What Does the Word Hospice Mean to You?

2021 hospice september Sep 22, 2021
Animal Hospice Group - What Does the Word Hospice Mean to You!

What Does the Word Hospice Mean to You?
Written by Gail Pope

Growing up in England, I learned that hospice is a place where people go to die and that hospice care is given to someone who is dying. The only people who could have helped me understand anything deeper were my mum and dad and they NEVER talked about death, avoiding the subject like the plague.

Years later, my days at Brighthaven ( were spent caring holistically for many senior and chronically ill animals who eventually died - most of them naturally, in peace, and with dignity. The road to end of life was joyful and without fear, concentrating on living and not dying.

When I was approached to join the board of directors for a new animal hospice organization (International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care), I refused, saying that I had no experience of hospice care and I believed that animals’ lives were about living and not dying. 

How delighted I was to discover that I had been practicing true hospice care for many years. 

Shortly thereafter my mum reached the last chapter of her life and was cared for at home with us. She was fearful of the words “hospice” and “dying,” and members of her hospice team had to be careful to never mention them.

The experience of her care taught me how human and animal hospice are closely related. It instilled in me the desire to encourage people to trust in the process of hospice care through the final stage of life to assist their animals in living joyously and fully to their last breath.


Margaret (Gail's beloved mum) and Neko on the left. Gail and Margaret on the right.


My approach to animal hospice care is aligned with hospice care for humans, where love, comfort, dignity and quality of life are very important, and the spiritual aspect of the journey is deeply honored. I strive to not hasten or postpone death, but work within the bounds of nature and the best of medical care.

The guidelines for human hospice care have been carefully created over many years and form the foundation for animal hospice upon which we must all build: 

  • Hospice is a special philosophy of care designed to provide comfort, support and dignity to those dying and to their families during life-limiting illness 
  • The goal of hospice care is to enhance the quality of living while dying
  • Hospice is about love, joy and devotion 
  • Hospice care can prolong life, but doesn’t hasten death 
  • Hospice care often embraces both conventional and alternative medicine 
  • The hospice team comprises specially trained professionals, volunteers and family members 
  • Hospice addresses all symptoms of a disease, with an emphasis on controlling pain or discomfort 
  • Hospice addresses daily emotional and spiritual needs of the dying and their families 
  • Hospice offers a variety of bereavement and counseling services to families before and after death 

For over 25 years, my work and Brighthaven’s are congruent, and synonymous with animal hospice care. I have been privileged to continually learn from countless sage animals who approached their end of life with the same wisdom and grace with which they lived. They valued all stages of life, and found sacredness in all experiences while reveling in the moment.

The one difference between human and animal hospice care is that of an assisted death. Brighthaven’s animal hospice guiding statement indicates that the primary focus is to prepare for and achieve a natural death, although 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.

Brighthaven honors both life and death, respecting the process of transition as natural as birth itself, thus completing the circle of life. Nothing is more sacred than to care for a beloved friend during their final moments on earth.

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 throughout their entire journey of being alive. 

This is a very different approach than the focus of caring for the dying 

Our motivation through animal hospice care is 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  deserve an environment and conditions which allow them to achieve a state of wellbeing throughout their entire lives.

The Brighthaven hospice philosophy embraces living in the moment in love, joy, and compassion, while achieving a balance of healing for body, mind and spirit in both living and dying.

In the words of Carol Hulse of BrightHaven, it’s all about living well through the last breath!


“Death is not the extinguishing of the light 

It is the putting out of the lamp because the dawn has come.” 

–Rabindranath Tagore



Please show us all that you like this article by sharing, commenting, and/or giving this a "LIKE" on Facebook. Photo in post (header): Dedication/Memorial table with Buddha displayed at Brighthaven sanctuary.