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Mobile veterinary service allows palliative pets to pass peacefully at home
TORONTO -- When a pet is aging, it can prompt difficult conversations about end of life—and no one knows that better than veterinarian Faith Banks.
“I had an older dog named Smudge, a Bernese mountain dog, and she started having issues and I became more interested in how to manage her pain,” Banks told CTV News Toronto.
“And then I read an article about an animal hospice and was like, wow, and realized that no one was doing this in Toronto as far as going into people’s homes.”
Now it’s a conversation Banks has with clients every week. She runs Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice Services, with a focus on geriatrics and pets nearing end of life.
“The major difficultly is that for many people, this is their best friend. And having to make the decision to end the life of your best friend is gut-wrenching and heart-breaking,” Banks said. “We provide an in-home consultation and just talk about how their pet is doing. When the time comes to say goodbye, we provide in-home euthanasia.”
The hospice is made up of five veterinarians and three hospice care coordinators. While clients say they are grateful for her services, Banks admits that many think her job is difficult.
“I will sometimes show up at someone’s house, they’ll open the door and look at me and say ‘you have the worst job in the world,’” Banks said. “I don’t think I have the worst job in the world. We feel truly honoured to be welcomed into someone’s home at this time, to guide them through this process.”
Sabrina Massoni-Camilo recently made the decision to call Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice when the time came to say goodbye to her dog of 15 years, Tequena, a cocker spaniel.
“It was probably one of the worst decisions that we had to make,” she told CTV News Toronto. “It was a sad day, but it was not a bad experience. My last memory of Tequena is her on the couch, so it’s no different from many other days.”
It was Lizete Valdmanis, a veterinarian from Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice, who visited Massoni-Camilo’s home.
“The fact that we’re able to go into people’s homes, it’s quite rewarding for me,” Valdmanis said. “I worked in veterinary clinics for many years, and one of the most difficult parts was people having to put their pets down at the clinic, and it's quite a stressful experience.”
And it’s knowledge of that stress that moved Massoni-Camil to reach out to Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice Services
“We wanted her, our dog, to be in the least amount of distress possible,” she says. “Helping them go well, the way I see it, is the last loving gesture we can do for them.”
Banks says the mission of the hospice is always to allow pets to pass peacefully, and with dignity.
“We have the ability to prevent suffering, and end suffering,” she said. “There was something about caring for pets at the end of their life that just drew us to this. And I have a really incredible team of carers that help guide pet owners through this.”
And in the weeks since saying goodbye to Tequena, Massoni-Camilo says she takes comfort in knowing how calm the final moments of her dog’s life were.
“We’re grieving. We miss her every day, but we’re going to be okay,”