By LOIS KINDLE
The human-animal bond is never so apparent as when a dog or cat must be euthanized due to illness or old age. Saying goodbye to a four-legged member of the family is traumatic to say the least, but it’s a decision responsible pet parents must often make.
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice exists to give every pet the dignity of a peaceful passing in the comfort of its home, where it feels safe and loved. Its services are aimed at providing each pet owner with compassion and care while they make one of life’s most difficult decisions.
“It’s such an important piece of veterinary medicine, something that can be made very beautiful,” said Rachel Welch DVM, an associate veterinarian working full time with Lap of Love. “It’s an honor to be part of a pet and its owner’s journey. While there is so much sadness involved, there are also truly special moments.”
Welch, 29, said she feels euthanizing animals is an entirely different experience at home, where pets are in familiar surroundings and decisions can be made by their humans in their own time.
“We meet people where they are and enable them to have the experience in their own way,” she said.
Lap of Love offers in-home pre-euthanasia support and guidance; hospice care, including quality of life assessment, palliative care and pain management and end-of-life consultation; peaceful euthanasia; cremation and aftercare; and pet-loss support. Tele-advice is also available.
Its mission includes the compassionate care of geriatric dogs and cats, end-stage management of terminal illnesses and the administration of in-home euthanasia.
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice was founded in Tampa by Dr. Dani McVety-Leinen three months after she graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine 13 years ago. Initially, it was a way to pay back school loans, while she worked in emergency medicine.
One evening, while in the process of euthanizing a pet at the emergency medical center where she was employed, the dog’s owner requested the doctor allow her pet to remain in her lap, instead of placing it on a cold, sterile table. With a bit of improvisation, McVety-Leinen was able to fulfill the woman’s wishes.
Combined with her love for animals, people and experience as a volunteer at a human hospice, the incident with the woman and her dog sparked McVety-Leinen’s idea of starting a hospice for animals and inspired its name, Lap of Love.
Mary Gardner, DVM, joined her as co-founder in 2010.
Currently, the company has more than 280 veterinarians in 35 states around the country, 11 of whom serve in Hillsborough County.
Lap of Love care coordinators are available to answer questions from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Pet owners need to call for availability of in-home appointments, which are scheduled throughout the week. The contact number is 855-933-5683.
‘We try to accommodate families when they need us,” said Welch, who sees up to five appointments in the Tampa area and north per day. The southern Hillsborough County area has its own veterinarians dedicated to serve its residents, she said.
Lap of Love Tampa Bay – St. Petersburg serves all or parts of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Manatee counties. For more information and the costs involved, visit www.lapoflove.com./