I became a vet in 2000. Frankly, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I find nothing more fulfilling than offering pets the care and dignity they deserve. I spent 11 years in a local vet practice and loved it, particularly the wonderful relationships I developed with my clients.
Over time, I developed a real passion for end of life care. I feel like this is an area that hasn’t received the attention it deserves. There is a lot we can do to make our furry friends comfortable in their last moments, days, weeks and months. After all, our pets bring us unconditional love, joy, companionship and support. Wouldn’t we want to honor them with a comfortable, loving, and peaceful end to their lives?
Because of this passion for comfort/palliative care and euthanasia, I realized it was time to start my own practice. It was a big deal for me and I was nervous; it was never a goal of mine to run my own business, not to mention one that’s mobile. When I started, there were not many who did in-home hospice and euthanasia, and even fewer who combined it with acupuncture for palliative care – all my areas of expertise. I was also concerned that I wouldn’t have a deep level of connection with new clients, since the timeline of the relationship is typically much shorter.
Still, I had to give it a go. So in 2013, I founded Compassion 4 Paws.
What an incredible experience it’s been.
I’ve found so many benefits to having an in-home practice. When I assess a pet in their home environment, I’m able to offer important suggestions on making them comfortable that wouldn’t be noted in a traditional clinical setting: for example, raising food bowls to make it easier for dogs to eat, or switching litter boxes out to make them more accessible to older, arthritic cats. And when I provide acupuncture treatments, it’s done in the pet’s own environment where they’re most comfortable.
When it comes to euthanasia, it is peaceful for everyone involved. From the pet’s perspective, they are in their home with the people they love, and they drift off to sleep. From the family’s perspective, they too are in their own environment and are reassured by the fact that their dearly loved pet is comfortable.
It’s such a contrast to the euthanasia I saw when I was in general practice – animals would come in absolutely terrified about being at the vet clinic. I always thought that was so sad since these were their last moments on earth. And it’s so important for owners to have a positive experience in that sad situation; it’s something they will remember for the rest of their lives.
I love what I do and could never return to a general vet practice.
What surprised me with my business was the depth of the connection I have with my clients after all. Even though the timeline of the relationship is shorter than in a clinic setting, the end-of-life journey is such an intimate time between the owner and their pet, and I am honored and privileged to be a part of it.
As my practice continued to grow, I reached a point where I had to turn away families because I just didn’t have the time to accommodate more appointments. I knew I needed assistance but also realized the importance of finding a veterinarian and support staff who would be able to connect with clients during emotional times and offer the high standards of care typical of Compassion 4 Paws. In the fall of 2015, Dr. Allison Edwards joined the practice and her compassion and kindness has exceeded anything I could have imagined.
Our next goal became finding a care coordinator to answer phones, emails and schedule appointments. It was extremely important to find someone with a veterinary background. Many people who call to discuss euthanasia become very emotional while on the phone so we needed that right person who would make the pet owner feel comfortable and understood. That right person was Shawnee Neubauer. I met Shawnee in November 2015 when I was called to euthanize her sweet Border Collie, Bud. Shawnee had recently moved here from Arizona and brought with her 13 years of working in the veterinary field.
In the summer of 2016, we welcomed our second care coordinator Tasha Denison followed shortly thereafter by Dr. Lindsay Baker. Both Dr. Lindsay and Tasha worked previously with Dr. Allison who suggested they would be a good fit for the Compassion 4 Paws team. She was so right! Their compassion and dedication to our clients and patients has been outstanding. As the acupuncture part of our practice continued to expand, I was hoping to find a veterinarian who was able to offer this service. Dr. Lindsay willingly offered to begin her studies and completed the acupuncture program at Colorado State University.
I am so appreciative and thankful for the entire Compassion 4 Paws team – I can sincerely say I have not encountered a group who is more caring, compassionate, and supportive. And most important is the fact that we all consider it to be an honor and a privilege to be a part of the end-of-life journey of a beloved pet.