- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Virtually everyone knows that all good pets go to heaven.

It’s just that sending them on their way can be so doggone difficult.

Laurie Brush arguably makes it easier, The Grand Rapids Press (http://bit.ly/13Pi31K ) reported. She’s a veterinarian who gently turns your home into her office, specializing in hospice care and euthanasia under the very roof you share with your beloved animal.

While it’s not unheard of for a conventional veterinarian to leave his or her clinic to provide in-home care, it’s the only kind of service Brush renders, driving as far away as Kalamazoo and Lansing and the lakeshore to tend to pets that are bound for their final journey.

“I’ve known I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was 13,” Brush said, recalling a time of some 40 years ago. “My best friend and I went to observe a vet in Ada, and she passed out watching surgery.”

But Brush was immediately mesmerized. And today, she’s the founder of “Heaven at Home” pet hospice, a provider of end-of-life care and euthanasia for companion animals.

But her road to becoming a vet was a circuitous one, despite knowing in her heart at a young age that it was her destiny.

While attending Forest Hills Central, Brush had the opportunity to visit Japan, and it whetted her interested in international development. While attending college, she took on internships in West Africa, Senegal, Kenya and elsewhere.

Her path to veterinary school was put on hold while she worked with relief agencies out of offices she kept in Washington, D.C.

In 1998, she finally realized that early dream, graduating from Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

She was attracted to in-home hospice care after putting down her own dog, a 17-year-old named Herkemer, leaning on that experience to wonder if she might become an advocate for pet owners who wanted in-home care.

“It’s such an honor that people let me into that private moment,” Brush said, who this year alone has provided in-home services for nearly 300 pets.

In some cases, the owner isn’t able to lift their pet into a vehicle for transport to a vet’s clinic. Bad weather has played a role with some. But most of the time, the owners just want the procedure to happen where both they and their pet are most comfortable.

In addition to providing euthanasia, Brush, who lives with her fiancĂ© and their three dogs in a home on the Grand River, consults with many pet owners in strategies to prolong a pet’s life, if it’s warranted.

Mary Dilley of Grand Rapids, for instance, contacted Brush this past September, figuring her 14-year-old black lab Drina was a candidate for euthanasia. Brush, however, showed Dilley how to cover her ceramic tiled floors with rubber mats so that Drina could better get up and down and move about.

She also elevated Drina’s food dish, created smoother transitions between rooms, and put her on a regimen of medications for arthritis and a hip problem.

“These changes were made in a weekend, and now, Drina is walking around like she’s got a new lease on life,” Dilley said.

She’s quick to add, though, that whenever she sees Brush, the doctor reminds her that no pet lives forever. “Every time we meet, she gives me hope,” Dilley said, “but she also looks me directly in the eye and says, ‘You know, this is only going to prolong it,’ and she reminds me that (death) is part of the natural process, so she gives me a reality check as well.”

For Linda and Tom Kozura, saying goodbye to their dog Bridget in 2012 was made easier, they say, because it happened with Brush in their Comstock Park home. “It may be cheaper to take a pet to the vet or to a shelter,” Linda Kozura said, “but having it done in your own home, where both you and your pet are less nervous and more comfortable, far outweighs the costs.”

And, she added, “It’s easier to cry your eyes out at home rather than in someone’s office.”

Brush acknowledges that her services tend to cost more, with a home visit and consultation running upward of $200, with additional expenses as more services are required.

The benefits of paying extra, though, include same-day service whenever possible, and Brush’s willingness to work evenings and weekends.

“I know it’s not a financial choice for everyone,” Brush said. “I’m just glad to know that more and more people are discovering it as an option, a different way in which their pet is going to pass.”

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Information from: The Grand Rapids Press, http://www.mlive.com/grand-rapids

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