Please join us with your action
Many of us consider the animals we share our lives with as family members and dear friends. To provide for the needs of this animal as its physical life comes to a conclusion is a natural desire and can present similar challenges as we might experience when a human loved one passes. Human hospice has developed into an invaluable service, and our vision is that support becomes widely available also for those who choose to provide hospice care to an animal.
The first step in that direction is to increase accessibility to information and education on end-of-life care for animals allowing for timely preparation for this important part of an animal's life, meaning before that situation arises. It further entails developing a 24/7 phone and e-mail animal hospice support line, and encourage as well as provide a space for coordination of direct local community support. There a numerous ways in which you can be part of building this animal hospice support network!
Volunteering your time can be an invaluable contribution with any level of experience. See what you find that fits your skills and availability the best! Whatever you may choose to offer may well make the difference of having a hospice situation become the best it can be, and has the potential to shift it from being a daunting and exhausting endeavor to having it be a fulfilling and greatly rewarding experience for all involved.
These are wonderful ways of volunteering:
- Support people where you live
- Sponsor travel for people who can volunteer their time
- Our phone support line
- Being part of the e-mail support line
- "Talk" animal hospice
- Volunteering of other skills
- Give financial support for building the network
Supporting people where you live
Providing hospice for an animal can be very challenging for the caretaker in a number of different ways. It can be physically as well as emotionally strenuous, and can present logistical issues in terms of time and/or finances as well. Even without any knowledge about how to provide hospice care, to make oneself available to visit the home and do some chores that have fallen to the way side, can make all the difference for the person providing the main care, and therefore the animal as well. This type of volunteering can entail running some errands such as going grocery shopping, doing dishes, preparing a meal, dropping off or picking up kids at school, taking kids and/or other dogs in the household for a walk, or sitting with the animal for some time, so its caretaker can go take a shower or a little nap after some nights of disrupted sleep.
The animal can be affected by the emotional state of the caretaker in a number of ways, including that final decisions can be made simply because the person is overtired. To have someone step in even just for an hour or two, can be what tips the scale one way or the other.
Our vision is that this website can be used eventually to find local support of this kind, searchable by state. Your private information would be relayed to the person looking for help, but not be posted on the web unless you agree. At this beginning stage, as we have only a few areas covered, the support coordinator will let the person calling in know if someone has offered to do this type of volunteering locally.
You may find that a local paper may also be willing to post an ongoing ad for free if you offer your help to people in an active animal hospice situation. This could create the positive side effect of making people aware that providing hospice IS an option when it comes to the end of their animals' life – there are still many who have never heard of that.
TO OFFER SUPPORT IN YOUR COMMUNITY, please contact us with your phone number, e-mail address and state, town (with zip code) you live in.
Our phone support line
Many are unfamiliar with the natural dying process, and providing hospice tends to bring up a lot of questions for the caretaker which often occur in an urgent nature. Whenever needed, to be able to discuss the individual situation with someone who shares that interest to allow an animal to go in its own time, can make the difference for the caretaker between feeling stressed and overwhelmed to finding inner calm and clarity. As our animals are often quite adept in picking up on our emotional state, and caretakers may also make final decisions from a state of stress, the difference you can make by talking to the person providing hospice will affect the dying animal as well.
As of right now, starting with a small number of people offering phone support for the entire United States, a person calling into our phone line will reach or leave a message with our coordinator, resulting in a possible delay of being able to communicate with a volunteer. As a volunteer network grows stronger, it could be organized differently, allowing for a person to call in and likely immediately be able to post ones' questions and concerns to the volunteer covering the support line at that time.
Our helpline volunteers have taken the SPIRITS in Transition seminar and also have practical experience with either caring for a dying human or an animal dying a natural death.
Being part of the e-mail support line
If you usually check your e-mails more than once a day, answering e-mailed inquiries of people providing hospice to their animal is another way in which one can make a wonderful difference. The same experience level is applicable as in becoming part of the phone support line, and of course it is possible to volunteer for both at the same time. This does not mean it will require double your time, it just means our coordinator knows she can contact you whether a particular inquiry came in as a phone call or via e-mail.
Staying in communication with the coordinator about vacations or other times of absence from the internet is essential to having the support system work.
Volunteering of other skills
Getting the word out about animal hospice overall and also expanding this website to have it grow into a full animal hospice resource will take the time and skills of many.
We are looking for people who can volunteer:
- Writing to share ones' experience on the web
- Organizational and administrative skills
- Promotional and Fundraising skills
- Graphic Design (Adobe Photoshop and/or Indesign skills)
- Web design and Web administration
"Talk" animal hospice
While there is a growing interest in animal hospice, many are still unaware of its' existence, or see it mainly as a service provided by veterinarians who are also willing to perform euthanasia at the animal's home. The current way of thinking in our society is focusing on the honorable intention of not letting the animal suffer. The trend of having professionals taking care of death and dying caused us to be unfamiliar with, and often intimidated by the natural dying process. All these factors in combination lead to euthanasia becoming a very common way to have a pet's life end. And certainly, we are glad to have this option available to us and our animals.
There is a trick to this though. We humans tend to impose our perspective of what we see as suffering onto the animal. Animals however frequently have a way to accept changes naturally occurring in their body rather well, and continue to be content in the present, without burdening themselves by looking into a gloomy future, or resenting they can no longer do what they could in the past. Even experiencing some level of pain rarely diminishes their will to live, just as this is true for many of us humans.
Consequently, our emphasis is on finding out what the animal wants for itself.
To perceive an animals wish clearly, while witnessing its physical decline and independent from any preconceived notions about what a life still worth living should look like, can be quite a challenge, and cannot be expected to happen spontaneously, without any further preparation. This is why we highly encourage exploring the topic of animal hospice in depth, before facing the actual situation.
While this all may sound like common sense, this approach of having the animal determine whether it wants to go in it's own time or not, is far from being what is commonly practiced. But if this resonates true with your heart, you can plant seeds by communicating to other animal lovers you meet on your dog walk or show, at your kennel club or at the stables, the pet store and the feed mill, the groomers and anywhere you find an opening for this conversation.
Taking notes and pictures or even videotaping during hospice often seems a counterintuitive thing to do, as there is such intimacy to the dying process. What we want to be aware of though is (and we too have to keep reminding ourselves of this), how important it is to document what is happening, so others can gain maximum benefit from our experiences for other animals.
Euthanasia has gained so much in popularity that it unfortunately no longer is the very last resort. This is partially due to it being unfashionable to communicate openly and widely about this inevitable event all of us alive will face: death and dying. To read or hear others experiences and see pictures and videos can greatly contribute to reducing ones' fear of death and dying by raising understanding of the natural process, so one can embrace it rather than avoid it. To take brief notes about what and how much we have fed an animal or when it stopped eating, when and why we decided to give or stop medications, whether it was able to urinate on its own or what we noticed about other body functions, what obstacles and concerns we encountered and what we discovered to manage them, all this can be helpful to ourselves when re-evaluating what to do at a certain moment during hospice.
In addition, if you take the additional action of sharing this information on the web, it can turn out to provide valuable information to someone who may be facing similar challenges in the future. If you would like to support others in this way and would like to offer your story and/or pictures through this web site, please contact us.
Here is one powerful example how documentation can be invaluable for many:
Within the seminar SPIRITS in Transition, after having learned about the stages of dying and how to prepare oneself to become a reliable partner to a dying animal, the seminar participants can, by watching a video, witness the natural dying process of the chocolate Labrador lady "Cassie". This is possible due to the generosity of Cassie's human friends Anne and Matt who graciously allowed us to be present with our camcorders for this sacred event. Particularly for those who have never witnessed a natural death, this movie has proven to greatly reduce peoples concerns about not only their animals' passing, but also to lessen the fear of a human loved one dying, and can even lead to facing ones' own death with more confidence.
Please Note: The movie of Cassie's transition is not for sale.
Being well aware how many factors have to come together to make such a pursuit possible, we are still looking for the opportunity to videotape the natural dying process of a horse. Please contact us if you know of a place where that circumstance may arise in the not too distant future.
Photos can also be of great educational value when added to articles written for journals, and also for web posting. If you would like to make your photos available for that purpose, please contact us.
Give financial support for building the network
If you would like to make a donation to help cover the expenses involved in this work, please
Your contribution is greatly appreciated. We do not currently have the official status of a non-profit organization. If you would like to volunteer your expertise and administrative support to become one, please contact us.