Tyree: Pet hospices teach old owners new tricks
October 6, 2014
For those arriving late: I love to sink my teeth into the newest silly fad and satirize it until it resembles something the cat dragged in.
That will NOT be happening this week.
According to a Boston Globe article bearing the headline "Happier Endings For Dying Pets And Their Owners," the nation is witnessing a small but growing movement toward pet hospices. I'm serious — and glad.
So far, fewer than 10 businesses confirm to the guidelines of the nonprofit International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, but I'm hoping this is the start of something big.
(A warning: more than 10 establishments CLAIM to be pet hospices, but most of them merely offer at-home euthanasia. And I guess the really low-end outfits involve some guy coming to your house and raiding your fridge while he shows slides of his visit to the World's Biggest Ball of Yarn.)
The legitimate hospices tend to the "physical, emotional and social needs of animals in advanced stages of progressive, life-limiting illness or disability." Working in conjunction with veterinarians, they deal not only with end-of-life issues, but also chronic discomfort.
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I'm sure many readers are now squirming in their seats and wishing I had gone the satirical route. Yes, we have quite a few unsentimental macho types who think the only responses to ailing pets are (a) to watch them suffer and die or (b) to apply a hollow-point shell at the very first sign of trouble.
Even though hospices tend to bend over backwards to accommodate budgetary constraints, I understand why hospice care can be considered a luxury or extravagance for some. It's especially daunting if your daddy never told you where puppies and kittens come from and you think Spay & Neuter is a new heavy-metal band.
(For those who MUST go a cheaper route, I suggest Googling the Associated Press story "Designers Contemplate Critter Comforts For Older Pets." You'll find relatively inexpensive suggestions about mobility, incontinence, heating pads, larger litterboxes, memory-foam mattresses, hydration and fresh-air outings.)
If pet owners get peace of mind from easing the last days of their loyal four-legged friends, don't begrudge them. It's at least as legitimate as gaining peace of mind by going into debt for a home security system, verifying ownership of the most expensive vehicle on the block or swapping for a younger spouse.
When I was growing up, most of my pets got clobbered on the road or disappeared; but over the past six years I have said goodbye to one geriatric dog and three geriatric cats (see my April 10, 2013, column archived at http://www.caglecartoons.com). I feel no guilt over the amount of love and time I lavished on them, but I wish I could've learned a few more techniques from a hospice.
If you believe "Anything worth doing is worth doing well," and believe owning pets is worth doing, then logically …
Like a Chihuahua needing a bathroom break, society does not stand still. We will either become more compassionate toward our fellow man or less compassionate. Showing compassion for "dumb animals" is one way to model a brighter future for people.
Do you really want a future where people tell the nursing home administrator, "Sometimes Grandpa forgets what day of the week it is. Ha ha. If that ever happens, don't hesitate to flush him out to the ocean"?
Danny Tyree welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades." Danny's' weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.
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