Furry Friends Find Help

Feb 262007
Authors: Amy Robinson

Zeke was already suffering from cancer when he was tangled up in a car accident that fractured his legs, but with the comfort of CSU veterinary hospice, the black Labrador retriever was able to live his last days with his owners, the Kahl family.

“Pet hospice became instrumental in keeping Zeke out of the hospital,” said Stesha Kahl, Zeke’s owner. “They were able to check his wounds and tell us whether or not we should have doctors look at them.”

The CSU pet hospice program was implemented four years ago. The program was developed jointly by local veterinarians, Front Range Community College and the Argus Institute at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“A vet in the community saw the need for the program and the vet students took it on. Since then, our clientele has grown,” said second-year veterinary student and hospice team manager Katie McDermott.

First through third year veterinary students volunteer their services to care for animals that have been diagnosed as terminally ill. They make house calls to areas within 30 minutes of CSU. The students work together with grief counselors from the Argus Institute, a program geared toward dealing with the loss of a pet.

“Losing a pet is pretty close to losing a human,” McDermott said. “It depends on the role of the animal in the family. Some people don’t recognize the societal impact of pets and ways of grieving for an animal.”

Dave and Stesha Kahl, who have two children, decided to try the service because Zeke was like one of the family, they said.

After Zeke was involved in a car accident, Zeke’s ability to recover from his already-diagnosed cancer became more difficult.

“We were taking him to the veterinary hospital twice a week so the doctors could look at pins in his legs,” Stesha Kahl said.

Veterinary students give clients information about pain identification and they supply the vet with progress reports regarding how the animal is doing. The hospice workers monitor the animal’s behavior and dietary needs. In addition, they help families decide what is best for the animal to ensure quality of life.

Besides checking Zeke’s wounds several times a week, the veterinary students acted as a support system for Stesha Kahl and her family.

“I have two young children and the hospice workers brought them stories about saying goodbye,” Kahl said. “They allowed my daughter to ask questions and added a good perspective to the experience.”

The veterinary students helped Kahl and her husband through the grieving process.

“They gave us emotional support and guided us in the decision of when to euthanize Zeke,” she said. “They let my husband know that any time was OK.”

The Kahls are not the only ones who benefited from the experience.

“As vet students, we are able to improve and learn from these experiences,” said Kelly Carlsten, a third-year veterinary student and hospice team manager. “(Losing a pet) is never an easy process and anything we can do to make it easier is something. We are happy to support the community.”

Carlsten was careful to point out that the program is not for or against euthanasia. Instead, it advocates what is best for the animal.

Although it was very difficult for the Kahl family to lose their dog, they were grateful to the pet hospice.

“It was a nice way to show respect and a decent end to his life,” Kahl said. “We (with the help of hospice) were able to care for him as long as possible. Hospice allowed him to be at home more.”

Staff writer Amy Robinson can be reached at news@collegian.com.


For information about CSU’s Pet Hospice Program go online at http://www.argusinstitute.colostate.edu/pethospice.htm or call 219-7335. The Argus Institute may be visited at 300 W. Drake Road. Questions can be e-mailed to pethosp@colostate.edu.

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