Monday 23 October 2017

Easing the pain of putting down your sick family pet

Vet Liz McCollum-Ryan
Vet Liz McCollum-Ryan

FOR any loving dog owner, their beloved pet's final moments are often an emotional time as they vie to ensure they are comfortable if the time comes for them to be put down. But for all too many people, this involves a trip to the local veterinary surgeon, a stressful experience for owner and dog alike.

Coolkenno native Elizabeth McCollum-Ryan will hope to eliminate this experience with her new specialist service Bowwout – the first of its kind in Ireland – a dedicated-end-of-life service which allows the pet owner to part ways with their companion in the comfort of their own home, minimising stress for both parties.

An experienced veterinary practitioner, Elizabeth plied her trade in Carlow for many years, serving as county veterinary officer, before working for a time in local government there. Having left this a few years ago, she since recognised the need for such a service, and thus Bowwout came into being.

'I felt that a specialised veterinary service for pets at the end of their lives, and for their grieving owners, might be welcomed,' she says. 'I spoke to pet-owners, who really liked the idea, and veterinary colleagues, many of whom said they find home visits for euthanasia time-consuming and emotionally draining, and were interested in the concept of a high-quality service of this nature. I came to the conclusion that it could evolve into a business.'

A veteran veterinarian, Elizabeth has put down many pets over the years, but the concept of Bowwout only really hit home when a friend asked her to put her pet to sleep, at which point she came to appreciate how much the whole experience means to an owner and how a sympathetic ear at hand can make all the difference.

'Although over the years I have put down many dogs on the consulting table of a veterinary surgery, I hadn't fully appreciated the deep emotion felt by many owners until last year, when a friend asked me to come to her home and put down her old paralysed dog,' she explains.

'This was not an unusual request and so I went over and we chatted about it first. She was tearful, as you might expect, but resigned. Together we tended to the dog, and as she stroked his head he slipped away.

'Much later she contacted me to say she wanted to emphasise how much it had meant to her that her dog had died gently and without fear, in familiar surroundings.'

When it comes to the procedure itself, Elizabeth will sedate the pet first to ensure it dozes off in the comfort of its own home, a process close to her heart as she recently put her own dog down using this very method.

'I was in India in January doing surgery and when I came home she had developed a serious tumour; I knew she was going to have to be put down,' she recalls. 'Normally, when you put down an animal they're given an intravenous injection. But what I did – and what I'm going to do in Bowwout to give the owners more time – is gave her a sedative first, so she could go to her favourite place before falling asleep. It was lovely because she died where she was happiest and felt safest.'

The business will also assist with the pet's disposal after death through a contract with the Irish Pet Crematoria for owners who would prefer not to dispose of their pet themselves. For those who do, she will retail bio-degradable cardboard coffins.

Wicklow People