This past year has been a difficult year personally. Our family has experienced the loss of two of our dogs to chronic kidney disease. The journey through their diagnosis, treatment and ultimate end of life has been a hard road. But the lessons I learned along the way will be invaluable to my patients. These experiences have shown me the necessity and the ultimate beauty of walking through the end of life with our beloved companions. At the end of life, the Rainbow Bridge becomes a destination of ultimate healing when our medical modalities are no longer enough.
The veterinary world is beginning to see and embrace the idea of end of life care through hospice and palliative care. These philosophies of care allow us to focus on the care of pets who are diagnosed with a life limiting illness that is not responsive to curative treatment. Examples of such conditions are: chronic kidney disease, severe osteoarthritis, diabetes, and cancer. The focus is not simply on the end of life, but more on living life as fully as possible while making safe preparations for death itself.
Having recently walked with my furry companions towards that Rainbow Bridge, I know the heartache of seeing your best friend declining. I know of the long days and nights, the feedings and the medications. I have held their paw and cleaned up their messes. But I have also looked deep into their eyes, into their souls and saw that all the hard work done in love was not done in vain. When they licked my hand or laid their head on my lap I knew it was worth it to them and those are memories I will cherish always.
Agnes Sligh Turnbull wrote: “Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” And I could not agree more. We all wish we could make our dogs live forever, but this is not in our power. When old age or sickness begin to affect our pets, it is nice to know that there are many things we can do to bring comfort to their bodies and minds. I am glad that the veterinary community is finding ways to ease their pain and suffering and I am glad to be part of it.