Help for the hardest decision of all

Dr. Karen Twyning has been helping families say goodbye for more than a decade.  © Jack Mueller

Dr. Karen Twyning has been helping families say goodbye for more than a decade.  © Jack Mueller

There is nothing more heartbreaking for pet parents than when the time nears to say goodbye.  That humans typically outlive their beloved furry loved ones means having to deal with painful end of life decisions.  Some people experience denial, avoiding learning, thinking or talking about final plans.  Others more actively pursue support for this difficult time.  Either way, the time does come, and deciding whether to let a loved one go naturally or to aid him or her through the process of euthanasia can make a huge difference for both pet and person.

Karen Twyning, DVM, has worked with thousands of families struggling with issue in the past decade.  As founder of the national organization Pet Loss At Home, Twyning has created a “growing national network of expertly trained mobile vets dedicated to private pet euthanasia in the comfort of their home.”  The organization also provides support, 12 hours a day, seven days a week, in the form of free discussions about quality of life, signs of suffering, and advice for when to euthanize.  Twyning considers the decision to euthanize “the last loving gift” we can offer our beloved friends.  She calls her work her life’s mission, saying it’s been her honor and privilege to gift families’ pets with “final peace at home.”

Drawing on her many experiences in this work, Twyning authored a guidebook in hopes that families might have a conversation about end-of-life decisions before the emotional turmoil and reality of losing their loved one arrives.  The Euthanasia Guidebook for Pet Owners offers tools and discussion points aimed at helping families prepare for the loss of a pet.

Short and to the point, the guide covers topics such as “End-of-Life Situations,” “Quality of Life Factors” and “How to Cope with Pet Loss,” including the subject of grieving.  Handled gently, grieving is discussed with sensitivity to the emotional impact on families, individuals, and surviving pets.

Perhaps the most comprehensive section of the book deals with preparing for euthanization at home, including services Twyning’s organization can provide, pricing information, and discussion of whether or not children should be present.  Also covered are how euthanasia actually works, and available options for the deceased pet’s body. 

Dr. Twyning does not approach these subjects lightly or in a manner that feels clinically detached.  Her love and devotion for her work is apparent throughout, as is her dedication to ensuring families of pets near death are emotionally prepared and that the animals in her care are tenderly cared for in their final hours.

The Euthanasia Guidebook offers valuable information and insight into this difficult process.  The 16-page booklet is available for $9.99 and can be downloaded at; a free flip-book version is also available.