About Beside Still Water - Why We Do What We Do

He just wouldn’t get up. For years he had been slowing down—laying down, halfway up the little rise on the walk back home—but that day he would not get up. Paddy, his buddy of 14 years had died that morning, at home with him by his side and I guess he decided that he wanted to go with him.

It took three weeks of Bear refusing to get up, being carried outside several times a day, chewing off and swallowing the bandages we placed to protect his down leg before we finally gave in and agreed to help him die.

We planned a Sunday trip to his favorite camping site. We took a picnic because it was my birthday. He loved the three-hour ride, snoozing the whole way till we crossed the cattle guard at the canyon entrance. He jumped up as always, smiling and wagging. It was the same slow wagging smile that had grabbed my heart the first time I saw him as an injured pup in my emergency clinic, face smashed by a run-in with a car. It was the smile that said, “I trust you to help me.”

Later, as he sat on the bank where we usually pitched the tent, his head was held high; his rusty gold hair flowed as softly as ripe wheat in the breeze. He gazed expectantly across the quiet water. I listened intently, with my heart the way my Daddy taught me to do. And even though my heart was breaking, I could hear him so clearly. “I’m ready to cross over. Paddy is waiting for me.”

After all these years, my heart breaks. But it gave me the courage to hear my calling and, in time, to define the mission of Beside Still Water: to assist pet owners in providing a peaceful passing for beloved animal companions in their home or wherever the pet feels safe and comfortable.

As a veterinarian who has had many pets, I have had the opportunity to let each of my own animal’s death reflect what seemed right for that pet. (They are all different, unique.) I simply wanted other people who love their pets to have the same choices I did. Beside Still Water, my at-home euthanasia practice, came into being in February 2000.

Since then, I have been able to help many people with euthanasia for their small animal pets in the privacy of their own homes where they are able to plan ceremonies or grieve in any manner they wish; this may include time with the pet after death. I also assist with options for disposition of the body including transportation to the crematory, attendance at cremation or burial, and arrangement for the return of cremains.

People strongly attached to their pets who want them to be able to die in familiar surroundings with family and friends in attendance will find that I can afford them the time and emotional space they need for grieving each individual’s passing. I am honored when people will allow me to be with them at this most intimate time in their life together, when one life ends and another begins.

-Dr Ann Brandenburg-Schroeder

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