Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Bringing the Peace of Hospice Care to Our Pets

Recently, a couple of close friends have had to say goodbye to their beloved pets. That has to be one of the worst – if not the worst – experiences a pet owner has to go through. Whether it’s something that comes on suddenly or a chronic illness, deciding when to let your pet go is never easy. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I happened to be introduced to Dr. Christine Shibly as I was grieving with these friends. Dr. Shibly is one of a network of Lap of Love veterinarians, “whose goal,” according to their website, “is to empower every owner to care for their geriatric pets.” Lap of Love’s “philosophy centers around the human-animal bond and the need for that bond to be as undisturbed as possible during this most difficult time.” Realizing how vital this kind of service could be to so many pet owners, I asked Dr. Shibly to tell our Points on Pets readers a bit more about her experiences as a Lap of Love vet.

Points on Pets: What should people know about Lap of Love?

Dr. Shibly: Lap of Love provides in-home consultations for end-of-life care as well as the gift of saying goodbye in the comfort of your home, if and when the time arises. We help families entering the end-of-life stage with their pets by providing tools and tips to help maintain or increase comfort for their pet, similar to human hospice care. The intention is not to prolong pain and suffering but to give them comfort to enjoy their remaining days. When it’s time to say goodbye, I will come to the family’s home where their furry friend will be surrounded by his or her family and his favorite things for a peaceful goodbye.

PoP: How do you think this service is beneficial to pets and their people?

Dr. Shibly: Veterinary hospice helps our pets by increasing their comfort during their end-of-life stage. I can offer solutions to mitigate pain, recommend ideas to manage their home life and help families understand their pet’s situation and what to expect when the end is near. It really provides some peace of mind and allows our pet parents to have a meaningful conversation about their situation.

If a family elects euthanasia, they can certainly go to their clinic. However, we find that several of our families cannot physically move their pet to the clinic at this time. Or, many of our pets don’t enjoy visiting a veterinary clinic and might show signs of distress or anxiety, which is not what our pet parents want for their last memory with their pet.  When deciding to have this experience at home, parents can create an intimate environment and have some privacy during their final moments. It’s really about creating a positive and peaceful atmosphere for you and your pet. We’ll make sure that he or she is surrounded by his favorite things and nestled into his favorite spot, even if it is in your arms, on a porch or under a shady tree outside. This is not a time to feel rushed; you should feel free to take your time saying goodbye.

PoP: What have you learned from doing this service?

Dr. Shibly: Although I’ve been doing this service for several years, it’s still surprising how difficult it can be to make these decisions with my own pets. Just like with my families, it’s really hard to make this type of decision when you see your babies every day, which is why I love being able to provide an objective, outside opinion to my clients on where their pet truly stands. I learned that we all want our pets to pass peacefully.  Mother Nature can’t always guarantee that, though. When that time comes, I know that I can offer that last gift to our families.

PoP: You must have witnessed some powerful stories so far. Anything you’d like to share?

Dr. Shibly: There are so many wonderful families and pets that I have been able to meet. I have been to homes where the pet has had a “farewell party” the day of, full of awesome food, friends and family, music and laughter. I have been to appointments with young children who have drawn pictures and given gifts to their loved one. Some of them have had steaks prepared before or at my time of arrival, a dog drinking a beer or eating a previously forbidden chocolate cupcake as a final treat.

The most powerful feeling I experience often, is the embrace I often share with a grieving family member, who was thankful that we were able to give their loved one a peaceful passing.

I’ve perused the Lap of Love website ( and found it full of really helpful information and support; it can also help you find a Lap of Love vet in your area. I encourage you to save this information or to contact Dr. Shibly about Lap of Love when the need arises. What a wonderful final gift to give your loved one.

Dr. Christine Shibly

Written by: Ashley Denham Busse
Ashley Denham Busse has worked part-time for since 2006. is a professional pet-sitting company located in Old Town Alexandria, celebrating more than 14 years of providing daily walks and customized in-home pet care. Visit or email 

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