What is End-of-Life Doula Care for Companion Animals?

For most of us, our pets are our family members. Losing an animal family member is just as devastating as the loss of a human, sometimes, it even feels much worse. There are so many reasons for this, and yet our culture still expects us to be back at work, back to “normal,” after a few hours it seems. Assembly of the Wandering Shepherd knows the decisions that need to be made when a beloved cat, dog, rabbit, Guinea pig, horse, or other companion nears the end of their life can feel overwhelming. Coupled with the loss of sleep and extra stress that comes with caregiving for an animal companion, it’s easy to feel lost or alone.

End-of Life Doulas specializing in animal companion care complement palliative and hospice care provided by veterinarians. We are not medical specialists. We are specialists in the aspects of death and death care that medical providers do not provide. Doulas support animals and their owners with compassionate care in a number of ways, including emotional and informational support during such a difficult time.

Some of the things we can be called on to help with include:

  • Exploring options for palliative or hospice care

  • Discussing euthanasia options

  • Helping humans go over a Quality of Life scale for their animal

  • Planning a “bucket list” for you and your pet

  • Celebration of life events - before and/or after your pet dies

  • Guidance about burial options

  • Ideas for physical memorials

The End-of-Life Doulas who volunteer their time with Assembly of the Wondering Shepherd are all certified through the University of Vermont. We partner with animals of all species and their humans. We do not charge for our services. We’re here to help you as you navigate the challenges of caring for an animal family member while planning for their death, possible death, and/or the activities that come immediately after death.

We are here to help. Let us know what we can do for you today.

Robynn Harris, ODMN, CCFT,

As an Animal Chaplain, Robynn has been helping humans and their animals with end-of-life care decisions for almost a decade. She attended Multnomah Bible College and Emerson Theological Institute before becoming a Certified Canine Fitness Trainer and founding Assembly of the Wandering Shepherd.

“Even with all my Bible, pastoral, and grief training, I still learned SO much on my path to becoming a Death Doula. Paying attention to, and providing for, the needs of the human and the animal is something I strive to do throughout all of the stages of life. And yet there is something really special about serving those as they walk through the last stage.”

Robynn has shared her home with a variety of species over the years, including: cats, a dog, fish, chickens, rats, mice, and snakes. There’s not a critter in existence that Robynn cannot love.

Robynn facilitates our in-person grief discussions and grief art gatherings at AWS’s headquarters in Gresham.

Laura Pierce, LCSW

Gail Krueger, CCMT

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