A Lutz veterinarian has been named the “Pet Industry Woman of the Year” by the Women in the Pet Industry Network.
Dr. Dani McVety is the co- founder of Lap of Love, a company based in Lutz that is made up of a national network of veterinarians who provide hospice and in-home euthanasia for pets.
Besides winning the the network’s overall award, McVety also received the “Advocate” award for 2016 from the national group at its conference in Portland, Oregon.
McVety, who grew up on a horse farm in Odessa, didn’t set out to earn national acclaim.
She said her company began as a sideline to help her pay off her student loans.
She hopes, however, it will help lead to a paradigm shift in the way veterinarians work with pet owners in the last days of a pet’s natural life.
“We are trying to change how end-of-life care is done,” she said.
She recently recounted how her company began.
“This woman came in with a Chihuahua,” she said.
The pet was wrapped in a little gray blanket, and the woman knew she was euthanizing her dog that day.
She asked McVety: “Can you leave him on my lap? I don’t want him on the cold sterile table. I don’t want him to touch anything but my lap.”
That approach went against her training, the veterinarian said.
“We’re taught, ‘You take him in the back, you place an IV catheter, and you bring him back in the room.’ That’s the most acceptable way of doing it,” she said.
But, McVety decided to honor the woman’s wishes.
“I’m looking at this woman, and I’m going: ‘Why not? Why can’t we do what she wants me to do?”
“I said, ‘Sure. I’m going to do that.’
“So, I sedated him through the blanket, which is something that we normally would not do.
“I gave him the second one.
“It was beautiful. It was perfect. I remember thinking, that’s what all pets deserve. They all deserve to be on your lap, the whole time. That’s what they want. That’s where they’re most loved,” McVety said.
She decided to create her own business and to call it “Lap of Love.”
A friend and veterinarian — Mary Gardner — joined her to take the business nationwide, through a network of veterinarians.
Initially, McVety thought she’d be doing more hospice work.
“What I discovered early on was that people wanted in-home euthanasia. Really, what they want is a really good conversation before giving permission to step into that space — and then a really, nice peaceful euthanasia.”
McVety estimates that about 30 percent of the 2,000 calls that come in each week are for hospice consultations. Of those, she said, about 90 percent result in an in-home euthanasia.
McVety said her background in ER veterinary services helped her realize that she has a knack for helping people who are facing a difficult time with their pet.
“I really enjoy working with the people who love their animals.
“In ER work, that translates into helping somebody understand what’s happening in a very short amount of time. They don’t have a lot of time to make decisions.
“Sometimes it is the first time that they’ve heard that their pet is dying, and they need to decide in the next 15 minutes whether or not they want to go to surgery or whether we’re going to euthanize (the pet).
“I started gravitating toward end-of-life cases, the ones that weren’t going to make it, that were difficult euthanasia cases,” she said.
“I don’t want it to be their choice— to do this or that. I want to guide them based on what I feel they want, and within the medical boundaries that I have.
“Instead of saying, ‘Which one do you want?’ It’s ‘Here are the two options, and I need to learn more about what you think is the best thing to do, so I can guide you on which decision we’re going to make,” McVety said.
When she works with pet owners, she said, she takes this approach: “Instead of ‘You are making the right decision,’ It’s “We are making the best decision.’
“I feel like there’s so much guilt that gets put on people, where you’re the owner and I’m saying, ‘You just tell me what’s best for you.’”
She thinks it’s also important for pet owners to learn to “look at this is the natural progression of biology,” she said.
“There’s a subjective period of time when euthanasia is an appropriate decision. It’s not your only decision, but it’s an appropriate decision. Before which, I am not going to euthanize because a quality of life exists, and after which, I’m insisting on euthanizing because there’s sustained suffering,” McVety said.
Sometimes, the pet is absolutely ready in her medical eyes, but the family is not yet ready.
“Your first pet, people usually push the boundaries because they don’t know any different. The second pet, people make the decision sooner and sooner, and sooner.
“They know what’s going to happen. And, it doesn’t get easier,” McVety said.
Published November 30, 2016