Watching pets go through the end of their life in pain from a terminal illness can be just as difficult as watching people go through the same thing. Into the Sunset pet transition center, a modern pet hospice in San Diego, Calif., has opened to make sure your terminally ill pet lives the rest of his or her life in peace, and with as little pain as possible.
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Dr. Sarit Dhupa, BVSc., medical director of Into the Sunset, and Vivianne Villanueva, CPLP, CGC, the center’s family care coordinator, started the pet transition center when they were told their beloved five-year-old rescued chocolate lab, Lily, had terminal lymphoma. The couple realized they were in need of more comfort than they thought they would. With Dhupa’s medical direction and Villanueva’s comprehensive grief-companioning and memorialization experience, building their dream of providing a place where the entire family can feel comfortable with their dying pets was a natural step.
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Into the Sunset’s model is based on human end-of-life care. It is the first brick-and-mortar pet hospice that includes such amenities as a partnership with a social worker, and a chaplain and counselors for pet owners to help them deal with the loss. Also offered are funeral services, pain management, an artist-commissioned statue of your pet and a store that offers items for pets who have physical disabilities. “Our goal is to teach pet owners how to live while in the process of saying goodbye to their cherished companion,” state Dhupa and Villanueva on Into the Sunset’s website.
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The philosophy behind hospice is focusing on relieving suffering and pain, as well as attending to the terminally ill patient’s (whether animal or human) and family’s emotional and spiritual needs. Hospice has been around since around the 11th century as a refuge for those who needed treatment, but would probably eventually die. But, as difficult as it is to deal emotionally with the pain of having a terminally ill pet, the need for a pet hospice is clear: According to Dana Durrance, in a book published by the American Animal Hospice Association called “Connecting with Grieving Clients”: “Everyone who loves a cat, dog, horse, bird, rabbit, or other animal deserves the opportunity to say goodbye in a meaningful and emotionally fulfilling way when the pet dies … Clients are not just looking for a medical opinion; they are also looking for reassurance.” Through education, individualized end-of-life care, guidance and respect, the staff and founders at Into the Sunset will no doubt bring peace and care to both pet and person when the time has come to consider euthanasia and pain management.