By Andrea Brown Herald Writer
On Rocky’s last night, he didn’t wag his tail.
His human family knew it was his time to go.
“He was done,” said matriarch Marcia Layouni.
The 11-year-old golden retriever with a spring to his step and stuffed toy fetish had terminal cancer.
There was a plan in place when Rocky suddenly quit eating, walking and wagging. It was for him to die at home, with his family and stuffed animals.
“We saw him out just like we brought him here,” she said.
They arranged for Edmonds veterinarian Dr. Sara Hopkins to do at-home euthanasia.
“It’s a way to make it easier for the pets and also for the owners,” Hopkins said.
Her business, Compassion 4 Paws, has boomed in the year and a half since she left a Bellevue practice to make house calls specializing in acupuncture, hospice and euthanasia for dogs and cats.
She performs about 50 home euthanasias a month in the greater Seattle area. Often, she meets the family for the first time when she arrives to do the lethal injection. Much of the planning is done by phone, with Hopkins summoned to the house on short notice at the end when the animal starts to suffer.
“When it’s that time, it’s that time,” Hopkins said. “And you need to act fast.”
On a Friday night in March, Hopkins got the call and was at the Layouni family’s Everett home early Saturday morning.
“He went downhill fast. He couldn’t get up on his feet,” said Sami Layouni, 23. “Until then, he was still eating and wagging his tail.”
Sami and Rocky were best buds. “All my growing up years I had him,” he said.
He was 11 when his mom took him to a breeder to get a dog.
“He was being raised by me, a single mom, and he had a sister and two female cats,” Marcia Layouni said. “So I decided he needed a boy in the house.”
Sami knew immediately which pup was the right one. “He got his head stuck in the gate trying to see us,” he said.
Rocky had a thing for stuffed objects.
“He had to have something in his mouth. It was either a stuffed animal or a pillow,” Marcia Layouni said. “He never chewed them. Our neighbors would say it’s like he’s assembling a living room in the yard.”
On that final Friday night, Sami and his sister, Troy, 20, slept upstairs in their mother’s room with Rocky. Nobody got much sleep.
Saturday morning, Sami carried Rocky downstairs to the front room and put him on a blanket with his favorite toys. “I put one of my T-shirts underneath him,” Sami said.
Hopkins assisted from there.
“He was just laying down like he was sleeping,” Sami said. “He was already kind of asleep and she kind of sedated him. I went upstairs at that point and she finished it. I felt a lot better that it was done in such a beautiful way.”
Still, there were a lot of tears.
“It was sad as all hell,” Sami said. “It was the best possible way. I would have gone crazy any other way.”
Marcia Layouni said Hopkins “made it meaningful. It was a very special day.”
The family opted to have Rocky cremated, which Hopkins arranged. She returned several days later with the ashes in a wooden box.
Rocky’s blanket and stuffed toys were cremated with him, but Hopkins brought a new keepsake for the family: A clay print of his paw with his name.
She made the mold before Rocky died.
Her fees range from $255 for a house call with sedation to about $500 for a private cremation with the remains delivered personally.
“I worked in a clinic for many years. Seeing animals come in, they’d be so scared. And I thought, that’s their last moment on Earth. There has to be something else we can do for them,” Hopkins said.
“As people, we have all this anticipatory grief and sadness. An animal doesn’t have that. They live in the moment. For Rocky just to be here in his home with his three favorite people in the universe then slip away and fall asleep, it couldn’t have been any nicer. He was with his people.”
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org
At home euthanasia
What happens during the procedure?
The pet receives an injection of a sedative and pain reliever, which will allow the pet to fall into a comfortable and deep sleep within several minutes.
Surrounded by loved ones and sound asleep, the pet will be given a final injection of a barbiturate to bring about a pain-free death.
What happens after?
After euthanasia, Hopkins will take the pet and coordinate cremation services. If the family wishes, their pet may have an individual cremation so that the remains are returned to the owner in an urn or wooden box.
For more information, call Sara Hopkins at 425-802-2444 or go to www.compassion4paws.com.
Source: Dr. Sara Hopkins