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A dog hospice

Written by Huib, published Saturday January 20th, 2018

During the process of dying of my dog many meaningful and actually beautiful sides of it become clear. Some I can describe, while others may take some more time or are simply not appropriate now. This morning I had to chose again whether to take her to the vet, to let her sleep. The vet’s office closes at 1 o’clock on Saturday.
‘I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by’ – Douglas Adams

While writing this, Mats is slowly snoring in her basket. So we didn’t go. She is still alive, but appears to be fading out.

These last days my house has turned into a dog hospice and I don’t believe Mats ever had so many visitors as during the last weeks.

Yesterday afternoon, she was in a bad state. She hardly had attention for anything, even when I wanted to give her a dog treat. Until the doorbell rang. Below you can see what happened next…

I become both happy and sad when I see this movie. Happy because she loved it and reacted to being provoked like this. Sad because I can see how her young and previously strong body actually was no longer able to do this anymore. After my friend left, Mats collapsed.

Is a miracle still possible? Of course it is. Can I force it to happen? No. Does regular medicine have any treatment? No, that type is cancer kills all dogs who get it. According to the statistics, she should have died 3 weeks ago.

Is it a bad thing that she is probably dying? Well, we all die at some point. She, me, you. When cannot decide when or by what, but what we can do is chose how to meet that end.

In this case it basically boils down to the question if I can trust my own ability to make the best choices for her (and me), when it is needed. Either by doing something or by not doing something.

It reminds me of the last days I spent with my father in a French hospice, when he was dying in 2002. Which has become a fond memory now.

Choices and decisions

I once learned the distinction between deciding and choosing, which I found very helpful in the process with my father and now with my dog. Whenever I used it in personal coaching or educational programs around though and complex choices, this distinction seem to help greatly. I can now apply it myself.

Deciding could be typified as a process of prioritising pros and cons. In this case, it would mean that I need to decide for her if and when to end her life. And also take into account when the vet is open and that the fee is double in the weekend. Then I should prevent ‘unnecessary misery’ for another being, who has no literal language to tell me if this is the case and who does not live in the concept of ‘time’.

Choosing is a very different place to come from, as it happens in the ‘now’. Time and predictive scenarios suddenly seize to exist. The only thing you need to choose it is your intuition and the ability to ‘hear’ and trust it.

With my father, I had to use a rational approach, because he worked like that. There was also a practical issue: he was completely ‘stoned’ from all the morphine he got in the hospital. He had already decided that he wanted to prolong his life by doing more chemo and has signed a euthanasia form.

But France is a Catholic country, so the form was not valid there. And I sincerely doubted if he really wanted to have more days. So I asked the doctor to take him off the morphine in order to have a clear mind and sketched three scenario’s on a piece up paper to help him make up his mind. Asking my father what he felt, would only cause him confusion and stress, as he had always found it hard to access the emotional side of himself.

The options were to go home, get chemo in the hospital and get increasingly more ill, with the possibility to extend his life six more months (according to the statistics). Or to go to a hospice and let it be. Only when I asked why he wanted to live six more months, the answer was completely clear for him: I did not have a pregnant wife, so he did not have to wait to see his new grandchild.

He chose the hospice and died peacefully within five days. Although he could not talk anymore, it was clear that he was uncomfortable with dying. I am pretty sure it was the Calvinistic ‘hell & damnation’ religion he grew up in, that bothered him. I found a way to calm him down and stayed with him, while reading a book at his bedside. The book was ‘hundred years of loneliness’ by Marquez, which fitted well.

At the fifth day I suddenly felt a strong impulse to leave him alone, as if he asked me for space to leave. I took my book and had dinner at a terrace of the village, in which the hospice was beautifully located on top of a hill. When I was finished reading, I went back and found my father dead.

With a dog the process works differently, but for me it basically works the same. I just need to find another language to communicate and sense in the moment what is best. If I use outside signals and try to have a secure measure based on which I make the right decision, I drive myself crazy. But if I trust my connection with her, I will know what to chose. At the right time.

Stoned again

I am as human as any of you. So of course I also sometimes doubt my ability to distinguish between intuitive feelings and emotions caused by fears or stress. Especially in a situation in which I am not neutral about the outcome and in which many people have opinions on what I should do or not, like the current one.

Last week I had an experience that reminded me of how perfect the communication between Mats and me is, and of my sensitivity to ‘pick things up’. I had ordered THC oil for her, as I understood from The Sacred Plant series that it could possibly help her cure from cancer or would at least ease any pain she may have. But I gave her too many drops in her food and she got a trip. ‘As stoned as a shrimp’, as they say in my country. Which she did not like at all.

I somehow noticed, even though I was in another room when it happened. When I put my hand on her chest to comfort her, I also became stoned. Without taking any oil myself. We tripped for nearly two hours together and when I came out of it, she was fine again.


I know she trust me to do that for the both of us. I know – helped by that THC experience – that I can trust my own abilities to make the right choice in the current context. Maybe that unconditional trust is why dogs have so much meaning for so many people. They are better at it than we are.


P.S. when I started sharing these little stories about Mats, I could not have imagined how many people were inspired or moved by them. Apart from the fact that it simply helps me to write down and share parts of this precious yet intense project, it also seems that people get the same out of it as from my book about Lyme.

It connects them back to how precious life is and to what matters to many; even to those who do not have the experience of being connected to animals. Small everyday stories, connected to broader or deeper layers of our existence, are possibly easier to digest than articles about complex topics such as Lyme. At least they are much shorter than what I used to write.

drs. Huib Kraaijeveld

In: Blog Mats a Dog

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