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

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 and/or cremation 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, a cockatiel, chickens, rats, mice, turtles, 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

Laura Pierce is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and a graduate of the University of Vermont’s Companion Animal End-of-Life Certificate Program. Laura’s commitment to the well-being of others is anchored in her role as a social worker and educator. These experiences included private practice in family therapy, Emergency Department social work and Healthcare Faculty at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU).

Laura is a lifelong animal companion enthusiast, having shared her home with dogs and cats. She lives in downtown Portland with her wife of 21 years. Laura enjoys hiking/walking with her dog Ruby, cooking, and spending time with her family.

Gail Krueger, CCMT

Gail Krueger has loved and been loved by dogs for as long as she can remember. The dog-guided path that brought her to this point started with a little dog named Winnie, who she rescued from traffic. Winnie was her first agility dog. Competing with Winnie in agility brought her in contact with Jeanie Ward, a massage therapist who was starting a canine practice. Jeanie mentored Gail through her Certified Canine Massage Therapist certification from the Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage where she took additional coursework in working with senior pets. Gail has worked with herding breed rescue groups for more than 15 years. She has shared her life with several elderly dogs; her current pack includes a 15.5-year-old border collie, a 12-year-old blind Kelpie, two young Aussies, and a cattle dog.

When not surrounded by dogs, Gail’s career life has included stints as an environmental reporter, communications director for a Riverkeeper organization, and communications officer for a federal natural resources agency.

Jennie Johnston

Johana (Jennie) Johnston was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest.  She is a self-employed business owner with a great love for all animals, and a deep commitment to supporting others. She has shared her life with a menagerie of pets, ranging from turtles and lizards to frogs, hedgehogs, and dogs. This has given Jennie a unique and genuine comfort with death and dying, allowing her to be a compassionate support to those going through loss.

With over 25 years of volunteering in education and community settings, including roles with schools, churches, and the Girl Scouts, Jennie has left a lasting impact on many lives. In 2023, Jennie completed the End-Of-Life Professional Certification from the University of Vermont, enhancing her ability to provide holistic support during pivotal moments of loss.

Jennie finds joy in long walks with her hilarious, energetic dog, Boone, and she enjoys travel, reading, hiking/camping, trying new foods, and bird watching.

Jennie’s family includes her husband of 23 years, 2 daughters, a son-in-law, and Godsons.

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