Halifax vet hoping to make end-of-life process painless as possible

By Steve Gow

Perhaps the most challenging period in the close relationship between pets and their owners is when it comes time to make the incredibly difficult decision to say goodbye.

Often it is emotionally easier for pet owners to simply turn a blind eye to the inevitable — especially if the animal’s suffering isn’t obvious — but the truth is, pet euthanasia can be the most compassionate and responsible part of the bond between pets and their owners.

After 15 years of practicing veterinary medicine, Dr. Emily Reiner has not only discovered this first-hand but she has learned to appreciate it on another level.

“I pretty much decided that one of my favourite parts of being a vet — even in clinic — was trying to help people through the grieving process and through letting go and the whole end-of-life scenario,” says the Halifax-based veterinarian. “I really felt fulfilled by that part of my job.”

The truth is, Reiner wasn't just fulfilled by that aspect of the profession — she was inspired.

About three years ago, she decided that she wanted to introduce an even more caring way for Nova Scotians to cope with those heart-rending end-of-life choices so she launched Forever Loved, an in-home euthanasia service that aims to make the final moments of every pet’s life as fear-free and comfortable as possible.

“It is quite popular in the U.S. and other parts of Canada,” Reiner says of the practice of pet in-home euthanasia.

“I really found that there was a huge gap for service in this area. There was nobody who would go to your home and do in-home euthanasia, or end of life palliative and hospice care, and that is just such a great model for so many people and for so many reasons so I just sort of decided to jump into it.”

As a result, Reiner and her team (who also comprise of Penelope Graben, Tricia Ferris and Emily Hull) provide the intimate and humane service of in-home euthanasia — allowing pets to be at peace in their own environment, surrounded by loved ones instead of in the unfamiliar setting of a clinic.

“A lot of animals are stressed in the car and in the clinic, and for a lot of people it would break their heart that their last moments are going to be full of fear and in an unknown space, or in that clinic that they already hate,” explains Dr. Reiner. “So the main driver is just for the animal’s physical and emotional comfort at the end.”

The service that Forever Loved provides is in-depth and rooted in compassion. Family members are involved at every step and decisions are made together.

Reiner and her team also provide quality-of-life consultations as well as short-term palliative care.

However, she also knows an animal’s connection to its owners doesn’t end at euthanasia. To that end, Forever Loved's services extend to after-life care as well, including care of remains, grief management, mementos and follow-up.

In the end, Dr. Reiner recognizes the serious responsibility of making those tough end-of-life decisions and she has made it her life’s work to ensure the passing of every loving pet is as peaceful as possible for both animal and owner.

“People say to me all the time, ‘you have such a hard job or I don’t know how you do this,’ and I get that pretty much every day,” explains Reiner. “But it depends on your perspective because to me, seeing people crying is just the flipside of love — the amount of grief that they are feeling is just because that’s the amount of love that they have for their pet — and to me, that’s just a beautiful thing.”

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