Is there a Doggy Undertaker?
September 9, 2014 12:45 PM   Subscribe

Our 17 year-old Shepherd-Husky mix, Gertrude, was diagnosed with lymphoma earlier this summer. Given her condition and advanced age, I worry that one day I'll come home from work or downstairs in the morning and find that she's passed. I've been fretting about what to do with her body, should this occur.

Yes, I would take her to the vet's office, but if they are closed? Emergency vet? We also have a dog-sitter in this weekend, I'd like to know what to tell him to do with her, should this happen.

We know the end is nearing, and are watching her like a hawk, to see if she's ready to "give up", but she's just not ready to go yet. We've accepted her eventual demise and are just enjoying the time we have left with her.
posted by sarajane to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
ask your vet who they would recommend. i'm positive they would know of pet burial/cremation services you can call. when my beloved schroeder passed away sooner than anticipated from renal failure earlier this year, our vet provided the contact number for a pet cremation service in town (as i had indicated that i would prefer cremation). you can do a drop off or they provided pick up service as well. you can contact them in advance to talk about your options so that they'll be prepared once gertrude passes.

so sorry you are going through this.
posted by violetk at 12:50 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Emergency vet can handle the arrangements (they just keep her until the service comes and picks her up, and they probably use the same service the regular vet uses, though you can call both and ask) if your vet isn't open.

You may want to speak to them ahead of time to find out what your options will be. I always end up a little stunned and signing things and then being surprised at the ceramic pawprint and lock of hair or whatever else comes back.

It is entirely possible that the cremation services offer home pickup these days. It's worth checking out.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:51 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm so, so sorry you're in this situation.

Our Maggie died suddenly one Saturday afternoon. We left her in our neighbor's yard to play with their dog (who was also her mother) and when we returned several hours later we found her, too late. We took her body to the emergency vet, who arranged for cremation and informed our regular vet.

I'd be upfront with the dog-sitter. It would be worth finding out his/her comfort level in dealing with the situation should it occur.

On preview, if the cremation service offered pick-up that would certainly be a nice option - one less thing for you to have to deal with amid the sadness of loss. Or perhaps there is a friend, or a staff member at your vet's, who might be willing to help?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:55 PM on September 9, 2014

If you want your dog cremated, I know our local Humane Society offers pet cremation services. Perhaps yours does too.
posted by lizbunny at 12:56 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've worked in veterinary medicine for almost 10 years now. I would do the following, ahead of time:
1. Call your regular vet to see if they have any recommendations/preferences. They probably will not, and will suggest you call
2. The 24hr emergency service your regular vet refers to. Find out what cremation options they offer and the prices -- private cremation (where the remains are returned to you) can be expensive. If they seem very expensive, you may want to call
3. Area cremation services. Unless you are in a very rural area there will be one nearby. They may or may not offer services directly to the public and may or may not offer pick up services -- it varies quite widely.

The fourth option is very geographically limited, but if you happen to live near a university that has a veterinary medicine program and operates a 24hr teaching hospital, it is likely they offer very reasonable prices for cremation, and your pet may provide educational opportunities to the students, if that is something that appeals to you. Good luck with your sweet and cool little buddy.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:06 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am so sorry for what you are going through. I can't add anything to what everyone else has already said, except to add that we just went through this with our beloved Teddy. Our own vet did offer this service, but, as it turned out, we had to go to the ER Vet as our vet was closed when the end came. They provided the service as well, and they were open 24/7 so it wasn't an issue. Unless you live in a very rural area, your vet will probably offer this service.

Our little one only weighed 20 pounds and the cost of the euthenasia and the cremation was about $260.00. I don't know if the price would change much for a larger dog.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 1:19 PM on September 9, 2014

If you are worried that she will go at any moment, it's time. Take her to the vet, and hold her while she passes. You will hate yourself forever if she passes while you are not there to be with her.
posted by The Blue Olly at 1:20 PM on September 9, 2014 [25 favorites]

I'll second Blue Olly. And, I find having the cremated remains of gone pets very comforting.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:24 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

When my dog passed at home, I sent out a mass email to my friends more or less immediately and two came over to help. One phoned from place to place finding out what was available and what it would cost. The other came later and ended up carrying my dog to the car when the woman came to pick her up. She went wrapped in the blanket on which she'd died (and urinated at that time) and when the woman delivered her ashes to me, returned the blanked, laundered. I don't think that was part of the service package, I think she just did it as a kindness.

The crematoriam was Gateway Pet Memorials. The woman arrived with a catalogue of options, urns etc. They could also have done a burial or a group cremation (in which you don't get the ashes back). The person who came to pick her up was, I think, not employed by them, but some sort of self-contained contracting service (i.e. they just provided a service where they picked up your dog and took it to the crematorium, which which they had no formal relationship, other than delivering the deceased.

So yes, this exists, and there are pick-up and delivery options.

Incidentally, I was not worried she would go at any moment. She was elderly and showed it, but until that morning, I thought we had time. That morning I realized it was time and decided to do it in 5 days (waiting a few days in case the downturn was a temporary illness). Maybe an hour before she passed it was clear that she would die that day without my intervention. I did stay with her all day until she passed though, petting her and talking to her the whole time. I can't imagine how awful I would have felt if I had just come home and found her dead.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:34 PM on September 9, 2014

I had this same concern when my 14-year-old Corgi was at the end. I asked my vet what to do. She gave me the number of a place that will come pick up the body, and also the number of a vet who does emergency house calls in case I wanted her put down at home. (I already knew where the emergency vet.)

Definitely give these numbers to your dog sitter and be frank about what you want them to do. Also do you have a family member or close friend who can come by if this happens? When my family dog died we were out of town and I know my grandfather came by to help the sitter.

You should also give the sitter a barometer as to when/if she should take the dog to the vet should your dog get very sick but not actually die at home. My dog had a different disease than yours but I am really grateful that we were able to euthanize her because she was clearly suffering.

Another thing to consider *now* is what you actually want to do with the body. I am so glad that my SO and I talked about this ahead of time. Neither of us are religious in the slightest and I wanted to just let the vet cremate and be done with it. He wanted to cremate and spread the ashes at a certain place. I was surprised but fine with it (although I wanted no part in the ashes spreading).
posted by radioamy at 1:38 PM on September 9, 2014

So sorry. What @The Blue Olly said. Pet euthanasia is a loving act. What a long life your Gertrude has had! Hugs to you.
posted by hush at 1:40 PM on September 9, 2014

This happened to me a few years ago. I was living alone at the time, I called a friend who came and helped me take my cat's body to the emergency vet (since it was outside of regular hours for my regular vet), since I was too upset to execute decisions well. I had pre-considered cremation options so I knew what to ask for.

You will probably have to tell the vet whether you want your pet's body to be cremated privately, which is more expensive than cremating them with other pets, but if you want the ashes back, I would assume you want the first option.
posted by matildaben at 1:44 PM on September 9, 2014

> If you are worried that she will go at any moment, it's time. Take her to the vet, and hold her while she passes

I agree with this, and add that it's sometimes possible to have a vet make a housecall in this situation so your dog's final time can be at home.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:56 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

P.S. What a beautiful smile!
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:56 PM on September 9, 2014

Our much loved 17 year old girl was euthanized at home. We took the day off of work to be with her and spend our entire day watching and remembering times with her. She died in my husband's arms while I held her paw. I definately would ask your vet about coming to the house. Its' very stressful to the dog to go to the vet's office. Our vet then took her body and her ashes were returned to us. We miss her every day.
posted by stormpooper at 2:02 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Just FYI there is no explicit need for an emergency vet. You can find out your options from your regular vet, and if your beloved friend should die during hours when businesses are closed, you can just put her body wrapped in a blanket somewhere cool and safe, like a screened porch or a back hall until you can transport her during normal business hours. I've had a (large, German Shepard) dog die in Manhattan, and then driven him out to Long Island and transported him on a ferry the next day to reach his favourite resting place.

Also, should you choose to have your dog cremated -- we did this for our most recent dog, though our vet --please be aware that you can usually pre-pay so you don't have to deal with a bill while weeping.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:49 PM on September 9, 2014

Best answer: Contact your local pet burial/cremation service, your vet will very likely be able to recommend one. I have had 3 dogs cremated over the years and have never had anything but caring & supportive service, from people that seem to understand how important what they do is. I have dealt with 3 different companies in 2 different countries & all handled things with as much sensitivity as the people that handled my fathers funeral. I would highly recommend contacting them, if only to find out your options & help you ease your mind about what happens next so you can enjoy the time you have left.

I know our local service here does home "removals" & even offered viewings if you wanted. While there sitter is there, if you have a local service that offered home pick up, you could make arrangements with them explaining your situation so you could give your sitter the number to organize a pick up & arrange with the service to keep the body for you to say goodbye too if needed.

I love the smile in the photo you linked to.
posted by wwax at 3:20 PM on September 9, 2014

when our cat indy died at home we brought her to the local emergency vet, which happened to be attached to the university vet school. we were able to donate her body to the school, which made us feel better because it is something we believe it. (also, and this is horrible, it was free.)

if you don't have a vet school nearby, i would say a 24 hour emergency vet if there is one within driving distance.

if possible, have a friend drive you though, as it is an emotional time and driving under those circumstances is not the best.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 3:25 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cal Pet Crematory in LA handled the cremations for my Daisy and my Lennon.
posted by brujita at 4:53 PM on September 9, 2014

Very sorry to hear of this. Do a search for pet hospice with your city name and zip code. This NYT article discusses pet hospice programs in more detail.

When my beloved Old English Sheepdog Max was nearing his final moments, we contacted a vet who does this as her full-time job. She came over in her truck, gave Max two shots that enabled him to pass peacefully on his favorite pillow (after eating a hot dog), and then she and my dad lifted his body into her truck, and she delivered him to a crematorium. If you're in the LA area, feel free to memail me for her contact info.
posted by invisible ink at 5:27 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

When our beloved dog stopped eating and no cause could be found, our vet told us he would of course eventually die. (I must have asked because he was the sweetest vet in the world.) I also recall saying on a later visit that I feared finding our dog had died. The vet responded that if that happened, it would be the best thing as he would have died peacefully at home. So don't be afraid he said. For some reason this helped a lot and so I share it with you in case it helps. It is a difficult thing losing our friends...
posted by Prayless at 8:05 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Unless your dog is suffering, there is no need to put her down. Sometimes pets surprise us. As long as she is happy and not suffering, enjoy her and let her enjoy her last few weeks on this planet, she deserves it.

She is adorable and seems like you took great care of her. Your vet might suggest the right option for you. I wouldn't give her to a university lab to be dissected as they please. Not a big fan of that since haven't heard too much of respect for a dead being in a lab.
posted by jellyjam at 8:31 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

What a beautiful girl! Definitely seconding the housecall options if possible: the worst part of our 16-yr-old dachshund suddenly going downhill on a weekend was compounded by needing to wait for them to clear their board of more pressing emergencies. It was so stressful for us, and if we hadn't been feeding her All The Ham, it probably would have stressed her, too. Love to you all.
posted by at 9:51 PM on September 9, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all for your kind responses. We've dealt with the procedure at the vet's office with a previous dog. I just wasn't sure what to do if she passed at home. She's still eating and excited at the prospect of a walk, so things are holding steady for the moment. Will be calling for at-home services today.
posted by sarajane at 4:41 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

« Older Best New First Person Shooters (FPS Console)   |   How to eat together, at home, with two different... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.