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Beautiful End-of-Life Pet Hospice Care and Peaceful Passing with Dr. Dani McVety

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Today’s Guest

Dr. Dani McVety:

I’m so excited to introduce to you today’s guest, Dr. Dani McVety, who has dedicated her career to helping families provide end-of-life care and euthenasia for their furbabies.

Dr. Dani McVety has dedicated most of her career to helping families provide end-of-life care and euthenasia for their furbabies

Dr. McVety founded the Lap of Love Veterinary Hospital just three months after graduating from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.Since that time she’s grown the service from one veterinarian herself to a nationwide network of more than 250 doctors and a full-time interdisciplinary support staff dedicated to making the end-of-life experience for pets and the people that love them as dignified and peaceful as possible. 

Nearly half a million families have benefited from Dr. McVety’s vision–and she continues her work helping to educate families on their options and pick the best end-of-life plan for their pets.  

Do you have a plan to give your animal a beautiful and peaceful goodbye? Be sure to tune into my latest podcast to learn about your options!

You’ll Hear About

  • [01:15] Who is Dr. Dani McVety
  • [02:10] Dr. McVety’s Calling  
  • [10:00] The Unfortunate Urgency of End-of-Life Care
  • [12:00] Peanuts Story 
  • [16:00] Epidural Analogy
  • [17:50] How Animals Handle Death      
  • [23:50] Jack’s Story 
  • [35:00] Inca’s Story
  • [43:00] Transforming Grief Into Love
  • [48:00] Learn More About Lap of Love
  • [49:00] Pet Loss Support Group

Links & Resources

 

Learn more by tuning into the podcast!

Thanks for listening—and again, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes / Spotify to get automatic updates.

 

Cheers,

~Doggy Dan 🙂

Dr. Dani McVety (00:03):

It’s time to say goodbye. It really is time. If a quality of death is what you want for your beloved pet, if a quality of passing is what is important to you, it’s time to say goodbye in a peaceful, loving way. Because if not, you will be stressed the entire time. You’re rushing to the emergency room at two o’clock in the morning. That’s why I started this business in the first place.

Announcer (00:31):

Welcome to the Doggy Dan Podcast Show helping you unleash the greatness within your dog.

Doggy Dan (00:43):

Hello, and welcome everybody to another Doggy Dan Podcast Show. Today I am with Dr. McVety, who… Well, let me read her bio. This is …

Dr. Dani McVety (00:77):

… you’re not going to read the whole thing?

Doggy Dan (00:58):

Not the whole thing. Don’t worry. I’m excited about this because this is a podcast which is very… I’m always excited. That’s how I start my podcast, but this is a podcast which is very close to my heart. So I’ll read the bio. “Dr. McVety founded the Lap of Love Veterinary Hospital just three months after graduating from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.” I got to say, when I read that bit, I was like, “Whoa, this was your calling.” This is-

Dr. Dani McVety (01:26):

Very much.

Doggy Dan (01:27):

“Since that time she’s grown the service from one veterinarian herself to a nationwide network of more than 250 doctors and a full-time interdisciplinary support staff dedicated to making the end-of-life experience for pets and the people that love them as dignified and peaceful as possible. Nearly half a million families have benefited from Dr. McVety’s vision.” Welcome. Welcome, welcome.

Dr. Dani McVety (01:55):

Thank you. Thanks for having me, Dan.

Doggy Dan (01:77):

You’re more than welcome. First question, in your own words, can you explain for those people who are thinking, “I think I understand what she does, what it’s about,” what’s Lap of Love? What do you do and how did it come about?

Dr. Dani McVety (02:12):

I volunteered for human hospice when I was in college. It came by because I was reading a book one day called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. The author and his wife talked about volunteering for human hospice and what an incredible experience it was. At that time I was 19 years of age, I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I had no real, huge loss in my life at that point.

Dr. Dani McVety (02:35):

So I went and volunteered for human hospice, and it was this incredible experience. I wasn’t able to do it for very long. I think it was nine or ten months that I was able to do in college. First of all, the training that they give you, so as a volunteer, you go through this weekend-long training. They do these exercises where basically you’re put in the position, and it’s a little bit like a guided meditation, honestly, of think about losing everything you love in your life. Think about losing your hair, think about losing your friends because everyone had died because most of them are older than… have already died, and all these little things that you get into this mentality of what it must be like to literally to be facing your own end of life. That’s, I don’t know, potentially the craziest and worst thing we can ever think about. So they walk you through this stuff.

Dr. Dani McVety (03:27):

When I got, fast forward, into veterinary medicine, I found myself very comfortable in those conversations. That’s not something that we are taught in veterinary school. What it looks like in veterinary medicine is that, and I did emergency medicine, people would come in on a Friday. They’ve got a 15, 16-year-old dog. They’ve got a 19-year-old cat, whatever. They know that their dog or cat is facing the end of life. They know that it’s going to happen soon, but they don’t want it to happen that day. Their mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter get home on Sunday, get home from college in a couple days and “Can you just keep them comfortable for a couple of days?” And I would say, “Yes, that’s hospice care.” When I would say the word “hospice,” their shoulders relaxed. They got this look on their face that’s like, “Uh, finally, somebody gets it.”

Dr. Dani McVety (04:20):

Then, obviously, the next thing that was in my mind to say was, “I’ll come to your home on Sunday, and we’ll euthanize there.” Thankfully Dr. Katy Meyer, who I worked for in Tampa, Florida, she was the most amazing boss, and she would let me offer that to people. It was this obvious thing. When you start thinking about it like that, giving people a peaceful end of life, helping them through the process, helping them feel okay with it. To be really honest with you, most people need permission to accept the euthanasia decision. They want the doctor to make them euthanize. They want the doctor to be the one, you know what I’m talking about, to say, “This is a good time. This is what I would do if he were mine. You’re making the right decision.”

Doggy Dan (05:09):

Why? Why is that?

Dr. Dani McVety (05:11):

They don’t want to give up. They don’t want to be the one to give up. They want me to be the one to say, “This is the only next decision that you have,” because it’s this guilt factor that they have. In my business name, it says Veterinary Hospice and Euthanasia, in the business name. So when people call with… I answered my own phone for three years when I first started the business, so I answered tens of thousands of phone calls from families. They, literally, don’t want to be the one asked for euthanasia, and they feel very guilty if they are. People will say, “I feel like I’m calling in a hit on my dog.” They’ll sign the consent form, and they’ll say, “I feel like I’m signing the death warrant for my cat.” They don’t want it on their shoulders.

Dr. Dani McVety (05:58):

No one ever taught me that in vet school. No one ever taught us, “You have to be the first one that says euthanasia.” Because I’d be in the emergency room, 22-year-old brand new graduate sitting there, and I’m thinking to myself, “Surely these people are considering euthanasia. How can you not?” Their dog is not going to make it through. Yeah, I can try a $3,000 surgery, but there’s a 5% chance that he’s even going to make it alive. If he does, then he is going to have months and months of nursing care to potentially even make it out. You have to look at it… A human you can say, “We’re going to try. We’re going to do our best.” But you just can’t say that to an animal. It’s a sufferable condition under most circumstances to put them through these long traumatic things and then keep them hospitalized for a very long period of time.

Doggy Dan (06:47):

I think the other thing is probably, and this is not specifically you, but generally vets probably overestimate the understanding and knowledge that your average Joe has. A dog may look like it’s almost dying, but I’m still going to go, “Well, surely the vets can just do something.”

Dr. Dani McVety (07:10):

They can do something. They can wave a wand, or they can give one injection. Like, “Can’t you just give him an injection and it’ll be done?

Doggy Dan (07:15):

I bet sometimes the vets go, “Yeah, yeah, he’s fine. We’ll just give him this, and he’ll pick up.” We don’t know. We don’t understand the difference between dog who’s on his last legs and a dog who might be, so we don’t know. Yeah, that makes so much sense.

Dr. Dani McVety (07:31):

It is. It’s very fascinating because veterinarians… Listen, I am one, so I know how we think. We are medical doctors that are trained to save, and so it’s not even in our training to say, “It’s time to say goodbye. It really is time.” If a quality of death is what you want for your beloved pet, if a quality of passing is what is important to you, it’s time to say goodbye in a peaceful, loving way. Because if not, you will be stressed the entire time. You’re rushing to the emergency room at two o’clock in the morning. That’s why I started this business in the first place.

Dr. Dani McVety (08:14):

Even just the phrase “lap of love” was supposed to be, in my mind, this vision of a pet being on their mom or dad’s lap. That’s what we all want for our pets. Now, a little tiny secret. Thirteen years ago when I started Lap of Love… I shouldn’t have even called it Lap of Love because they didn’t really think it was a veterinary service at the beginning. I think one of them thought I was prostitute. So bad. So had I to do it all over again, I would not have called it Lap of Love.

Doggy Dan (08:47):

These things happen.

Dr. Dani McVety (08:49):

Listen, they happen, yeah.

Doggy Dan (08:53):

I read this story about Lap of Love and how the lady came in and she had the dog on her lap.

Dr. Dani McVety (09:02):

This lady came into the emergency room and she asked me, she says, “Can you just leave my dog on my lap? Do not take him off my lap.” I’ll never forget that because I was like, that’s perfect. She had him in her arms. I euthanized him in her arms, and she walked out with a dog in her arms. To me, that’s the perfect… It’s what I wanted to create with in-home care, which is like-

Doggy Dan (09:23):

When you understand the story, it’s perfect.

Dr. Dani McVety (09:26):

Then it makes sense, right?

Doggy Dan (09:29):

We’re in the same boat. Trust me. I mean, Doggy Dan. The number of people who… “Why are you called that?” If you’re not in the dog world and I’m going in… I don’t know. It’s all over my car, or people hear me being called that and think I’ve been called Dodgy Dan. So I have the same problem.

Dr. Dani McVety (09:45):

Oh, right. You have to have humor in what we do. You got to just …

Doggy Dan (09:49):

People don’t forget my name, I’m sure. Lap of Love’s beautiful. Wow, wow. In terms of the process that a lot of people go through, I guess, they call you up, hopefully, quite a long time before. Can you talk us through like how…?

Dr. Dani McVety (10:13):

It varies a lot. But I’ll tell you that about 85% of our phone calls come with less than 48 hours notice. I don’t necessarily think that it’s because, or I know, that it’s not necessarily because those pets are dying so much as it’s because when a family makes that decision, when you’ve said to yourself, “It’s time,” very rarely do people then want to make that appointment two weeks out and then look at their dog every single day. It’s like, “Ten days-

Doggy Dan (10:43):

Totally.

Dr. Dani McVety (10:43):

… nine days.” They don’t want to do that. When that decision has been made, it’s “This. We’re going to get it done.” They call us. So in that way, from a business standpoint, we’re very urgent care type of model versus an emergency care. Because cops don’t like it when I go through stop signs and red lights and speed and stuff like that, I tend to not… I get pulled over for those things. So I can’t rush to a home. But we are very much urgent care. You get up in the morning. Your pet’s had a really bad night, and you need me there by 5:00 p.m., something like that. That’s typically the families.

Dr. Dani McVety (11:24):

Most of our phone calls come from regular veterinarians that will refer the families to us. What happens a lot of times is either they’re at the emergency room, like I used to be, and the family wishes to have an in-home experience. Or the family calls the regular veterinarian and says, “Can you come to my home?” and they say, “No, we can’t,” because regular vets typically cannot leave their practice. Everyone is so busy. We don’t have enough veterinarians out there anyway. So to get in the car and leave their practice is a significant amount of time. Then, of course, they can refer to us.

Doggy Dan (12:03):

Wow. I’m trying to picture… I kind of want to share a little bit about my story because I’ve only got my reference point.

Dr. Dani McVety (12:17):

Yeah, of course.

Doggy Dan (12:18):

I’m very curious and I think it’d be interesting for other people. My reference point was, I’ll tell you a little bit more about my dear dog, Peanut, who passed away, Peanut Butter. She’s kind of why I’m so fascinated about this. All of my animals, I’m trying to think how many I’ve ever had, a cat and two dogs, when they’ve passed away, I’ve pretty much always been with them, holding their paw, almost on my lap or I’m right there. The whole family’s there. It’s a very intimate moment. Dear Inca, I’ll just show you, dear Inca, who is this little doggy here. That’s Inca, always one ear up one ear down.

Dr. Dani McVety (13:05):

Love it.

Doggy Dan (13:06):

She was the most fearful dog in the world when we got her. Right out there in the garden, I remember sitting there thinking, “I’m Doggy Dan.” I’ve got this dog from the rescue center, and she is a nightmare. She is going to ruin my business. She barks. She growls. No one’s going to believe I’m a good dog trainer. I’ve got the nightmare one. She’s a nightmare. Anyway, she got better and better because I realized I did have a method that worked. It did work. She turned into a beautiful animal. She turned into the perfect dog, I realized, after two and half, two years. Great with the kids, but still, she was the most nervous dog you’ll ever meet. That was the problem. On the scale of one to ten, she was down at the one, terrified.

Doggy Dan (13:44):

When the vet came to put her down, put her to sleep, euthanize, I’ll never forget. She lay there and she looked into my eyes. Normally, it’d be like, there’s a person here. I know she was sick, but she was still totally compus mentis. The vet came. She kind of saw him, and she looked at me. The vet took her paw, put the needle in, and she did not break eye contact, and she kept eye contact and her heart stopped. I realized she passed over, and she was still looking straight into my eyes.

Dr. Dani McVety (14:21):

Wow.

Doggy Dan (14:21):

She knew what was coming. She knew what was happening. I just wonder, have you seen a lot of that? Because it felt like a very deep spiritual gratitude, a special moment that I’ll never forget till the day I die.

Dr. Dani McVety (14:40):

I would say, yes, I have seen a lot of it, and I say that with immense honor, that I get to witness that between animals and their humans. It comes in all different shapes and sizes. It comes in people saying, “Did you feel that, or did you see that?” or they would think, “He’s still with me.” Then I’ll say something or I’ll move or the dog will move a paw or something like that. People just have this moment. It is a spiritual moment that they have. To really think about it, we have the honor of witnessing this passing over that we are allowing or perhaps permitting, I’m trying to find the right word, that we’re ushering them into the next world. Forget the morality of whether euthanasia you feel something that’s moral. That’s a completely separate conversation.

Dr. Dani McVety (15:43):

But I can tell you as a veterinarian, it’s something that is our responsibility and an honor to provide when those right circumstances are there. A lot of times, and in fact, I would say most of the time, we’re not just stopping suffering that’s occurring in the moment, but we’re preventing suffering from occurring at all and preventing it from getting worse. Because as we know in humans, the death/dying process is not something that’s painless by any needs. Mother Nature has kind of a sick mind when it comes to death a little bit.

Dr. Dani McVety (16:15):

With euthanasia, I call it an epidural. Euthanasia is an epidural for death. Death is going to happen anyway, just like the birthing process. I have four kids myself. The baby’s in there. The baby’s coming out somehow or another. The epidural just makes it a little bit easier. It’s not necessary. It’s not something that you have to have. Three of my children were born at home under natural everything. It’s not necessary, but it just makes it a whole heck of a lot nicer. That’s how I look at euthanasia, which is not necessary. It just makes this dying process that’s going to happen anyway a lot nicer and a lot less painful.

Dr. Dani McVety (16:77):

Back to the spirituality of it, though, once people kind of accept the fact that it’s here, that it’s being done… That’s the irony of it, too, is that animals get it. We’re the ones that have a problem with it. We’re the ones that are like, “Is it right? Is it right? Are we doing the right thing? Is it today? Is it tomorrow? Where are they going? Are they going to heaven, or are they not going to heaven? Is there someone else on the other side waiting for them?” We have these questions. I feel that watching animals through this for many years, they’re the ones that go through this experience with the purest of hearts and the purest of intentions.

Doggy Dan (17:34):

What is the general feeling when…? Because you must have been in many houses, I’m presuming, where a dog has passed away, and there’s two other dogs or there’s a cat and a dog. Do you see quite a bit of them coming over and …?

Dr. Dani McVety (17:50):

Yeah, I do. Just like humans, us humans handle death very, very differently. Other animals handle… You know better than anybody. They all have their different personalities. I would say that when you lose an alpha is when you will sometimes see changes in the beta dogs, but the beta dogs, it’s more just because their true personalities are coming out. They’re not being kept at bay by the alpha dogs. I would love to hear you expand on this in a second, too. The other way, when you lose a beta dog, you don’t always see an alpha dog caring or even showing any emotion at all. I remember there was this one time… Cats are very interesting because cats all the time… Actually, even if I’m euthanizing a dog, cats come out of the woodwork. People say to me all the time, they’re like, “That cat never comes out. He’s never here when strangers are here.” I think it’s like the whole feeling of what we’re doing and the emotional probably change in the owners. The cats just come out, and they want to witness it.

Dr. Dani McVety (18:54):

There was this one time I was euthanizing a cat. The cat died, and another cat came out of nowhere once the cat died and walked up to the dead cat’s body and goes, hiss, and smacks it and then walks away. The owner was like, “He’s wanted to do that his entire life.” The cat that died was this bully and was really mean to the other cats. So the other one just went, pow-pow, “Feline, screw you,” and just kind of walked away. That just always reminds me, animals just have this pure interpretation of what’s going on. They don’t-

Doggy Dan (19:31):

You couldn’t make it up.

Dr. Dani McVety (19:33):

You can’t make that stuff up. But the animals aren’t looking at the owners or me and saying, “How dare you? How could you do this?”

Doggy Dan (19:41):

No, no, no.

Dr. Dani McVety (19:43):

They don’t have that.

Doggy Dan (19:45):

No.

Dr. Dani McVety (19:45):

They’re so pure in what they’re thinking. Then there this other one that I euthanized the dog and the other dog walked over the body and started eating out of the food bowl. The owner was bona fide mad. He’s like, “How could she eat at a time like this? That’s just terrible.” I’m like, “She doesn’t think about it like that. She’s fine.”

Doggy Dan (20:10):

Wow.

Dr. Dani McVety (20:10):

I don’t know. Is that what you would imagine as a dog trainer?

Doggy Dan (20:18):

I’ve written a book called What the Dogs Taught Me About Being a Parent because I saw so many similarities between parenting children and parenting dogs. Of course, children and dogs are different. Let’s get that clear. However, you can love them the same amount, and there are so many similarities. However, a dog will never be a child, and a child will never be a dog. But there’s so much crossover especially in that area of emotions.

Doggy Dan (20:45):

The personality of the dog, like you say, is just huge. Totally the alpha, if we were to touch on the alpha thing… The lady that helped me get on the path of the method that I use was a lady named Jan Fennell from the UK. I remember reading her book and she talked about how… I can’t remember so I’m free wheeling this. She had five dogs, six dogs or whatever. Then one of the dogs died. It was the big dog, the German Shepherd dog who was the alpha female, I think, of the pack. When she came back into her house, the other dogs started having a full-on savage fight. She couldn’t understand what… “The dog’s passed away and now you two bitches are having a fight. This is just appalling timing.” With hindsight, I remember her going, “I realized they were fighting for who’s the alpha female.”

Dr. Dani McVety (21:38):

100%. That’s the first thing that came to mind. Yeah, right.

Doggy Dan (21:40):

So it ties in. So when the alpha passes over, absolutely things change, but the dynamics could be phenomenal. When my big dog, Peanut, passed away, she was the alpha female. She was the absolute matriarch. But I guess my wife and I were always the alpha male and female. My whole method, it revolves around understanding how to, in a loving way, explain to the dogs, “You guys aren’t in charge. I am and my wife is.” Which means, when you understand that, when you come home in that scenario, if there’s five dogs and the alpha female dog disappears, the other two females don’t start fighting because actually there’s another female who’s in charge. She’s a different species, but she’s running the show. There’s nothing to fight for. So that’s how the whole method evolves. But when it comes down to how dogs react and respond, I can only speak for a few dogs that I’ve seen pass away. I knew when Peanut, God bless her soul… That’s Peanut Butter there.

Dr. Dani McVety (22:47):

Aww.

Doggy Dan (22:48):

She was one of the most special dogs in the world. She’s the only reason I’m here because she was so good. Everyone said, “You got the best dog in the world. Best trained dog in the world.” I thought I was a great trainer without ever doing any training till I got my second dog Inca, and that’s the one who I realized, “Oh, no. I haven’t got a clue. I just got lucky.”

Doggy Dan (23:08):

When Peanut passed away, I knew, because one of my dogs is what I would call a king dog, like the alpha male of all alpha males, and he has a strange sense of awareness of death. It’s like, that is his zone. He’s not interested in light, fluffy stuff, pets, cuddles. He loves me, and he’ll cuddle me, but he’s not like a silly-billy boy who likes to play and have fun. He’s into the serious stuff. When there’s something serious going on, like you’re really mourning or really hurt or something really bad has happened, he comes over and he is like, “What’s going on? What’s happening?” When somebody talks about my brother’s dying, he comes up, he’s fascinated.

Doggy Dan (23:50):

We even had a chicken who passed away who loved Jack, and the two of them were like this. The chicken would walk on his back, go through his legs. None of the other chickens would come close to him. But he was like, “Yeah, this is my chicken.” She was called Cross Beak. When Cross Beak passed away, Jack came to the funeral. We had a burial and a funeral in our garden. He then lay in front of where she was buried for three and a half to four hours. I mean, you couldn’t make this stuff up. We’re like, “What’s he doing?” We’re like, “He’s just paying homage and holding space,” whether you say he was just thinking about her, meditating, missing her, protecting her body, but he never protected her body when she was alive. It’s like he saw her go down under the ground.

Doggy Dan (24:39):

So I knew something was going to happen when Peanut passed away. Sure enough, Peanut passed away, and her actual passing is quite amazing. I’d love to share it with you. What I’d had set up… It sounds a bit weird, but I guess I’m a dog trainer who’s fascinated in dog behavior. I take videos. I had a camera set up, not so much of Peanut, but of the other dogs coming in. I let the three dogs out of the car. They couldn’t see her. Basically, there wasn’t a lot of screaming and shouting. Her heart stopped beating, and that was it.

Doggy Dan (25:10):

I went to get them out of the car, of the three dogs, Inca and Moses came trotting in. They kind of came trotting in right up to Peanut who’s lying there. Didn’t look any different than she had from the last two days because she’d been lying there for two days, hadn’t moved. All that had happened as her heart stopped beating and her eyes went out. We’d had to check many times, “Are you alive? Are you still alive? Dead, alive? Still alive, okay.” She was dead. They came over, sniffed. Then they started doing this paw up, which is like a bit of a submissive, “Oh, dear, help me,” looking on their side, looking at each other, licking their lips going, “Oh my gosh, she’s dead. Well, oh, okay. What do we do now?” Came over to me, looked at me. A little bit of like, “Oh.” It’s almost like a change of season. “Oh, new season. Peanut’s gone. What do we do?” They were that kind of funny, excited, not sure energy, which was interesting.

Doggy Dan (26:05):

Jack refused to walk into the kitchen. From the far end of the house, he refused to even come in the kitchen, never mind coming in the lounge where a Peanut was. He already knew. There’s a camera of me saying, “Jack, come on. Come on in.” He’s like, “No way.” In over a decade, I’ve never seen him not cross that, unless I’ve said, “Don’t come in.” He just walks in. I tried to bribe him in with food. I was like, “Jack, come on in. Here.” He’s like, “No way.” He would not come in.

Dr. Dani McVety (26:37):

Amazing…

Doggy Dan (26:37):

Then he went and climbed into a car, my old car, which is the car I had, and he’d lay in the back seat. I was like, “What are you doing? Why are you getting in the back of that car?” I went to get him out. It’s the one time when I went to get him out, and I was like, “Come on.” I grabbed his collar. As I pulled him, he looked at me and went, “Buddy, get your hand off me. I mean it.” It wasn’t like, “I’m going to bite you now,” but he was like, “Buddy, dude, leave me here.” Then I realized that is the space that, when it was just me and Peanut, we did the consultations together, she’d lay in that backseat. That was probably the space she spent more time than ever.

Dr. Dani McVety (27:17):

Wow.

Doggy Dan (27:17):

He was going to lie there, and he laid there for about four hours and just lay that holding space.

Dr. Dani McVety (27:24):

Wow.

Doggy Dan (27:25):

So that’s my experience of the dogs watching the other animals. But when Inca passed away, it was like the dogs came over and went, “Oh, yep. She’s gone.” Much more kinda, “Hey, ho. Move on. Another one gone. Another one bites the dust. No big deal. Nothing really changes.”

Dr. Dani McVety (27:44):

They’re all so different. They’re just so different. They have their own personalities, their own ways of grieving. I will say that there are sometimes when people will call us a day or two after, and they’ll say, “My dog or my cat is,” typically the dog, “having a really hard time grieving,” and that sort of thing. What I will say when they say that is I’ll say, “How are you doing? Are you okay?” They almost always say, “I’m having a terrible time. I haven’t gotten out of bed.”

Dr. Dani McVety (28:17):

I remember one time, many years ago, I was sick and I was in bed for like a weekend. My little Rat Terrier stayed with me the whole weekend. I think it was maybe once a day that I got out of bed to take her out. If you look at it from the outside, you could say, “Oh, your dog’s sick. She’s in bed all day.” No, she was with me. She was reacting to my emotions. She was there with me. She was holding that space with me. So I think sometimes, sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes when those extended changes in behavior happen, a lot of times it’s out of reaction to the mom or dad also.

Doggy Dan (28:52):

Totally, totally. They read us like a book. Tell me, do many people… because I wouldn’t dream of not being with my dog when they passed away. I wouldn’t dream of saying, “She’s going to die. I don’t want to be there. It doesn’t feel…” Sorry, I shouldn’t mock, but, “I can’t be there. I don’t want to see. I’m just going to leave her to die on her own.” I can’t dream of people doing that. I can’t imagine it. But in the same way that if my mom or dad or my children were… it’s not about me. It’s about my dog. Do many people say, “I’m not going to be there,” and they pass them?

Dr. Dani McVety (29:33):

Not many. It’s not many, but it does happen, and I think it’s an important thing. I think it was a couple years ago where there was some tweet that came out that was like, “The hardest part of being a veterinarian is when people just drop their dog off to die. They’re alone, and they’re looking for them.” It got like all this media attention. I think even one of the news articles posted my picture with this article. All of us veterinarians were like, “That is not what happened.” This was not written by a veterinarian. There are-

Doggy Dan (30:04):

Because it’s so rare. It’s very, very rare, isn’t it?

Dr. Dani McVety (30:08):

Well, what this tweet was, it basically said the hardest part of veterinarian is when people drop off their dog for euthanasia. They don’t stay with euthanasia. Then when we’re euthanizing the dog, that the dog’s going and looking around for their owner wondering where they are. That’s a lot of emotions that you’re putting on a canine brain that, I think, thinks a lot more purely than we do. But my point of saying that is that a) it does happen. There are sometimes… I have been with many, many people, particularly in a home situation, where I’ll go to their home and they’ll say, “I just can’t be with him at that final moment.” And I get it.

Dr. Dani McVety (30:45):

But there’s these things that happen in people’s lives. Sometimes these dogs and these animals are the last connection that they have to a spouse that’s died, to a child that committed suicide, to another family member that was killed in a car accident. I mean, I can go on and on and on. Losing this animal is like losing that person all over again. It’s highly traumatic for people. So it does happen. It’s very rare. I tell every veterinarian and every veterinary team, “Don’t ever judge somebody that does that because you don’t know what has gone on.” As veterinarians, we would say that. I would say the same thing as you. I would never dream of not being there with them. I would never drop my dog off. But that doesn’t mean that somebody that does doesn’t have this super bona fide reason.

Dr. Dani McVety (31:35):

Now, I will tell you that if I go to a home and people say, “I just can’t be there,” what I will say is, “If you are thinking about at all being there, at least be here through the sedation process.” I’ll sedate. I’ll give an injection for sedation. They go to sleep. They calm down. They lay down like they’re asleep. Then probably 80% of the time people end up staying through the euthanasia. Particularly with children and especially teenagers, teenagers can sometimes be super dramatic. Shocker, shocker, right? They’re like, “I’m not going to be here.” I’ll say, “Just stay through the sedation.” Then if they’re still wondering if they should say, then I say, “You need to stay because you need to know in your mind that this is just a go to sleep, that you don’t make up a story in your mind about what happened.” And that’s not what happened.

Dr. Dani McVety (32:29):

Now, I’ll tell you funny story to lighten the mood a little bit. When I first started Lap of Love, this gentleman called me. He was very, very nice on the phone. He’s like, “Look, my mom and dad have this ancient dog. Like, this dog is ancient. Blind, cataracts, eyeballs are completely crusted over, deaf, everything. This dog’s like 10 pounds.” He’s like, “This dog has got to go. It should have gone two years ago.” He goes, “But my mom and dad don’t want to be there. They’re elderly. They’re going to be facing their own deaths at some point. Can you just go into the home and euthanize the dog and then leave?” This is probably the second or third month that I had ever been doing Lap of Love, and, oh, by the way, less than six month since I’d been out of school. So I’m like, “Sure, I guess.” I sent him the consent form and all the paperwork. That was all done and fine. I had to walk into this house, get this dog, euthanize this dog, and then leave. It was the most stressful euthanasia I’ve ever done because-

Doggy Dan (33:40):

Oh, wow.

Dr. Dani McVety (33:41):

… what if I walked into the wrong house? I could think of a thousand things that could go wrong. So after that, I was like, “I will never do that again.” So if somebody asked me, “Can you go in? I don’t want to be there at all. Can you just go in and euthanize?” I’d say, “No, just no, no, no. You need to just be here, be with me as I meet your animal. Then if you want to step out, you, of course, can step out.”

Doggy Dan (34:09):

I can imagine the number of checks: What does the dog look like? What’s the house? How do I know it’s the right house?

Dr. Dani McVety (34:15):

Because once I saw the dog, I knew. You know what I mean? This dog, bless his heart, just the eyes completely crusted over. I don’t know. This dog could have been 25 years old.

Doggy Dan (34:25):

Aww.

Dr. Dani McVety (34:26):

Just poor little thing. I was like in my brain, I could defend this euthanasia to anyone, but, obviously, that doesn’t make it less stressful for me.

Doggy Dan (34:39):

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Doggy Dan (35:14):

The story I really want to share, I know shared one about Inca, but the dog Peanut, when she passed away, I had this thing I had to be there when she took her last breath. I think her kidneys were packing up, so she was kind of just shutting down.

Dr. Dani McVety (35:34):

How old was she?

Doggy Dan (35:36):

I think she was 13 and a half.

Dr. Dani McVety (35:38):

Oh, yeah.

Doggy Dan (35:39):

She was a big Ridgeback cross, so she was a big girl. It was a pretty good life, an amazing life. Pretty good age, very good age. I walked into the lounge, walked down the corridor, and I just heard her. She’d been doing that, hah, hah, hah, and then, hah, hah, hah. Then this time she was really going into that, hah, hah, hah.

Dr. Dani McVety (35:56):

Is that panting, or was it a heavy breathing?

Doggy Dan (35:59):

Heavy, heavy gasping for air.

Dr. Dani McVety (36:01):

So it was different than panting.

Doggy Dan (36:03):

Yeah. When I looked into her eyes, I was right there, she just looked straight at me. I looked at her and she just fixated on my eyes. Same thing. It was like absolute love.

Dr. Dani McVety (36:24):

[inaudible 00:36:24].

Doggy Dan (36:25):

It’s the most incredible experience to be there. All I remember feeling is this absolute, “It’s okay. It’s absolutely okay. I love you. It’s all good.”

Dr. Dani McVety (36:36):

And you gave her permission.

Doggy Dan (36:38):

We gave her permission.

Dr. Dani McVety (36:46):

Was there at any point-

Doggy Dan (36:46):

Yeah, go on. No, go on.

Dr. Dani McVety (36:46):

Because you had such drastic differences and experiences between Inca and one euthanasia and then a, quote, natural passing, was there any point with Peanut that you were freaking out, that you were thinking, “I need to get her euthanized so that this doesn’t go on”? You seem so calm about it now, which is beautiful.

Doggy Dan (37:08):

Yes and no. There was that thing of, “Do I need to get somebody in, or is she going to pass over okay?” Because that was the big fear, of course. That’s the big fear I’m sure most people have is, “I don’t want my dog to be in pain. I don’t want my dog to be suffering.” But I felt like I had a good enough gauge on where she was at, and I felt like she wanted to pass over naturally.

Dr. Dani McVety (37:32):

Mmmm.

Doggy Dan (37:32):

There was a feeling like she said, “I got this. I’m part of Mother Earth. I know how nature works. I can hold this.” Inca was a far more fragile little girl. She was very worried, very squeamish. Peanut was more of a big solid, she could handle a lot.

Dr. Dani McVety (37:50):

Of the Earth.

Doggy Dan (37:51):

She was a tough cookie.

Dr. Dani McVety (37:53):

That’s a beautiful thing. I wish that a higher percentage of people had that kind of embracing of that natural process. Because when we talk about quality of death, that’s exactly what I mean, which is you don’t want to be freaking out in those moments. If it happens fast like that, which there are certain disease processes, congestive heart failure, hemangiosarcoma, there’s certain disease processes that go downhill really, really quickly. When I do hospice with those families, I try to explain to them. One of two things is going to happen. You’re going to make the decision to euthanize a little sooner than you want to, but because you want it for a very particular experience for your pet. Or you’re going to wait until that cliff happens because there’s some diseases that are kind of like a cliff. When they go downhill, they go downhill fast, and you don’t know until they go downhill that it’s super bad like that, and you don’t have any warning.

Dr. Dani McVety (38:54):

So when that happens, be with them, be present, just be calm and loving and put your hand on them and hug them and love them because it’s going to be over in a very short amount of time. You don’t want that time to be in rushing to the ER or throwing them in a car and all of a sudden half halfway there, they’re dead. Instead, you’re able to just sit and love on them and have that confidence that obviously you have as well. I think that probably 51% of that for Peanut was your confidence in her and knowing that it’s going to be okay.

Doggy Dan (39:32):

Yeah, “We got this, we got this, we got this. It’s all good.” When Peanut was passing away, there was probably two or three days where she was just heading downhill. I’ll tell you a story because it’s just changed my life again. She always danced to the harmonica.

Dr. Dani McVety (39:50):

Oh my gosh.

Doggy Dan (39:50):

play the harmonica. Didn’t plan it. My mate went, “roooh”, and she was like, “roooh”. What on Earth are you doing?” You’d pick it up, she’d dance. She’s like, “Oh, arh, arh!” Anyway, about six months before she passed away, somebody was playing a harmonium, which is a squeeze box, or it’s a box about so big with some keys. The Indians play them and sing. I’ve always loved singing. I was like, “I got to get one of those. It sounds like a harmonica.” So I bought it three, four months before she passed away. Never really got into it, played it. Two days before she passed away, I thought, “I got to play it. I haven’t played it to her yet.” Went and got it. Sat there. She’s lying there. I’m singing and playing. This song came through me, which I’ll share the link on this podcast. I’m going to put it up. This song came through me, and I sang this song for her. It was the most phenomenal connection as she slowly lay there listening.

Doggy Dan (40:54):

But the big thing that happened was there was this phenomenal point in time and moment where looking into her eyes on this kind of last day, she just looked at me and she just said, “Be here now and experience love.” It was like this phenomenal thing. She was saying, “It’s okay.” She’s like, “I know I’m passing away, but I’m not in extreme pain. There’s the other side. I know where I’m going. It’s all good.” There was this incredible, like I said before, looking into her eyes and feeling a moment of absolute pure love. She had the greatest amount of love for me and I had it for her. I was crying, and she was just looking at me. She said, “Life doesn’t get any better than this,” not because she was dying, but because the connection was as deep and as intense and as pure as any emotion I’ve ever had. It was like, wow.

Doggy Dan (42:00):

I can’t remember exactly how soon it was before she passed away, but to miss those moments… If I ever want to cheer myself up and remember, we can have the feeling of love at any point in our lives, it’s a feeling, it’s an emotion, I can hook back into that time. So it was the greatest gift I’ve ever been given, the gift of being able to tap into pure love. She looked at me and said, “This is what it feels like. Can you feel that?” I do a lot of men’s work and relationship work. My wife and I, it’s what we do. I can come back to that place of love because it’s anchored in so deep in my heart because it’s there.

Dr. Dani McVety (42:47):

I think that losing that is such a difficult thing for a lot of people. You have this perspective that you can tap into it and you remember it, and it’s there for you. There are so many families that we work with that it’s one person and they lose that, and they don’t feel like they can feel that anymore. They don’t have it anchored in them. And you want it physically. You want that eye gaze constantly. You look for that when you come home. It’s a real loss to a lot of people.

Doggy Dan (43:25):

It is.

Dr. Dani McVety (43:27):

How do you teach people that then? What would you say if someone’s like, “Yeah, but I lost it. I don’t have it anymore”?

Doggy Dan (43:35):

For me, there’s almost a phase of… There’s the grief of the loss, and there’s that transforming of that grief into the emotion of the love that you had when you had that, if that makes sense. I don’t have Peanut with me anymore, and I’d love to pat her and cuddle her and look into her eyes. But what I do have is the feeling and the memories, which I can take that love from that experience, from all that time and I can bring it into the present moment. I guess that’s what I’m trying to encourage people that it is possible to… In the same way that you can think back to a holiday. You’re not on the beach on that holiday. I remember going to America. I remember standing in Yellowstone. I remember standing in that big car park looking for the wolves. They were so small. They were like pinheads up in the trees and it was like, “It’s a wolf!” I can feel the excitement. It’s like, “Mate, it’s a pinhead.” You couldn’t tell if it was a cat or a bear. Everyone was so excited, and it’s like, “Yay! We’ve seen a wolf.”

Dr. Dani McVety (44:43):

We saw a real wolf.

Doggy Dan (44:46):

So the emotions you can bring back and it becomes a pattern like a muscle. I guess I’m trying to encourage people to be with their animals, to see them. I mean, this is only my experience, but I’m sure I’m not… We’re all special. I’m not that special. I’m sure other people can have the same experience, but you have to choose to connect and connect deeply. I’m not the expert here, but I feel like if we sever the “It’s all bad from this point on and don’t want to really…” You have to sink deep into that grief at the time, for me, and feel it. That’s what I did. I cried and mourned as she was passing in a way, but with an open heart of love for her. It wasn’t like panic, but I felt it, and then it’s anchored in. I so hope and would love more people, or I don’t know how many people do, but to connect deeply with their animal at that point rather than withdrawing.

Dr. Dani McVety (45:48):

I would say that that’s 99.99%, and particularly of our clients. People that search and seek out an in-home euthanasia are just the best of the best. They’re the best clients. Now, they’re not always the wealthiest, and they’re not always going to be the ones that did everything that the veterinarian said to do. But they’re the ones that love their animal. Whether or not that is the farm dog that was outside with his owner every single day and his owner’s business partner, if you will, or it’s the little tiny Teacup Chihuahua that was with their pet, they all have different relationship with their animals. But at the end of the day, the people that use us are just the ones that love their pet the most, and they have that connection.

Dr. Dani McVety (46:39):

If you ask any veterinarian, this would be the case. There’s a significant amount of our clients that actually don’t have other human connections in their lives. Therefore, we have a particular subset of clientele that their animal is their only friend, their only family, their only outside of their own self, the only connection that they have. There are a lot of those people that it’s difficult for us to leave the home because you don’t know how they’re going to be after you leave. So that is a certain…

Dr. Dani McVety (47:18):

But to be honest, I tell you that there’s a percentage of veterinarians that are the same way. They didn’t have any other human connections in their lives. They had deeper connections with animals than they did with humans, which then inspired them to become veterinarians. I’m sure you see this, too, in your subset of the profession is that there are people in the animal world that don’t connect well with other humans, and they are very connected to animals. I think that that can be a positive, and it can be, obviously, a negative as well. But it’s definitely something that I witness, good and bad, from my vantage point of watching them pass away, for sure.

Doggy Dan (48:06):

I’m looking at the time going, wow, we could chat for hours. I’ve got all these questions. I don’t think I looked at any of them. It’s just lovely when you have a conversation, and it just flows.

Dr. Dani McVety (48:14):

That’s right. That’s right. It just flows.

Doggy Dan (48:19):

How can people find out more? Obviously, people are going to be going, wow. What’s the best place to-

Dr. Dani McVety (48:25):

Well, lapoflove.com is our website. Obviously, we have tons of information on the website, just tons. We’ve done that on purpose because at three o’clock in the morning when you’re up and your pet’s whining or crying, you don’t know what to do, go online. We have videos. We have articles. We have just a whole bunch of stuff that can hopefully help people.

Dr. Dani McVety (48:47):

We also have a tele-advice line. That is a conversation with one of our doctors that can help you through the quality-of-life conversation of your pet. It’s not medical advice. It’s not prescribing medications. But it’s talking to experts in this field that have done this type of practice for a long time, and you just simply want a new approach to what’s going on. So there’s tele-advice.

Dr. Dani McVety (49:12):

We haven’t expanded to New Zealand or Australia yet, but that is in the works at some point, so hopefully at some point we’ll be out there. But there are doctors I know in the area that do in-home care. If they don’t advertise specifically in-home euthanasia, at least you can google just mobile veterinarian, in-home veterinarian, and you’ll find doctors that do come to the home.

Dr. Dani McVety (49:36):

The last thing, too, is that, when COVID hit, we started a pet loss support department just because we haven’t seen anybody else really do it to the scale that we needed it. So we went ahead and started a pet loss support. We have three things that we do for families that need it. We have, number one, free Zoom pet loss support groups that meet almost every single day of the week, completely free, Zoom in from anywhere. So that’s one. Number two, we have, I think they’re eight-week classes where you can go once a week to the classes. So it’s a little bit more for people that really just need a little bit more content, maybe some intellectuals out there that need to understand like why we grieve from the inside out, and that’s-

Doggy Dan (50:18):

Brilliant, yes.

Dr. Dani McVety (50:18):

… what helps them through it. Then the last is we have one-on-one coaching as well, if families really need just something that’s a little bit more one-on-one.

Doggy Dan (50:26):

Wow.

Dr. Dani McVety (50:28):

Then we started, along with the pet loss, the only one that I found anywhere is a pet loss support group for anticipatory grief, so people that are actually facing imminent loss of their pet. Then the other one is for children, so for children that have a loss. Obviously, the parents attend that with the children.

Doggy Dan (50:45):

Wow.

Dr. Dani McVety (50:49):

That’s definitely something that anyone could take advantage of.

Doggy Dan (50:52):

Comprehensive. For anybody who’s listening to this, you can go to lapoflove.com or you can go to the website, theonlinedogtrainer.com. If you’re listening to this, go to theonlinedogtrainer.com/lapoflove. What we’ll do there, we’ll have the transcription and all the links to all the things we’ve chatted about. That’s pretty much it from me. Any final word, Dani?

Dr. Dani McVety (51:22):

I think the last thing is what people usually ask me at the very beginning, which is, “How do you do this? Why do you do this?” I would say that there are very few jobs out there in this world that you get a thank you for every single moment, every time you have an interaction with a client. We get the most immense, incredible thank yous, like thank yous with a tear in your eye. Nobody gets that these days. Think about the person at the grocery store. Do you get to thank you for what you do? That’s why the doctors like me that choose to do this work, there’s an immense… It’s a calling that we have, and we elect to do this work. We want to. We know that we’re good at it, and we provide something that only a very few amount of people on this Earth can provide. So we do this very much on purpose. We do not deal with compassion fatigue. The opposite, we’re the ones that are the least compassion fatigued because we choose this work. It’s something that we embrace lovingly and get a ton of fulfillment from it.

Doggy Dan (52:26):

Wow, brilliant.

Dr. Dani McVety (52:28):

You go to bed at the end of the night, and obviously my heart hurts for the families that have lost their pets that day, but you know that you did a good job and that you provided something that is appreciated. There’s a lot of fulfillment that comes from that.

Doggy Dan (52:42):

Beautiful, beautiful. Well…

Dr. Dani McVety (52:46):

Thanks for having Dan. Thank you. Thank you.

Doggy Dan (52:48):

It’s been awesome. Thank you, Dr. Dani McVety, for coming on the show. For those of you listening, thank you for tuning in and staying with us. You’ve been listening to another edition of the Doggy Dan Podcast Show where we believe that within every dog is a good dog, and within every good dog is a great dog. Have a beautiful day. As always, love your dog. Bye-bye.

Announcer (53:16):

You’ve been listening to another episode of the Doggy Dan Podcast Show, bringing you one step closer to creating harmony with your dog.

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Doggy Dan

Doggy Dan is the founder of The Online Dog Trainer, a wildly successful online training program for dog owners. His goal is to continue to share his unique approach to dog training with like-minded people who wish to make a difference in the world of dogs. His training methods focus on creating and building the connection between dogs and dog owners, and are shared and used around the world.

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