Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I choose in-home euthanasia?
No matter what, saying goodbye to a beloved pet is a difficult experience. We think that doing it in the comfort of home can make it just a little bit easier; many people who have been through the experience have remarked that they found it unexpectedly beautiful. When you choose in-home services, both you and your pet will be in a comfortable, familiar place; this means less anxiety for both of you, and a private, safe space for you to grieve. For animals with mobility issues, an in-home visit means we can meet them where they’re comfortable; you can be assured that their last moments will be pain-free.
We tailor the appointment to you and your pet, and your family’s needs. You can have as many or as few family members and friends present as you’d like, since we don’t have to work within the confines of an exam room, and if it feels right for you, other family pets can also be present. We move at a pace that is comfortable for you; you can ask as many questions as you want, and we only proceed with each step when you’re ready.
Choosing to say goodbye in the comfort of home means that you can process the experience the way you want to, without fear of being judged. Some owners choose to make the experience as quiet and intimate as possible. Some families invite friends and neighbors for a group goodbye, and a celebration of the life of their pet. Maybe you’d like music to be involved, or to say goodbye in a particular place in your home, or to hold your pet as he or she passes. For families that have religious, spiritual or other cultural practices that they would like to incorporate, in-home services are a perfect choice–we look forward to being part of the experience.
The thing that we most often hear is that families are so grateful to avoid that walk through the clinic waiting room, or the difficult drive home–you are free to grieve in the comfort of home.
What should we expect during the appointment?
When we arrive, we love spending a little bit of time meeting you and your pet(s). We prefer to get paperwork and payment out the way at the beginning of the appointment, so you won’t have to think about it later. We bring a folder of resources to every appointment; we’ll explain the contents while we’re doing paperwork. Once that’s taken care of, we’ll set up wherever you and your pet are comfortable–this might be on a bed or a couch, or the floor, or even under a favorite tree in the yard. During this time, we encourage you to ask any questions you have–even if you think they’re silly, it’s likely not the first time we’ve heard them.
When you’re ready, we will administer a sedative that will relieve your pet of any anxiety or pain. The sedative is a combination of drugs, and is administered with a tiny needle under the skin, usually between the shoulderblades. Very occasionally, this injection can sting a tiny bit, and your pet may squirm for a moment. If he does feel anything, it will only be for a second or two; as the sedative takes effect, usually within 5-10 minutes, he will be more comfortable than he’s been in a long time. During this time, some families like to tell favorite stories of their pet. Though your pet will be deeply sedated, we encourage you to keep talking to him, and of course, to keep loving on him. At this point, we can step out if you’d like privacy, or stay with you if you’d prefer the company.
When your pet is deeply sedated, and you’re ready, we’ll give the second injection, which will stop both the brain and the heart. We most commonly give this injection intravenously (IV), but we tailor this process to your pet; depending on his or her condition, an alternate route may be chosen. We will discuss all of these decisions with you as we’re making them, and answer any questions you have. This part of the process usually happens very quickly, but again, depending on your pet’s condition, can occasionally take longer. Remember–we’ve selected the sedative we use because of its powerful abilities to take away pain and anxiety, so your pet will not feel anything during this part of the process. Many pets will lose control of their bowels as they pass, and most will not close their eyes–this is a normal part of the process, and not something to be worried about.
If you’re planning on burying your pet at home, we’ll ensure that all of your questions are answered, and when you’re ready, we’ll say goodbye to you and your family. If you’d prefer for us to take care of aftercare arrangements, we will step out and give you all the time you need to say goodbye to your pet. When you’re ready, we’ll take your pet’s body to the car; some people want to be part of this process, and some prefer not to be be present. We’ll answer any last questions you have, and when you’re ready, we’ll say goodbye to you and your family. We’ll be in touch with information about returning your pet’s ashes.
Once we’ve been through this process together, you are a part of the Mockingbird family; as such, we encourage you to reach out with any questions or needs you might have after the appointment. Grief is a difficult, confusing thing to deal with, and we’re here to support you however we can.
How should we prepare for the euthanasia appointment?
There are a few things that can be helpful to think about before we arrive at your house.
who would you like to be present during the appointment? Does everyone want to be present for the whole procedure?
if you have children, would you like them to be present?
if you have other pets, would you like them to witness the process? If not, where would you like them to be during the appointment?
is there a particular place in the house where you’d like to say goodbye?
what would like to do with regards to aftercare of your pet’s body?
The day of the appointment, our only suggestion is that you fill your pet’s last day with his or her favorite things in the world. Now’s the time for extra treats and snuggling.
How do I know when it’s time?
This is probably the hardest question to answer–probably because there’s no “right” answer. Ultimately, you are the best judge of when it’s time to say goodbye to your beloved pet. Things to look for that suggest a decline in quality of life include:
a dramatic change in appetite or drinking habits
a lack of interest in things your pet used to love–playing with toys, going for walks, etc.
severely decreased mobility–maybe your pet can no longer stand, or moving is so painful that she can no longer participate in favorite activities
increased hiding–especially in cats, this can signify pain or discomfort
your pet becoming incontinent–you may find him lying in a puddle of urine, or notice that he starts pooping in the house
increased confusion in familiar environments–your pet might wander into the corner of a room and get “stuck”, or seem unsure of where the door is, or may wake in the middle of the night and wander around the house
in general, having more “bad” days than “good”
One of the things some owners find helpful is to make a list of five things that always, without exception, have made their pets happy. This list will look different for every animal–as an example, for Dr. Jen’s dog Atticus, the list looks like this:
excited to get up in the morning and run downstairs to the back door
loves to chase squirrels around the yard
always game for going for a walk
runs to his bowl when it’s time for breakfast or dinner, and eats everything
chases the cat at least once a day
This list can serve as a customized quality-of-life scale for your pet; when you start noticing things on this list no longer being true, you can probably be assured that your pet’s quality of life is suffering. We can also provide you with other quality-of-life scales to help you evaluate your pet’s condition; these scales can often help owners be more objective.
It’s common for owners to ask for more guidance in making this decision. We are always available by phone to talk, and can also come to your home for a quality-of-life consultation.
I’m struggling with making this decision. Can you help?
We can. One of the services we provide is an in-home quality-of-life consultation. We know that it can be incredibly difficult to objectively evaluate how your pet is doing; we can provide resources that may help clarify your situation, along with a fresh perspective on your pet’s quality of life. You may have questions about what to expect in terms of disease progression; we can help answer those questions, as well as any others. We can also point you towards resources that may be helpful for dealing with anticipatory grief. Many owners feel that this is one of the most valuable services we provide–this is a decision that can feel overwhelming, and often it’s a relief to have extra support and guidance.
Will my pet feel any pain?
We use a powerful sedative to make your pet very comfortable before we say goodbye; this sedative can occasionally sting a tiny bit. We make all efforts to minimize this; if your pet does feel anything, it will be very brief. We choose this sedative because it eliminates all anxiety and pain; once it takes effect, your pet will be more comfortable than she’s likely been in a long time. You can rest assured that your pet won’t feel anything but your love and support during the final injection.
How far in advance do I need to call you?
To be sure we can accommodate your needs, we prefer a few days notice wherever possible. We also understand that this is often not an option for you and your pet--that’s why we’re here! Regardless of when you contact us, we'll do our very best to get to you. Give us a call to find out about our availability.
Can I stay with my pet? What if I don’t want to be present for the whole appointment?
Of course you can stay with your pet! That’s one of the biggest advantages to choosing to say goodbye at home. We’ll set up the appointment so that it feels right for you–you can lie on the bed with your pet, or snuggle her on the couch. Some owners choose to have us come to the home because they only want to be present for part of the process–maybe they want to be there while their pet is sedated, but wish to step out for the final injection. We are not here to judge you; we support you doing what feels right for you. We treat your pets like our own, so rest assured that if you choose not to be present for the final injection, your animal will still pass surrounded by comfort and love.
I’m worried about how I’ll cope after my pet is gone. Can you provide some resources for support?
We can. During your appointment, we’ll provide you with a list of resources that we think are helpful for coping; these include books, articles, poems and hotlines. Should you find yourself wanting or needing something beyond that, we can refer you to a local counselor. There is no shame in admitting that you’re having a hard time, and we think that asking for help is one of the bravest things you can do.
My family has a religious/spiritual/cultural/other practice that we’d like to incorporate into the appointment. Are you open to that?
Of course! Dr. Jen has a background in anthropology, so she has a deep appreciation for the importance of rituals, especially where grief is concerned. She’s also from New Orleans, where brass bands and parades are an integral part of the grieving process–so she understands that the rituals are different for everyone. If it’s appropriate, we’d love to participate; just let us know.