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End Of Life Animal Hospice/palliative Care


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I was just alerted to the amazing work of Dr. Ella Bittel, a holistic veterinarian, and the wonderful seminars she is conducting regarding education in and options for end-of-life care for our companion animals. I can tell she's someone I could really relate to, as this is the kind of care I had learned to try my best to provide to our girl, utilizing everything I knew of at the time.

Like me, Dr. Bittel appears to believe that allowing for a natural death is one of the most important ways to honour our animal companion's life, and that euthanasia (alone or at all) does not have to be the only way to see them through the process of dying. She is not opposed to euthanasia, but considers it only an option. Some topics covered during her seminars are:

  • * Re-evaluating common reasons for euthanasia

* Situations commonly encountered during hospice care

* Holistic approaches to pain relief

* Reducing the risk of cancer for our pet

* Creating an environment conducive to a peaceful transition, whether death occurs naturally or through euthanasia

* The stages of the natural dying process

* How scientific research on subtle energy aspects of the dying process ties in with the insights of ancient masters

* Supporting ourselves and grieving animal family members

She also offers a volunteer-based help line, either by phone in the U.S. or by email elsewhere, for those who may need some practical advice and support, having chosen hospice care for your animal.

I believe too often the option of euthanasia has been both presented and chosen as the ONLY way for people's animals to leave this world, rather than as a last resort when all else fails to support them well enough in their dying process, as this means of help was originally intended. If they are truly our babies and as equal to humans in our hearts (or even more so), then I strongly believe we owe them no less than the same kind of end-of-life care we (ideally) provide to human loved ones at the ends of their lives, whenever it is in our control to do so and where it is determined that they wish to remain alive, despite any discomfort they may be experiencing. The same standards should apply if we're truly serious about their equality in our families, including taking on any required expenses this may incur (we don't normally believe in deliberately ending our human loved ones' lives solely due to soaring medical costs, for example, do we?). A true understanding and basic education in the dying process (what it looks like, what these clues mean, how to handle them, etc.) should be learned, rather than avoiding the subject of dying and death until it's upon us and we have no time left for such education.

Therefore, while I already have some education about this under my belt, this is one seminar I will be planning to travel to attend as soon as I can manage it. This is truly, truly important and valuable work.

I have provided the link straight to the "Seminar" description, so please check out all the other links, including the seminar calendar (upcoming dates and locations), while you're there.

Spirits In Transition - seminar description

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Maylissa, dear,

Thank you so much for alerting us to this wonderful resource, which I was not aware of until I read your post and followed the link to Dr. Bittel’s Spirits in Transition Web site. I don’t know how you first learned of this woman's work, but I’m ever so grateful to you for sharing it with the rest of us! Interestingly enough, one of the main topics of discussion during my Pet Loss Support Group this past Saturday morning here in Phoenix was providing hospice care for animals, so your discovery couldn’t have been more timely!

I also think it’s important to acknowledge that, at this very early stage of development, most communities and individuals are not prepared to provide for our animal companions all the services that hospice provides for people. We need to be careful that we don’t add yet another layer of guilt onto the heads and hearts of those animal lovers who aren’t in a position (or don’t have the resources) to provide such care, especially when we don’t yet have the support systems in place to make such an option viable.

Nevertheless, I agree with you, Maylissa, that it’s important that we become aware of this significant movement in animal health care, to learn all we can about it, to spread the word about it, and to promote its growth and development. Some of us may choose to get even more involved, and I can think of no greater tribute to your beloved Nissa and Sabin than that. On her Web site, Dr. Bittel suggests a number of ways that those who are interested can share in her vision and become a part of building an animal hospice support network. See Volunteer Opportunities.

Again, Maylissa, please know how grateful I am that you brought this valuable and timely information to us.

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This came to me by way of Teresa Wagner's email newsletter. Teresa not only took this seminar, but is also now sponsoring the upcoming one in Carmel, CA.

Many of "all those services" are only what I and many others have already provided for our babies at home during their winding-down and dying time. It wasn't rocket science, but rather time, education, empathy, ethics, and most importantly, commitment, along with proper vet. consultation. I didn't have the benefit, either, of this newer website being in existence then, but I prepared myself in advance by reading lots, buying appropriate books, asking many questions of people and learning. That is one of the largest purposes of this seminar - to give us the tools with which to do this at home, seeing as there aren't yet many formal programs, facilities or even hospice-trained vets available yet. And even if one can't attend, a good amount of this information is already out there. One just has to source it out. Much of it can be had for free or very low cost, even including such services as no-cost, short-term Reiki or other energetic aids for ailing animals.

Most of us who have done this already weren't wealthy by any means, either. We just re-priorized our expenditures, did without and even sold things in order to accomodate what was needed/best and then worked with what we had. Time for such commitment can be a bigger factor. However, if people who, for one example, run animal sanctuaries and are extremely busy every day can do it (like Rita Reynolds), so can many of us. If someone is hardly ever home and has no one else they can ever count on for needed care, that's another matter.

I think we have to be even more careful about thinking that "most communities and individuals are not prepared to provide for our animal companions all the services that hospice provides for people," depending on what "not prepared" really means. If by "not prepared", you are talking about a basic lack of commitment, then only a big change in attitude is going to rectify that. I get very nervous when I hear things like this, as they remind me of things other people have noted, such as Brigid Brophy's "Whenever people say 'we mustn't be sentimental,' you can take it they're about to do something cruel. And if they add 'we must be realistic,' they mean they are going to make money out of it."

If, however, you are talking about simply not having the knowledge (yet) to proceed safely and more confidently, there are ways to deal with that. I learned what I did the hard way, from painful experience. One truly can't rightly blame oneself for past lack of knowledge but, one can always rectify that in the present, by committing to (re)education. The only "support system" I had for myself was a good vet and my own resourcefulness, which was what netted me the good vet! So in essence, I started with only myself. I still made a few mistakes that I've lived to feel regret over, but it was still far and away better overall than the usual alternative. If, instead, you give up before you even start, no animal companion of yours will ever see these benefits.

I could also sit and list all the reasons why the alternative modalities and practitioners linked on that website's resources page (Additional Resources) are better, and often even more cost-effective in the long run, but anyone can find this out for themselves. This move alone could provide more ready savings for end-of-life costs. And one has to also consider that strictly allopathic modalities often end up being the costliest of all in terms of unnecessary surgeries, tests, drugs and other mainstream methods, much less in terms of spiritual and emotional aspects.

Certainly we may not all be able to provide all the services that are now available for humans in a hospice setting, but if we are committed to our babies' welfare, I still say we ought to try as hard as we can to provide as much as we can, once we are aware that there are other options and means.

I'd already thought of volunteering with them in some capacity and will most likely be doing so.

Edited by Maylissa
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Thanks Maylissa for sharing, i am going to check the website out. I work for a vet so i deal with euthansia often. i do believe in my heart that is the one last wonderful thing we can do for our pets. i have done it and never regretted it. i did have my wonderful Bridget die in my arms and it is something i will never forget. i chose not to euthanize him and i reget that decision. he suffered and i watched. when it was my Spankys time i chose to euthanize him and i held him in my arms in the grass outside with the sun shinning on us. i held him as he took his last breath and i know when he looked up in to my eyes he said thank you. i think this is such a personnal decision and each one must make that for themselves. i just know as a human i would not want to suffer. thanks for listening. i hope all is well with you. lori

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I see euthanasia as one of the two options one might have. Yes, it is a very personal choice, either way, but this vet's seminar is designed to help people see that there is, indeed, another way IF it's possible, given the individual circumstances. But just as importantly, it's also about how to learn to support them in their dying process, whether one euthanises or not in the end.

For myself, I like to give THEM the choice, because it's their death, not mine and I want to honour their individuality and right to live their lives on their terms right up to the last.

Her point is that most of us have been sequestered from the dying process and we no longer even know much about it, because no ones teaches us. And that makes it seem all the more frightening, because to us here in western society, it's too much a part of the UNKNOWN. And of course, it can be trickier to decipher what's going on with an animal because we can't just ask them outright. However, this is also one of the services good animal communicators can provide us during such times as when we want to check in with our babies to see what THEY'D prefer, what THEY think. (Tracy Ann, from that radio show Marty was on twice, provides this service for FREE when an animal is dying, btw - pretty amazing of her!) So one doesn't go into this kind of support lightly, nor w/o knowing anything about it.

However, I've read a few accounts from people who kept meticulous notes (even more than I did) on their animal's natural death, in order to help the rest of us, and so I know, from a medical perspective, some of the things that are natural to the process and have seen, second-hand, that it can be a very honourable and spiritual a thing to do for them, and even witness. I've also learned some things from my doctor friend here, who of course witnessed many natural deaths, both human and some animal. I also know that, true to what some animal communicators have claimed, that their souls DO seem to find it easier to visit us (and recover) much more swiftly when they've died a natural death (even WITH some 'suffering'; sometimes even with a lot of apparent suffering!) than when they've been euthanized, even when that euthanisation came very close to what was probably their natural time to go. Elizabeth Severino, another celebrated ACer, got the explanation for this straight from all the animals she worked with. It's truly fascinating and helps explain so much about their own views about dying and death and how things really work with them.

It's just hard to explain everything about this in short order, as I've learned so much from so many people, over such a long time, but all the pieces of the 'puzzle' fit so neatly together once you've read and learned enough. And one simply can't ever go back to status quo thinking anymore after having been exposed to all this knowledge and experience. THIS is what my kids helped teach me, for ALL of our sakes. I don't think I could stop growing now even if I tried.....thanks to Nissa and Sabin and all the wonderful people who've pioneered such incredible work on the animals' behalf.

I'd also like to say that despite knowing full well that many people, here and in other places, often think I'm 'nuts' or 'weird' because of what I believe now.....you have NOOOOO IDEA how far BEHIND I am, compared to what's been done and accomplished even many years before I started my own education in all this! I'm a babe in the woods compared to so many remarkable people in these fields. And even so, these people credit not themselves so much (if at all; they're usually very humble types), but the ANIMALS who gave so much in order to help PEOPLE continue their evolution. So, as all of these others often say, we OWE them, big-time, for all they've given us. To provide them a natural death whenever possible and advisable, is the least we can learn to do, I think.

Nissa was euthanised (her own choice) while Sabin passed naturally. And although I've usually thought he ought to have been (mainly because I couldn't GET enough of the needed supports for him all those years ago, and didn't have the same primary vet as I did for Nissa), he also was one who always liked to do things HIS way, pain be damned. Because I knew him intimately, it would have felt VERY wrong to take his life prematurely. He lovingly waited until I could accept his leaving, and then he went within minutes of that. (this is incredibly common, with both animals and people) Additionally, he later told me there WAS nothing to forgive :wub: and his viewpoint was more than proven, in that he began visiting me and his sister almost immediately after he'd 'gone', in ways designed to bring us comfort and assurance. Had he held a grudge over the way of his passing, he would not have done this for me. He wasn't done teaching me even then, and if not for what he did teach me, I could not have learned all I did in order to do what I did for Nissa. It was and still is, a continual circle of love.

Edited by Maylissa
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  • 7 months later...

This announcement comes to us from Paula Patton, on behalf of Spirits in Transition:

Spirits in Transition


a weekend seminar on

end-of-life care for animals

with Holistic Veterinarian Ella Bittel

September 5, 6, 7, 2008

Friday, 2:00 pm - Sunday 1:00 pm, $365.

(Early Bird Special: register by July 1st for $295.)

Knoxville, TN

Samples of topics covered:

• Re-evaluate common reasons for euthanasia

• The stages of the natural dying process and its spiritual and subtle energy aspects

• Supporting ourselves & grieving animals

• Geriatric care & reducing the cancer risk for your pet

If we want to consider hospice for our animal companions, the time to prepare is while they are still well.

Contact: Paula Patton

Telephone: 865-986-9500

e-mail: spiritsintransition@verizon.net

Visit: www.spiritsintransition.org

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This reminds me...I'd listened live online to Dr. Bittel (and Dr. Tina Ellenbogen) a couple of months ago, on Martha Norwalk's radio show, "Martha Norwalk's Animal World". Dr. Bittel was her featured guest that week, for a whole 2 hours! It was such a pleasure to hear her talk all about her philosophy and seminars. Too bad Martha's shows aren't yet archived, but she's planning on having Dr. Bittel back sometime, so keep checking her website for upcoming events.

Dr. Tina Ellenbogen joined Ella and Martha later on, and she was fascinating, too. Dr. Ellenbogen lives in Seattle and provides hospice info. & guidelines to those interested in home care for their ailing beloveds. If it's within her area (Bothel, WA), she makes house calls for this type of care, and even if you don't live there, she does telephone consults or email consults. Her phone # is 425-485-7387 and she's happy to provide people with detailed information on how to minister to the needs of their furbabies when they're ailing. (she also knows and has liased some with Dr. Ella Bittel)

She also shared some information about the International Vet. Association For Pain Management while speaking on Martha's show. This information is available publicly at IVAPM.

Martha Norwalk is chiefly an animal behaviorist but also an animal communicator, part-time. You can listen live to her weekly shows (on Sundays) by visiting her website's home page here and clicking on the "Listen Live" button right at the top of that page. You can also email her during the show by clicking the appropriate button, also on the home page. For a description of her show, see this.

Martha has also written on of THE finest articles I've ever seen on understanding your cat or dog (in general) and defends their needs admirably, cutting right to the chase w/o sugar coating anything. I couldn't agree with her viewpoint more! It's entitled "Animals Are Only Human, Too" and you can read it on her website here. She also provides a fabulous reading list under "Good Reading" and I have almost all of those books myself - I noted our 'own' distance, homeopathic vet's book is included. :)

All in all, this amazing threesome provided a wealth of information on palliative & hospice care, the option of supporting a natural death process when feasible and many related items. One of the best 2 hours I've ever spent. The word is gradually but surely getting out there and the more people who 'bone up' (oh, ha) on this, the faster it will spread and the more help we'll be able to provide for our beloved kidlets!

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