For many of us, our pets are profoundly appreciated for their steadfast companionship, whether sharing in our joyful times or sustaining us through personal or family crises. In return, we provide our pets with devoted, conscientious caregiving, especially when they become seriously injured, acutely or chronically ill, or nearing the end of their lives. No matter how much we may realize that all life, human or animal, is vulnerable at any age to injury or major illness, we may still become overwhelmed with feelings of confusion, anxiety, and distress when our precious pet’s health prognosis is uncertain or extremely poor.
While throughout the pet’s life, we may have continually expressed our commitment to doing “whatever it takes-no matter what” to maintain or restore the animal’s health, there may indeed come the time when we are faced with insurmountable obstacles. We may learn that despite the advancements of veterinary science, there is no known cure. If there is a treatment to extend life, or even a potential cure for the pet’s illness, we have our own limitations that need to be recognized perhaps the physical and emotional tolls associated with the intensive homecare that is involved; perhaps our financial limitations. And, if it is possible to prolong the pet’s life, how do we assess whether the pet’s quality of life is acceptable? With the realization that the animal can only continue to live with pain or suffering, how do we prepare for the responsibility to ensure that the end-of-life will come peacefully and with dignity? How can we prepare ourselves for the decision-making of euthanasia? In addition to receiving essential veterinary advisement on these issues, we may need additional supportive information and guidance to address individual and/or family emotions and conditions that impact on how to approach and cope with a pet’s death.
It is with these concerns in mind that pet owners may want to talk with a professional counselor...a person to be of assistance at those times when pet owners are confronting and trying to cope with a pet’s injury, illness, infirmities of aging, and death. These services are briefly described below.
When a pet has been seriously injured or has been diagnosed with an acute or chronic illness, individual telephone consultation services are available to provide support and guidance with regard to the stressful concerns of the caregiver.
Individual telephone consultation service and/or a two-session group program provide pet owners with information, guidance, and support to facilitate the process of decision making relative to treatment options and euthanasia; cremation and burial, and memorialization. These services further offer advisement with regard to anticipating and coping with the emotions that may develop when a pet is nearing death.
Individual telephone consultation service and/or a two-session group program provide pet owners with information, guidance, and support to assist with the grief of losing a dearly loved pet. Topics include clarifying one’s thoughts and feelings, deriving support from others, and learning how to care for oneself during bereavement.
For the past thirty years, Jane N. Nathanson, LCSW, LRC, CRC has been assisting individuals and families at times of crisis, illness, and loss, as well as having extensive personal and professional experience related to human-animal health and welfare. The MSPCA-Angell is no longer able to fund this program, but encourages pet owners to contact Ms. Nathanson for an initial phone consultation at no cost; subsequent sessions are provided on a fee-for-service basis submitted directly to Ms. Nathanson.
Phinney’s Friends is a nonprofit organization that helps low-income people in the Boston area keep their pets when they are going through hardships. If you or a loved one is in need of assistance, please visit their website to learn more.