Living the dream and including pets in Hospice care.

Living the dream and including pets in Hospice care.

Living the dream. I recently overheard a fellow describing his job as “living the dream.” When he said it, he used air quotes.  I sensed that he felt defeated. A meaningful vocation was beyond his imagination.

I too describe my life as “living the dream.” And, my dream is more than wishful thinking. My life is glorious.

Everyday is different, interesting, spiritually and emotionally fulfilling, and immensely gratifying. When I perform canine massage, my work enables the dogs in my care to feel and perform better. With each massage I get to help their owners resolve fears about their pets quality of life so they can more joyfully enjoy their dogs companionship. In workshops, and through my books, videos, and home study courses, I get to teach canine massage at the PetMassage School and help enthusiastic dog people who want to learn to massage their dogs and create successful careers massaging dogs in their communities.

Weekends are spent composing these “Jonathan’s Helpful Hints” blogs. There are now over 350 of them cached on the site. Writing these articles gives me a way to continually reconsider what I consider to be valid and important.

Over the last 22 years I’ve taught hundreds of canine massage workshops. In every workshop, I learn something new. That’s how teaching keeps me refreshed in my skills, applications, and perspective. The PetMassage I practice and teach is as fresh and intoxicating today as it was back when I began. The dream I’m living* is about striving for self-awareness, self-fulfillment, and creative achievement; all, while doing good -and honorable- work, that benefits others.

The subject of this article is a program that I learned about during a discussion in a recent PetMassage Advanced Level workshop. It’s a newly established program in Oregon that is having a profoundly powerful impact on the lives of people in hospice and their pets.

The program, as I understand it, recognizes the important role pets have in providing comfort and emotional support for people at their end of life. It addresses the needs of the pets by facilitating the pets healing relationships with their owners and making sure that they are cared for, as well.

For many people, their pets are their lifelines, their only intimate family. When they enter hospice, they are displaced from the familiar … and that includes their closest companion. In their new surroundings they may be lonely, scared, angry, weak, nauseous, and/or drifting in and out of consciousness. They may not want visitors to see them in this condition; however, they always welcome their pets. Their pets relate to them on a different frequency. Being themselves, they model complete presence. Their pets are a tonic. Being with them revives the feelings they’ve shared; of joy, pleasure, and familiarity. Their dogs and cats provide unconditional Love and Acceptance as only they can.

Dogs live for the pleasure they can give them; even if it’s simply moving close enough to be feebly stroked on the scruff of the neck. Cats might knock stuff off the bed and side tables onto the floor. For cats it’s all about Feng Shui. Clearing clutter off surfaces is a cat’s way of expressing love.

Pets are profoundly comforting. They accept their owners as they are; as they are becoming. No pretense. No judgement. No expectations. The presence of a loyal pet can be calming and comforting. When it’s integrated into the patient’s final experience, it can make the entire process gentler and more loving. With their pets by their side, their final “living the dream” moments move naturally into the slippery shift; shedding the physical body for spirit.

The program’s volunteers transport hospice patients’ pets from their homes to their hospital rooms, place them on the bed, and allow the magic to happen. The loving support, the companionship, the precious shared moments, provide a quality of solace that only pets have the capacity to provide.

When a grieving family is preoccupied with the one lying in a bed far removed, and absorbed in their own processing, this program helps the pets who may have been ignored, forgotten, and disregarded. These pets had been the patient’s closest family. They deserve to be included.

Volunteers help with veterinary and grooming care, daily exercise, feeding, boarding, and if they are unwanted by the patient’s family, re-homing. Pets who have spent their entire lives in loving caring homes can fulfill their needs and continue “living their dreams.”

The program provides training and support to hospice facilities. They spread their expressed mission of demonstrating compassion for surviving pets, their owners, their families, and hospice agencies. Part of their program is training hospice workers to expand the scope of their end-of-life care. It is so important and caring to include patient pets in the process. Everyone’s “living the dream.”

Here’s the link to find out more about this heartwarming nonprofit organization:  Please take a few minutes to watch the video on their “About” page and consider duplicating this service in your community.


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