Ronald Yunis, MD
Of all the memories that I have accumulated in my almost fifty years on this planet, the one that absolutely never leaves my mind is from almost twenty years ago. It was the day we knew that we had to let Aisha go. The mast cell tumor that her original vet had failed to diagnose had finally won the battle and was everywhere in her now emaciated body. Her appetite was gone, she barely had the strength to even rise from her favorite bed, and when she did manage to get up, she would fall with her first step. Where before she was surviving, she was now suffering. The time had come. We called the vet's office and they set up a time for later that day when we could bring her in. I so wished she had simply not woken up that morning, instead remaining in her puppy dreams where she would chase cars or cats or whatever it is that we imagine dogs dream about when we watch them sleeping. But instead of peacefully passing in sleep in the comfort and security of her home and near those she loved and who loved and cared for her from the day an unbalanced, wrinkly, 8-week old puppy waddled into our lives, she would have to make yet another, final trip to a place filled with the smells and sounds of fear and people who she did not know or recognize and who, despite their best efforts and intentions, seemed to only cause her more discomfort and pain. Instead of a final run in a meadow of her dreams, we had to lift her weakened body into a car for a trip we knew she dreaded and from which we could only return empty-handed and broken-hearted.
Although it is a virtually inevitable conclusion to pet ownership, the deep, never-extinguished pain of a pet's passing is the one thing that delays or even keeps many owners from re-opening the two-way street of joy and love that comes from sharing their lives with pets. There had to be another way.
Some ten years later, MiMi, one of our four Shar-Peis fell suddenly ill with what turned out to be amyloidosis, a universally fatal condition specific and common to this breed. Typically there is significant pain and suffering as the kidneys fail and the toxins build up in the body, often accompanied by vomiting and painful cramping. As part of treatment to keep her alive, hydrated, and to limit her pain, our vet helped us establish a permanent IV access. As a doctor, I was able to administer hospice care for her myself with daily IV fluids. When I explained to her vet that I did not want her (nor us) to go through the same experience we had gone through with Aisha, he noted that with the existing IV access the procedure could be done at home. In fact, he told me, for some "special" clients, many vets would actually do a home visit and perform "at home" euthanasia. When the time came and MiMi could no longer fight her disease, we gathered on her favorite couch with her canine brothers and sisters and our young daughter, held MiMi closely in our laps, and administered a medicine that simply allowed her to go to sleep. Peacefully, without fear or pain, and in the comfort of the place and among the people and creatures she unconditionally loved and who had loved her for her too-short life.
With more research, I also learned that in addition to this "off the menu" service offered by local vets, there were also mobile vets who specialized at home euthanasia. But if I did not know about them how many others did not? It turned out almost no one I spoke with knew this service existed. I needed to share this knowledge with the rest of the pet world, but how? As the internet and mobile devices grew and more and more services became available and viral social media became firmly entrenched in our society, I knew the answer. After more than a year of additional research, asking literally hundreds of friends, acquaintances, fellow pet owners, and even vets about their experiences, needs, and desires, a plan began to develop. And from that plan, a website was born: The Pet Nation.
Initially, The Pet Nation was intended to fill the need for educating and providing compassionate, professional, and painless end-of-life care to pets and their owners in the comfort of their own homes. But the realization dawned that a much greater goal could be achieved, to encourage pet owners and provide them with the opportunity to provide more extensive, consistent, and continuous healthcare for their pets in a model that covered their pets' entire lives. With the realization that there exists a giant circle of life, so came the understanding that a large, internet-based healthcare model for pets could simultaneously be used to raise awareness and support for those less fortunate animals, those without homes- rescue pets. With the passing of one pet, another could be saved. And so developed the concept that is now The Pet Nation, Over the Rainbow Bridge, and @HomeVet projects.