Parting With Your Pet: Saying goodbye to our four-legged friends

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Maya the Bernese Mountain dog spends most of her days getting belly rubs and peanut butter. From an outsider's perspective it may look like she just getting spoiled by her owners, but really, she is enjoying her last few weeks of life.

maya-good-1Maya is battling bone cancer, she was diagnosed last month after a tumor was found in one of her front legs.

Her owners, Karen and Mike Neymark, now only have a few weeks to say goodbye.

"When we had our first appointment we were told her prognosis was two to six weeks," said Karen.

The Neymark's have lost pets before, they say the experience of bringing their pets back and forth to animal hospitals was traumatic - which is they are bringing in Hampton Roads Veterinary Hospice for Maya's care.

"It is a sad topic that we deal with every single day but when we leave a house I feel like I have helped that family, and that pet especially stay more comfortable," explained Tyler Carmack, the Medical Director of Hampton Roads Veterinary Hospice.

Carmack's facility is only one out of the 15 veterinary hospices in Virginia. There are two based in Hampton Roads.

"It's really calling in another team to help create the quality of life that you want," explained Carmack. "It's not just for a home euthanasia, it is really a comfort care team and support for the family as well throughout that whole process."

Karen says she found out about veterinary hospice years ago. She had hoped that she wouldn't need it, but that changed with Maya's diagnosis.

"With the bone cancer having to get her in and out of a car would have been so uncomfortable and stressful," said Karen.

Now Maya's care comes to her. Her medications are mixed in the family's kitchen sink and her treatments are administered in the living room, where Maya and her family are most comfortable.

"I think it is probably in many ways more reassuring to the family," said Karen. "The dog gets the benefit of the pain management and the pain control, but because they can't talk, I need a lot of reassurance."

Maya's family is now able to spend their final days filled with love, instead of worry.

For now, Maya still has her good days and bad days. When the bad days become more common, hospice gives her family a plan.

"The dog is made comfortable and there is someone there to help us make the decision when it is time to euthanize," said Dr. Carmack.

Until then, the Neymarks are letting Maya enjoy life at home with plenty of treats.

"She really likes eating and now she doesn’t even have to ask for it," laughed Karen. "She gets roast beef and sweet potatoes. She gets pretty much anything I can think of that she will like."