The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measure. –Rabindranath Tagore
Animal Hospice Care at BrightHaven
Loving and caring for elderly, disabled and chronically ill animals forms the core of BrightHaven. We have traveled a magnificent journey living with our animals, and they have taught us much about love and the circle of life and death – the animal perspective of life, and beyond. As these extraordinary animals have allowed us into their world, we believe we have learned to think and communicate at their level.
Since 1990, BrightHaven has provided hospice care for over 600 senior, chronically ill and disabled animals, a population which has an overwhelming need to find love and care in our society. BrightHaven’s mission is one of healing – for body, mind and spirit. Our Menu for Healing, which we created by following the wisdom of the animals, provides the foundation of our work.
For some, the healing experience brought about improved health and a new-found love of life. For others, healing was a necessary preparation for dying, death and the journey beyond.
For BrightHaven’s definition of animal hospice, please visit https://www.brighthaven.org/what-is-animal-hospice/.
The main difference between hospice care and end-of-life care is that hospice care does not foresee euthanasia in the future but focuses on a peaceful, gentle and natural death. After all, life itself is terminal. Of course, if an animal in hospice care takes a turn for the worse the decision to euthanize may then be made, whereas in palliative or end-of-life care euthanasia may be the expected outcome from the beginning.
Our animal hospice philosophy also includes a discussion on natural dying and euthanasia.
The BrightHaven Animal Hospice Guiding Statement
BrightHaven’s approach to hospice care is definitely aligned with hospice care for humans where love, comfort, dignity and quality of life are of the highest importance, and the spiritual aspect of the journey is deeply honored. We strive to not hasten or postpone death, but to work within the bounds of nature and the best of medical care.
Interestingly, it is a true statement that if we are not dead, then we are actually ALIVE, and BrightHaven’s emphasis is to care for the being for their entire journey of being alive. This is a very different approach than the focus of caring for the dying…
As you can see from our animal hospice guiding statement, although BrightHaven’s primary focus is on preparing for and achieving a natural death, we are certainly not opposed to euthanasia:
At BrightHaven, when an animal enters hospice care our expectation is that the animal will have a painless, loving, peaceful journey followed by a painless, loving, peaceful & natural death.
If a place is reached during that journey where the caregiver, the veterinarian AND the animal, believe the animal to be in need of critical assistance, then euthanasia will be used.
We also believe that every animal caregiver should have as much information as possible to help them make the best choices for their animal and unique situation.
Our motivation through animal hospice care remains that of healing for the highest good, coupled with love and every comfort possible. One of the core philosophies at BrightHaven is the belief that animals are sentient beings – capable of conscious awareness, feeling and suffering – and as such deserve an environment and conditions which allow them to achieve a state of wellbeing throughout the entirety of their lives.
And so, friends, the BrightHaven hospice philosophy is quite simple and is all about achieving a balance of healing for body, mind and spirit. It embraces living in the moment in love and joy and the understanding that healing, which is primarily influenced by love and compassion, is required for both living and dying.
In other words, it’s all about living well through the last breath!
“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” –Madame Curie
Knowledge reduces fear and increases confidence, and conscious decision-making may minimize future regrets. We invite you to explore our caregiver resources (including animal hospice education and holistic healthcare education), online learning and publications to learn more. You may also wish to book a consultation with BrightHaven President and Founder Gail Pope.