Dr. Robin Holmes starts off a typical day as a veterinarian with several phone consultations. During each call, she discusses the patient’s history, health status, and quality of life. Holmes then makes one to five house calls. While many veterinarians focus on an animal’s life, Holmes’s main concern is how to make the animal’s death comfortable and peaceful.
Holmes offers in-home pet euthanasia, a procedure that allows an animal to die in his or her home. The Pasadena veterinarian also provides resources, support, and even online candle lighting memorials as part of her services. Holmes opened in 2010 her fulltime San Gabriel Valley practice, Gifts of Peace, and since then has received an increasing number of requests for in-home pet euthanasia each year, totaling more than 1,000.
“Home-based euthanasia is a peaceful, comfortable, and relaxed process that has been rising in popularity in Los Angeles County,” Holmes said. “I believe that if more families knew about it they would choose in-home pet euthanasia, but making that choice is always a very personal decision.”
After graduating from North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991, Holmes spent most of her time as a clinical veterinarian supporting clients as their pets grew sicker, even traveling to clients' homes on those final days. She dedicated herself to in-home pet euthanasia fulltime to help struggling families who were watching their pets die.
“I have watched owners in the clinic make that long, lonely walk from the hospital to the car with an empty leash,” Holmes said. “In-home pet euthanasia is not only for the pet that is shy or arthritic, or the cat who hates to travel in the case. It is for all pets and owners that want to be in their own home or beds with their family next to them.”
In-home pet euthanasia can be offered by any licensed veterinarian, and many veterinary hospitals in the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys refer their clients to Holmes and other in-home pet euthanasia practitioners. “When it comes to euthanasia and for a client to say goodbye to their loved family member, to a regular brick and mortar veterinary hospital like ours, it does not matter where the actual procedure take place," said Dr. Stan Avezov of Pasadena Pets Veterinary Hospital. "We want this last experience for the client and their pet to be as comfortable and pleasant as it could be."
The pet owner designs the final home visit with Holmes. It can take place in a sunny garden spot or a favorite chair in the house. Owners can include meaningful items, such as candles or readings. Family, friends, and other pets often gather together, and at times family members in other cities will join in on video conference call during the pet's final moments.
It was a matter of honor for South Pasadena resident Mavi Llamas to allow her dog to die at home. “It's been almost two months since I had to make the decision to let go of my dog, George, after loving her for almost 17 years,” Llamas said. “As difficult and painful as that decision was to make, I am glad that we honored her with a dignified death in her home, surrounded by the people she looked after and loved for so many years.”
“Home is where we would all like to be on our final day — in our own bed, surrounded by loved ones,” Holmes said. “At such a difficult time, I’m honored to be part of these families’ lives, to share in their memories, and to be able to bring some peace and comfort to owners and their beloved pets."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sarah Grear is an Alhambra Source community contributor as well as public relations manager for Gifts of Peace.