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pain or not. If you’re in a cancer situation, I recommend a hospice toolkit. Have a variety of medications that you know how to administer along with tools such as massage. This will help you manage your dog’s condition in the event that it’s a weekend or the middle of the night, and your vet isn’t available.” Lola recommends learning the symptoms commonly observed throughout the stages of the natural dying process, which she covers in her book.

Lola Ball, author of When Your Dog Has Cancer: Making the Right Decisions for You and Your Dog, was blindsided when her 9-year-old chocolate lab, Porter, was diagnosed with cancer in January, 2008. Because the cancer had metastasized, Lola’s vet advised against aggressive treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy, which would only reduce Porter’s quality of life. Lola turned to hospice care instead. “My number one goal was that he would never be in pain, that he had a good life, and that he was happy. His tail still wagged, and he loved to go for walks even if they were really, really short. He just loved being with us at home and I knew that as long as those things were happening, that everything was okay,” says Lola. On March 4, 2008, Porter died peacefully at home, with Lola beside him. Lola recommends having a contingency plan in place if your dog’s health declines further and your veterinarian feels that death is very near. “It’s really about being observant and in tune with your dog. That is how you’ll recognize whether they’re in

People are often curious as to why Helen Anne considered adopting a senior dog, with the high risk of health complications. When asked, her response is simple. “If I was old, neglected, and had no home, I would want someone to take care of me.” Senior dogs possess a certain wisdom, she says, and her time with Aisha has taught her about resilience, forgiveness, and living in the present.


schedules prevent them from being home to care for their pet. Other times, caregivers simply need respite. That whole quality of life quandary for both the pet and their person is all encompassing,” says Michelle. AHELP provides counseling and support as families wade through their options and find the solutions that resonate with them.

If hospice caregivers feel they can no longer manage their dog’s pain, or otherwise maintain quality of life, they may decide to turn to euthanasia, whether it’s in-home or at their vet’s office. It’s important to find a practitioner well in advance, says Lola, and ensure that he or she will be available on short notice. If you choose in-home euthanasia, discuss contact information and travel time in advance so that when the time comes, your dog will not be left waiting in distress. Lola emphasizes that the decisions regarding a pet’s death are deeply personal. “I don’t think we can have judgment on anyone who is dealing with canine cancer because every situation is unique, and as long as you’re keeping the best interests of your dog and your family at the forefront, you will be making the right decision.”


There was much anxiety wrapped up in trying to find a cure, and finally letting go of that freed her to focus on making Aisha happy. “Whether you’re talking about animals or humans, sometimes there is only so much you can do. When the prognosis is that things are never going to get any better, you can decide to take whatever time you have, and make it great,” says Helen Anne. “Aisha doesn’t show any signs of pain or discomfort. Her ears still perk up when I come home, she wags her tail, and she gets excited when there are treats. I think if you can give that gift to a dog in her final days, it’s a beautiful thing.” Best of the West 2013 • 35

CityDog Best of the West 2013  

Smart, city-savvy and fun, CityDog Magazine brings the joys of life with our four-legged friends to dog lovers throughout the West — Seattle...

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