Today marks the one-year anniversary of Autumn Care & Crossings’ first patient, and my first official step on the path of being a hospice veterinarian. While I had studied and planned and worked towards this in preparation, it was on this day last year that I formally became a hospice practitioner, and started stepping into people’s homes and lives to help them and their beloved pets in the final phases of their bond.
And I have learned so much in this year. From my colleagues and the conferences I’ve attended, from the accountants and business folk who have helped me navigate the maze of small business ownership, and most importantly, from those very clients and patients. I have learned more and nuanced details about targeted pain management and breakthrough pain and natural versus palliated death versus euthanasia. I have learned how to reconcile Quickbooks and when not to trust Google maps.
I’ve learned to always keep treats and a spare pack of tissues in my bag, and that on a sunny day the dog park is an excellent place to finish a hospice call. I’ve learned to never underestimate a child’s understanding or an adult’s devotion, when traditional medicine had always taught me to trust in the opposite balance. I’ve learned that family is not defined by blood or by species, but by love – and that love comes in more shapes and manifestations than I had ever dreamed possible. And I’ve learned that sometimes saying goodbye is the greatest and bravest act of love that a person can make.
It’s hard to write in a blog here when I sincerely don’t have words for how grateful I am to everyone who has been part of this year. To my colleagues who shared their knowledge and experience with me; to the friends who helped make this practice real; to my patient and loving spouse who met the question of, ‘can I throw my career, our lives, and our home into chaos and turmoil for the sake of trying this?’ with more grace and support than I had any right to ask for, and most of all to the clients who invited me into their homes to be part of their pet’s care team. Thank you all, more than you could ever know.
As a mark of that gratitude, and in celebration of the families and pets that I’ve been lucky enough to come to know over the past year, I’m starting what will hopefully become an annual tradition. Autumn Care & Crossings will be making a donation to the MSPCA in honor of each pet in our care that has passed away over this past year. It is my hope to celebrate each life passed by helping another animal become someone else’s beloved pet, and find a forever home as loving and caring as the ones my patients have been blessed to know.
Because I can’t say it enough times, thank you all again for being part of this amazing experience with me. I look forward to many more years of laughter, tears, and learning as I help guide my patients and clients on their journey through this chapter of life.