless pets who have exhibited unshakable and brave loyalty. But our pets’ loyalty isn’t always shown through news-worthy acts of heroism. For many of us, the way our pets show their loyalty may not make the front page of The New York Times, but it is no less heroic. They lay by our side through the night. When we wake, they wake (well, sometimes, when THEY wake, WE wake). Regardless, our day begins together, and with a tail wag or a purr,  they set out to spend the day in our presence.

They accompany us everywhere, no matter how mundane (or private…) the task. They are there in our joy, wagging along with our laughter. They are there in our anger, earnest to make things right. They are there in our sorrow, laying their head in our lap when we cry, perhaps offering a kiss, or a paw, or a slobbery toy.  And most commonly for many of us, they are there in our boredom. Our daily lives are often repetitious, unexciting, mundane. And still they are there, through every boring moment. But that loyalty IS heroic. That loyalty serves just as much to prove our pets’ devotion to us. Through every moment, thrilling or dull, they walk with us in stride, as if it were not the event that dictated their happiness, but merely the fact that every moment is spent with us.

Our pets lives, though far too short, teach us lessons we may not otherwise learn in our entire lifetimes. As Roselle proved, and as all our pets prove, there is no greater example of loyalty on this earth than the furry one who always laid at our feet.

For more on Michael and Roselle’s story, check out Michael’s incredible book, Thunder Dog: the true story of a blind man, his guide dog, and the triumph of trust.

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Phantom Sounds

The jingling of a collar on a wiggly, happy body.

The scrape and click of excited little claws on a hardwood floor.

The low, soft rumble of a kitty who could not be more content.

These sounds are the music of an animal household. The soundtrack of life with a pet. From sweet, sweet purrs, to earsplitting, booming barks, to the maddening sound of your pet licking itself in the middle of the night. Quite often we aren’t even aware of just how much noise our pets make. In the mundane routine of life, we don’t always pay attention to the steady, happy panting. Or gentle footsteps on soft carpet. Or the rhythmic thud of a joyful tail against the floor. These things so often become a part of the background noise. It’s almost as if they become a part of the silence.

Yet inevitably, there comes a point in the life of a pet owner when that silence suddenly becomes much quieter. The sad day when we must say goodbye to that important family member, and all at once, that furry soundtrack is gone. It is then when we realize just how constant those sweet sounds were. And just how silent silence can be.

However, for some pet owners, those sounds do not stop. In the quiet of the night comes that sweet, rumbly purr, as if it were never gone. As if our sweet kitty were there, peacefully sleeping with us once again.

Or perhaps on a quiet afternoon, we hear the gentle scrape of little clawed feet ambling down the hall.

Maybe we hear the noisy slop of an eager tongue in a water dish.

Maybe we hear the jangle of a collar being kicked around by a paw, continuing on its quest to find the ever-elusive center of the itchy spot.

Maybe in the stillness of the night, we hear the low, slow, breathing of a deep slumber.

Maybe we said goodbye yesterday. Maybe we said goodbye last year.

These things, though they may be unsettling, are in fact relatively common. This recent study explored the grief resulting from pet loss, and surveyed pet owners who had said goodbye to their beloved pet within the last 2 years. It studied these “false recognitions” of pets by their owners, including sightings of the pet as well as hearing the pet’s noises. The study found that not only did many pet owners experience this, but that these experiences lasted for some time beyond the loss of the pet, as “many participants experienced false recognitions up to 24 months following their pet’s death” (White and Fessler).

Studies like this illustrate, and can help validate, the deep, profound impact the loss of a pet has on us. Their lives are so intricately entwined with ours. Their daily routine often dictates ours. They become so integral a part of the family that when they depart, they leave a gaping hole in our lives.

When pet owners experience these “phantom sounds,” it can feel alarming, even disconcerting. They may feel like there is something wrong with them, or even like they are losing their mind. While this is a strange and eerie phenomenon, it is not uncommon. Many people who have just lost a dearly loved one, and who are in the throes of grief, experience this phenomenon of “phantom sounds.” If you are experiencing this, you are not alone.

It may be unsettling, and it might make the pain of loss even more potent in those moments. But it is not forever. As the aforementioned study proves, this is relatively common in people who have deep attachments to their beloved pets, and these experiences do decline as time passes.

If you are one of the many pet owners who has been experiencing these “phantom sounds” after the passing if your sweet pet, please know that you are not alone. The reality is, the grief from the loss of a pet is deep, profound, and legitimate. Though we may have people in our lives telling us to “get over it,” or that “it was just an animal,” the truth is, it was a true, meaningful relationship, and no one has the right to tell you that your grief is not valid.

This phenomenon should decrease with the passing of time. However, if you find that these experiences are not fading, it may be very helpful to find someone to talk to. There are many pet loss support groups that are full of people who have deeply loved, and lost, a dear furry family member. Countless people have found it very helpful to have support and encouragement from other pet owners who share their same understanding and appreciation of the human-animal bond, and who have had their own personal experience with the loss of a beloved pet. These people have found that with that support from like-minded pet owners, they can continue through the process of grieving surrounded by love and support.

If this facet of grief concerns you or begins to strongly affect your daily life, you may consider enlisting the support of a mental health professional who has experience in helping people through the loss of a beloved pet. Even the most normal grief reactions can feel impossible to manage alone at times, and many people find that the support of an outside person can help them feel unstuck. Some people experience what is called “complicated grief” and have trouble healing over time and moving forward in their “new normal”. Everyone’s grief is unique, and there is no shame in speaking with a mental health professional about your own grief. This is a common, extremely helpful resource, and it has helped countless people be able to cope with the loss, and better understand and manage their grief.

Our precious furry family members make an indelible mark on our lives. Though some of us are left with temporary, “phantom sounds,” all of us are left with infinite, permanent, perfect memories that will not fade over time, but will simply grow more precious, more cherished, and more deeply engraved in our hearts.

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Debunking the Myths of In-Home Pet Euthanasia

One of the most difficult parts of being a pet owner is when we realize we must say goodbye. It is such a heartbreaking decision to make, and thinking about taking that final trip to the veterinary clinic can be overwhelming. In recent years, another option has become much more common: in-home end-of-life services. Many families have found that being able to say goodbye in their own home, and not needing to make that final trip to the clinic, has been a very valuable alternative for them. Unfortunately, there are some misconceptions associated with in-home pet euthanasia, many of these discouraging people from considering it as an option for their pet. And while the decision will always depend on personal preference, we feel it is helpful to “debunk” some of the myths of in-home pet euthanasia, to clear up some of the misconceptions, and answer some of the questions we frequently hear.

Why choose in-home pet euthanasia?

Traditional veterinary clinics provide an invaluable and irreplaceable service. They help our pets not only with routine care and emergency services, but they are also there to help our pets when they need help passing away. However, some of our pets may not enjoy going to the clinic, no matter how valuable it is for them. Some pets associate the clinic and staff with being poked and prodded or experiencing unfamiliar smells and people. Many pets are very nervous when they are in the clinic. Of course, there are other pets who love going to the vet and love the people they see there!

Some pets are terrified just to go in the car (cats, especially), or can be very large and difficult to transport. Sometimes the act of trying to get your pet into the car, or into a carrier, is a daunting one. Many of these challenges can be eliminated when a doctor can come to your home.

When it seems that a pet has reached the end of its life, the idea of taking a final trip into the vet can be overwhelming, especially if we have pets who grow very anxious when they have to go into the clinic. Requiring them to spend the last moments of their life in a place that has been scary and unsettling can be very upsetting, and even traumatizing for the pet owner. Though many times this is the only option (especially in emergency situations), MN Pets presents an alternative to this. By allowing the visit to take place in your home, your pet can be in the place where they are most comfortable, surrounded by their familiar smells and people.

We understand, however, that you may still have questions and concerns surrounding the idea of euthanizing your pet at home. We hope to address some of those concerns and provide helpful information.

Common Questions and Concerns

Where will the visit take place?

The visit will take place in your home. Many families wonder if “mobile practice” means the doctor will bring a van and the visit will take place in the van or elsewhere outside of the home. Our doctor will, in fact, come into your home for the visit. This way your pet can be in the place he or she is most comfortable and peaceful and you don’t have to worry about taking him or her outside of your home.

Won’t it be too upsetting for family members to have this experience at home?

One of the concerns we most commonly hear is that it might be very upsetting for the family to see their pet pass away at home. It may be a bad memory for family members, or they will never be able to look at the spot where the pet passed in the same way. We completely understand these concerns. This is an emotional, heartbreaking event, and it seems like it would be difficult to go through in one’s home. However, by allowing a pet to be in the place where they are most comfortable and peaceful, and not asking them to be in the clinic, we are giving the gift of a peaceful passing. Though it may be sad for us, it is so much more peaceful for them. We like to think of it as a final gift to our furry family members – to be able to say goodbye in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by the love of their family.

Should my other pets be present?

Sometimes family members are concerned that other pets in the household may distract from the experience (getting in the way or being too energetic) or that the death of a companion may possibly be upsetting for other pets to witness. To address the latter, this is an understandable concern. It will be upsetting enough for our pets to lose their friend – should they witness it as well? After being present for thousands of home euthanasia visits where other pets have been in attendance, our experience is very much the opposite.  The process is very gentle and peaceful and being present allows other pets to be aware of what happens to their friend. Of course, the decision is always up to the family. Each family knows their pets best.

Additionally, if a family has a pet who is very energetic, and if they are afraid that their pet may try to be too involved in the process or get in the way, it is perfectly fine if they feel the pet should hang out elsewhere during the majority of the visit. If a family decides for any reason not to have their other pets present, we would recommend they allow their other pet to see their pet’s body after the pet has passed. By being able to see and sniff their friend, they are able to understand what has happened and have closure, and not be left wondering where their friend has gone.

Should my children be present?

Another very common concern we hear is whether or not children should be present. This is another decision that is completely up to the family, and we are happy to offer some guidance and helpful resources. We feel it’s most helpful if children are always informed. Parents can present children with the option of being present or not.  Its important that they feel aware and informed of this decision regarding their furry family member. Honesty is very important, and while it can feel so much easier to keep upsetting things from our children, it is essential that we are open and honest about this. We have some resources that we would be happy to share with you that are very helpful for knowing how to approach this topic with our children. We even have an article that addresses each developmental stage, how children of different ages process and cope with pet loss, and how they may express their grief.

How does the doctor give the medications?

The doctor administers medications in two steps.  The first is a sedative and the second medication brings about a peaceful death.  Both the sedative and the final medication are given by injection.  The location of the injection varies depending on what the doctor feels would be the most comfortable for the pet and can be in the front leg, hind leg or side of the body. The first sedative injection may be a little uncomfortable, and your pet might feel a little prick as with a vaccine injection.  We use the most comfortable and effective medications available.

Is it messy?

Many people wonder if the visit will be messy. In general, it is very peaceful and not messy. Because the sedative that the doctors give is so relaxing, our pets will sometimes let go of their bladder or bowels during the visit.  Our doctors come prepared for this with potty pads to place under the pet in case this happens

How long does the visit take?

In general, our visit lasts about 45 minutes. Our doctors will never rush a family through the visit. This is such an intimate, emotional time for the family, and our doctors are there to support and help every step of the way. Our doctors love to listen to precious stories about the sweet pet, and they are also happy to answer any and all questions the family may have. Especially when children are present, our doctors make sure to be clear and informative, and they patiently and compassionately answer any and all questions a family may have.

Will my pet be able to hear me after they have been sedated?

We don’t know for certain if our pets can hear us, but we do feel that speaking to them, petting them, and giving them so much love during the visit is a very good thing to do, if the family is comfortable doing this. While we can’t say for certain that they can hear us, we also don’t know that they can’t, and for that reason we feel that being there with our pets and loving them through every moment is a beautiful thing to do. I have spoken to some doctors who do believe that our pets can hear and feel our presence even after the sedative is given.

This brings us to our next question…

What if I don’t think I can stay and watch?

Many people feel like they can’t bear to stay for the visit. We understand this as well. It is such a heartbreaking thing to have to say goodbye to our pets. If you feel you can’t stay to watch your pet say goodbye, that is perfectly fine. Some people prefer to step out of the room while their pet is peacefully sleeping, after the sedative has been given. That is just fine. Our doctor will gently stay by your pet’s side and will love and support them as they pass away. If you feel you cannot see your pet’s body after they have passed away, that is okay too. We understand this and our doctors are happy to accommodate this.

If you have any other questions regarding an in-home pet euthanasia visit, please feel free to ask us. We feel that it is so very important for families to be fully informed about all the options that they have for their precious pets.


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Anticipatory Grief: The Sadness Before the Loss

When we learn that our beloved pet has a terminal illness, or we realize that they are struggling with the changes that old age brings, many of us feel a deep sense of loss or grief even though our pet is still with us. This experience of coping with loss before our loved one has died is called anticipatory grief, and it is a common and natural reaction to the realization that you will soon be saying goodbye. We tend to think of grief as a reaction to the death of a pet, but in some situations the grief process begins the moment we learn of a terminal diagnosis or face the difficult decision of euthanasia.

When a pet dies, we often think of and refer to the death as one loss, but in many cases it can actually feel like a series of many losses. For example, as a dog ages, she may one day be unable to go for her daily walk. Or perhaps an elderly cat becomes unable to climb to the top of the couch where she always spent her days sunbathing. These changes represent endings, and they remind us of the inevitable goodbye that everyone who loves a pet must face. We grieve the loss of each and every loss along the way. To witness and reflect on the losses occurring during the end-of-life stage is a heartbreaking process that can sometimes feel like a rollercoaster. In tandem with our pet’s physical health, we experience the good days and the bad days with them and it often reflects in our grieving.

How people experience anticipatory grief varies greatly. People may experience many or few of the emotions. Some of the most common feelings include sorrow, dread, anger, anxiety, and depression, and may include physical feelings such as changes in appetite, weight, and sleep patterns. In addition, people may experience times of acceptance, peace, growth and reflection. Some people may feel the urge to distance themselves from the pet and the end-of-life process. While this is a distressing feeling, it can be a natural part of the process and is something that can be recognized and worked through. For most people, it is this combination of anxiety of what’s to come and the determination to make things count that leads us on an emotional rollercoaster.  It is important to acknowledge your experience and give yourself permission to feel it and process it.

In many ways, anticipatory grief is a form of coping as it helps you prepare yourself emotionally for the loss. However, there are some things that can help when you are feeling overwhelmed:

  • Reach out and use your support system. Like other forms of grief and loss, it is important to process your anticipatory grief experience with others you can trust. Whether it is a spouse, a friend, a support group or a mental health professional, it is important that you find someone you can turn to for support. When people ask “what can I do”, let them know honestly what they can do to help you.
  • Be extra kind to yourself. Understand that anticipatory grief may come in waves, and you may experience it in ways you do not expect. Your anticipatory grief may bring tears, anxiety, dread, difficulty sleeping or anger. Sometimes it may also bring growth, reflection or peace. Often, it brings a combination of these feelings at different times throughout the experience, and that is okay. Grieving, both before and after a loss, is hard work. Be sure to give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling and to make extra time for self-care.
  • Make time to cherish your pet. This may seem obvious, but sometimes we can be so overwhelmed with what needs to be done and who to call that we miss the moments that we will long to remember. This may be a time to create and tackle a bucket list for your pet, or talk to them about how much you love them. Take special photographs of and with them, or begin a journal or scrapbook now while the memories and images are fresh in your mind. Some people enjoy making memorials while the pet is still here, such as paw prints, gardens or shadowboxes of their favorite things. While it is important to acknowledge your deep sense of sadness about saying goodbye, it is also important to make sure your sadness doesn’t “take over” and prevent you from living in the moment. Directing your pain and anxiety toward actions that create wonderful memories can help provide balance in an overwhelming time.
  • Use this time as an opportunity to plan. In cases of sudden or unanticipated deaths, many people feel overwhelmed with the decisions they are unexpectedly facing and often regret decisions they were forced to make in the heat of the moment. When we experience anticipatory grief, we are provided with a special, albeit painful, opportunity to make end-of-life plans such as where you would like to say goodbye, what you will do in the case of an emergency, and whom you may want to include in saying goodbye. Planning and making decisions about end-of-life care allows us to gain a sense of control in an uncontrollable situation, and it helps ensure that your final memories with your pet are positive and peaceful.

The grief that you feel as you prepare to say goodbye to your pet can produce intense sorrow and anxiety. It can also provide a foundation to mindfully plan and reflect on your relationship and memories with your pet. As with all grief experiences, there is no right or wrong, and no one can ever be fully prepared to say goodbye. It is okay to feel overwhelmed at times, and it’s okay to ask for help. If you need support while navigating the anticipatory grief experience, lean on those around you whom you trust, and reach out to our counselors if you’d like to talk more about your experience.

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