The final mile: Animal hospice from a pet’s perspective

2022 animal hospice cancer canine cancer giving tuesday hospice care last bloom national animal hospice month november pancreatitis terminal diagnosis tracy brad Nov 09, 2022

The final mile: Animal hospice from a pet’s perspective
By Tracy Brad
Director of Marketing & Communications, Animal Hospice Group

Photo: "Cheeese," Jack (at 4 years old) and Tracy

When I first got sick, my mom thought that I was just “slowing down a little bit.”

This was true. I was getting a little bit older. I had to stop more often on our walks. So she stopped with me. She’d pat my head, and ask me what I smelled, and tell me that I was a good boy. 

I would smile at her, because I thought that she was a good human, too. 

She was a good human, but she didn’t know. 

She didn’t know that the reason I had to stop so often was because something was growing inside of me. Something that shouldn’t be there. Something that was pushing on my lungs, on my stomach, making me feel sick. Making it harder to breathe. 

“Oh, Jacky,” my mom would say to me, noticing that my respiration rate was up a little bit. “Did we overdo it? I can wait.” 

I knew that her heart couldn’t take it if I was sick, so I tried to hide it from her. But when I couldn’t really eat any longer, she knew that something was really, really wrong, and she took me to the vet. 

The first diagnosis was something called “pancreatitis.” I just knew that I had a hard time eating. 

We didn’t know what caused the pancreatitis, but with help from my vets, I felt a little bit better. 

But it was still there. It was still there, and she still didn’t know. 

One month later, a scan found it: a large, inoperable sphere in the middle of my right lung. They called it cancer. We had thought that the pancreatitis might be the only condition I was facing, but canine cancer was much more serious. 

I knew that the doctors had told her when I came out of the vet’s office that day. She was trying to smile and encourage me, but I knew that her heart was broken. I could see it. I could smell it. I could feel it. 

And my heart broke, too. 

I overheard her talking about her guilt over my illness. How she’d worried about cancer when I got my old man lumps and bumps. How she’d screened me for canine cancer, had them aspirate the lumps they could see. How she should have known. But how could she? It was hiding inside of me, and I tried to hide it from her, too. 

Neither of us were ready to say goodbye, but we wanted to make whatever time we had left as good as it could be. This is when my mom started to talk about animal hospice. 

And she tried everything – chest drains, sleeping on the couch with me when I couldn’t make it upstairs anymore, cooking my every meal. The ER vets weren’t always the same, and they didn’t know I was in something called “hospice care.” They would question my mom’s treatment plan, and then her heart would break all over again. 

It didn’t have to be this way, though. I was doing well with my hospice care, and I knew that my mom followed the mantra of “I’m treating you as I’d hope to be treated.” 

So we tried to make each moment count.

Animal Hospice Group - Jack's life

Photos from left to right: Jack Spring 2020, Jack's 8-3/4 birthday, Tracy snuggling Jack, and Jack with Tracy Summer 2020

My last good day just happened to be Thanksgiving. I could tell that my mom was thankful that I was feeling good, but she didn’t know that this was my “last bloom.” A last bloom happens shortly before death, when one seems to be happy and healthy and likely to have many more days left. It can – and often does – happen to anyone, whether they’re a dog or a person or anything in between. During my last bloom, I felt exuberant, and I let my mom know. I’d chosen two bones at the pet store and she’d debated giving me two new bones two days in a row (always give them the second bone!) and I’m so glad that she did. To show her how happy I was, I rolled and rolled all over my bone. You can see my last bloom here (click on blog post banner). 

Photo: Jack and Tracy's last photo together. Jack passed away less than 24 hours later.

This is the tricky thing about hospice, though, whether it’s human hospice or animal hospice – because the very next day, I was done blooming. The petals had fallen. I was tired. I couldn’t fight the cancer anymore, as much as I wanted to. 

While I’m not here with my mom anymore, this is the wish of every good dog – to make each moment count – each hour, day, week, and month, if you’re lucky – to make them as wonderful as possible. 

And this is where we need your help…

A terminal diagnosis can be scary for pet parents and stressful for the professionals who are trying to help them. The Animal Hospice Group is here to support parents and Allied Care Professionals alike during difficult situations like mine. 

This year, for Giving Tuesday, please consider making a donation to the Animal Hospice Group. Your generous support can help more moms like mine help their pets through a terminal diagnosis. 

Your Giving Tuesday donation will help provide pet parents with peace of mind, from the initial diagnosis to the last bloom. 

Thank you – on Giving Tuesday, and on every day – for your continued support.💗


Donate to Animal Hospice Group!



Give this Tuesday, next Tuesday, or on Giving Tuesday come November 29th. The Animal Hospice Group appreciates your consideration and support! The Animal Hospice Group in affiliation with BrightHaven Inc., a CA 501[c]3 Corporation.

Please show us all that you like this article by sharing, commenting, and/or giving this a "LIKE" on Facebook. Photo in post (header): Jack relaxing at home. Video in post (header): Tracy filming Jack enjoying his bone, “last bloom” during Thanksgiving.