Heather Hausmann got her cat Tabby as a birthday gift when she was a teenager and for nearly two decades the cat was a part of her life.
"I had her when I was 16 years old," Hausmann said. "The cat moved all over the country with me. She had been with me forever."
Then this past spring Tabby got really sick.
"I could just tell we were at the end," Hausmann said. "Kidney failure, heart failure, as well as hypothyroidism. A lot of things that were going away with her and it didn't matter what I was doing, I was going to lose her."
A Bloomfield Hills native, Hausmann decided to Google whether anyone provided at-home euthanization. That is when she discovered Courtney Graham and Lap of Love.
Courtney Graham is the only veterinarian in southeast Michigan working for Lap of Love.
Lap of Love is a network of veterinarians that come to pet owners' homes to put a dog or cat to sleep.
Graham came to Hausmann's home the day after she called.
"She came in and the first thing she did was hug me," said Hausmann.
"I think that's the biggest hurdle for people is they're thinking about it and they know that it's coming, and then to actually pick up the phone and to know and to talk to somebody about that and schedule that appointment is difficult to do," said Graham.
"A vast majority of my clients fall into one of two categories: Clients who have big old dogs that it's just a process of getting them into the clinic and can't get them get into the car, out of the car, into the clinic and then into the exam room," explains Graham. "The other part of my clients is the cats. My clients say they haven't been to the vet in a very long time and they get scared, and I don't want them to be scared."
"What we've found in veterinary medicine is that fear is almost worse than pain for animals," she adds. "And people don't want that last bit of their beautiful life that they've had for them to be afraid."
Hausmann said her cat Tabby was very stressed making the trip to the veterinarian and to be in the clinic and she didn't want her to go through that again.
With Lap of Love, pet owners can find comfort knowing their animals are in their home environment, held by their loved ones, or even lying on their favorite beds.
"That was the first animal I put down. That was my baby," said Hausmann. She has two dogs and another cat.
"You know I probably cry half the time with my appointments because I understand what they're going through," said Graham. "I remember I sedated Tabby and she fell asleep in Heather's arms and I think that was wonderful because the last thing both of you had was her falling asleep with you."
"I'm able to ease that suffering and help the family say goodbye the most dignified and loving way," adds Mary Gardner, one of the founders of Lap of Love.
Fellow veterinarian, Jeff Werber, also recommends the at-home service over the clinic environment.
"There's something really special about doing it this way," he said. "When it comes to this time where it is their last experience on this earth, do I want them in an environment where they are agitated, where they're anxious, where there might be a bit of a fear?"
Lap of Love also offers Hospice for pets. This end-of-life program provides support, medical care and comfort for animals during their final days.
"You never want to extend suffering, but if I go to a patient's house and I feel like I can extend their life and have more good days, then that's what we're looking to do is extend the number of good days that they have," said Graham.
As part of the service, Graham gives her clients a mold of the pet's paw and a lock of fur for them to remember their furry loved one.
"I just didn't want to take her back to the vet," she said. "It was a hard experience, but by far it was the best way I could ever think to do it."
For more information Graham and the service she provides, click here.