When it comes to the end of your pet’s life… the best you can hope for is peace.
by Demetra Karras
Not long ago, my husband and I found out that one of our four fabulous cats had terminal cancer. I was completely unprepared for a diagnosis of that severity, finality and impact. After all, Neo was our big, beautiful, black cat that even at 12 years old, seemed full of life and vigor. True, he seemed to have lost a bit of weight and was a little less rambunctious than normal, but overall, he was the same precious and precocious boy he always was. Sitting in the examination room at the vet, the news took the wind right out me. I was utterly devastated. Driving home, all I could think was, what would we and our other three cats do without our sweet boy?
Neo was originally given three or four months to live, but sadly he began to deteriorate fairly quickly. He stopped doing some of his normal things and began laying around more than normal… which I’ll admit was already a lot because after all he was a cat. That’s what they do! There were still flashes of the old Neo, but for the most part, he just looked and acted so very tired. It was heartbreaking. Two weeks after being diagnosed, we took him into the vet again because his health seemed to be worsening. It was then that our vet told us that we needed to make some serious decisions… rather quickly. Cue the tears. We knew what had to be done in order to alleviate his suffering.
This is when I went online to investigate vets who would come to our home to put Neo down. I already knew that I was not going to stress him out by taking him back to the vet for his last breaths. I wanted Neo to fall asleep forever in the comfort of his own home and surrounded by those who loved him so deeply. I did a lot of research on various providers of this type of service within the Chicagoland area and I was completely drawn to one in particular… Peaceful Endings. As I read the website, I innately knew that Dr. Kari Trotsky was the only choice for us and for Neo. There was no doubt.
I emailed to set up an appointment and I admit, when I saw that she emailed back, my stomach dropped. The situation was becoming very real. However, Dr. Trotsky’s email back was kind and caring. It only furthered my sentiments that this was a person who genuinely cared about the well-being of both pets and their parents. We set up an evening that week to put Neo down… and we spent every moment we possibly could loving our sweet boy.
At the 11th hour, my cat sitter called us to relay an interesting point. Several of his customers’ cats had been misdiagnosed with cancer and had lived. My husband and I were dumbfounded and a little upset that we never considered getting as second opinion. I mean, if it were a person – we would have done that straight away. While we trust our vet implicitly, we knew that if we didn’t get a second opinion, we would always wonder. I emailed Dr. Trotsky to cancel our next evening’s appointment and her response was so appreciated. She was completely understanding and relayed that this was a huge decision and that we should exhaust all avenues in order to be sure and come to peace. I was so grateful for her compassion.
We did get a second opinion and I have to say that even though it only confirmed the first – it did give us such peace of mind. We knew unequivocally that we had done everything we could for our boy. Plus, the vet gave Neo some very potent drugs to keep him feeling better until we could reschedule with Dr. Trotsky. The fact that we had our old Neo back for even two days was comforting – despite the fact that we knew we were losing him. He ate like the pig he was, played with his toys and snuggled with us. It was wonderful.
We rescheduled with Dr. Trotsky, who agreed to trek to the city on a Saturday for us. Our hearts again fell when she arrived, but her presence is so calming and comforting. Everything about her demeanor is exactly right. I don’t know how else to put it – she is exactly what you need her to be, without her even trying, I suspect. You can tell immediately that she is so genuinely sincere. Even our other cats who are not always so welcoming to strangers seemed to be at ease. During one of the most traumatic situations of our lives, she managed to make us feel as though it was going to be all right.
Dr. Trotsky explained the process to us and was patient while we got ourselves ready to say good-bye. The whole while, she listened to us – letting us say what we needed to say and giving us time to fawn all over Neo one last time. Her presence was not an intrusion in any way. In fact, it was much welcomed. She administered the first shot while my husband cradled Neo in his arms. While I am not sure if Neo knew exactly what was going on, I do know that he did not seem frightened. Soon he fell asleep and we laid him down for the final shot. We petted and kissed Neo as he took his last breaths and all I could think was – how peaceful it felt. I was so sad for us, but so happy that his precious spirit had been set free in such a dignified and love-filled manner. I could not have asked for anything more. I truly would not have wanted anyone else to have laid our Neo to rest. Dr. Trotsky was just perfect in every way – and that is something you can’t teach. I believe you either have that or you don’t.
Because we had such a heartwarming experience, I feel the need to recommend Dr. Trotsky to anyone who finds themselves in the sad predicament of having to put down a beloved pet. I think having the option to release them at home in familiar surroundings can only make the situation easier for all involved. Especially if you have other animals, I think it’s important they also understand that your pet is gone – not just having them all of a sudden disappear from the home. Neo has left a huge void in our lives – he was a big personality and his shoes are hard to fill. We can never replace him, but we are so happy that we honored him the way we did. I continue to be amazed at the depth of love one can have for an animal. Neo taught us so very much and I am so grateful that came into our lives.
Dr. Trotsky offers the option to take your pet to be cremated, which at such an emotional time proved to be a very easy choice we were thankful to have. We also purchased a beautiful urn to keep Neo’s ashes on our mantle. Since her visit, I have emailed Dr. Trotsky to ask questions and seek guidance due to the behavior of the cats left behind. Each time, she has sent a most thoughtful response giving me her heartfelt opinion or advice and offering support and encouragement. She really does go above and beyond… and that’s not all about business. It’s really about her sincere caring. I am eternally grateful that I found Dr. Trotsky and that she provided us all, Neo especially, with a beautiful and very Peaceful Ending.
Q & A with Dr. Kari Trostsky
How/when did you become interested in animals and their care?
This started ever since I could remember. I’ve always had a connection with animals and I’ve always wanted to become a veterinarian. As I grew up and experienced new things, that dream never wavered. Because of the connection with animals, I am now able to understand how they communicate. I use a combination of body language and intuitiveness, which helps me understand what they’re feeling.
Training and experience?
I was one of the lucky ones and was accepted into University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine early, during my 3rd year of undergraduate study at North Central College. They had trimesters there, so I finished up my second trimester and took the summer off before entering veterinary school in the fall of 1994. In 1996, I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Veterinary Medicine and in 1998 I received my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree. From there I worked at 4 different practices, filled in at different hospitals when doctors needed off, did emergency shifts overnight, was Chief of Staff, mentored and taught doctors, managed a hospital from a financial, employee, and client-building standpoint. I have over 19 years of veterinary medicine experience (not including time spent volunteering at animal hospitals, and moving up as a kennel person to receptionist to veterinary assistant in my teenage years) and I started doing what I now consider my calling, at-home hospice and euthanasia, since the end of 2011.
What should people consider when the end of a pet’s life is near?
When the end of a pet’s life is near, you should consider keeping the pet as comfortable as possible by treating and managing pain or other ailments the pet may be experiencing. Over the years, veterinarians are now specifically trained to identify pain in pets. It is a lot more involved and difficult than one would think. But, people should also think of the fun things still left to do.
Dedicate time every day to spend with your pet. Take plenty of videos and pictures. Record his or her bark or meow. Spoil your pet. Say no to a few extra work or social commitments to hang out with your pet for the night. Have fun with your pet and try to delay any sadness until after a pet passes. They pick up on our emotions extremely well. Make them feel special every day. And, above all else, when your pet is no longer happy, can no longer improve, and can no longer be pain-free, make the most loving decision for your pet and see him through until the end. By providing your pet with this peace, you will know in your heart that you did good by him. You will look back on his passing with love, not regret. You will give him what he gave you – unconditional love. And, although you may be sad, you will be at peace with how his next journey began.
What advice do you have for homes with additional pets that are left behind?
Whenever possible, they should be allowed to be present during the euthanasia. If they prefer to be in another room, let them make that choice. (Exceptions may be young pets who are too immature to “get it”, and pets who are disruptive to the process, e.g. excessive barkers or pets distrustful of strangers). If a pet cannot be in the immediate vicinity, allow him to be able to smell the deceased pet whenever possible. By instinct, they know what death is and they accept it. The most heartbreaking thing is to have a pet pass without the ability of the other pets in the family to know what happened and have them mourn for the pet to come home, not able to explain that he never will. This type of behavior can go on for months. It’s very difficult to watch a pet go through that mental anguish.
I, also, think pets need to adjust to a new “normal”, just like people need to do. Give them more attention, more play time, new toys, and walks in new locations, especially for the first 2 weeks. Changing up the routine helps pets focus on that instead of the loss of their companion. Some people advocate keeping the routine the same for the pet. If you find this to be better for your pet, then add in new things gradually. Pets may also change their roles in the household. For example, if the deceased pet was considered the protector of the home, another pet may now take on that responsibility.
Tell us about your animal family…
All my pets keep me very busy! My family includes dogs, cats, ferrets and a 220 gallon saltwater aquarium. My two dogs are now certified Champion Trick Dogs, and they participate in Nosework, Agility, and Dock Diving. Getting pets involved in activities after their companion passes helps keep their spirits up by getting to spend time with you and, thereby, strengthening the bond you share.