I am on my return flight from Phoenix, Arizona. I attended the 8th annual conference of the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC). (www.iaahpc.org)

I have attended the conference previously, and always find new energy from the people I meet there and the ideas shared.  Ten years ago, I put my name on a list outside of a meeting room in Atlanta. The list was inquiring about interest in starting a veterinary association dedicated to caring for dying pets (the hospice and palliative care period), and to supporting their end-of-life journey with the highest level of ethics and medicine. The talk I had just attended had been presented by Dr. Ella Bittel – a hospice veterinarian out of California. She had spoken of natural death in companion animals, had brought me to tears, opened a vein of interest in my heart – and changed my life. Now ten years later, I am on a plane returning from the 10th Annual conference for this fantastic organization.  

What did I get up to at the conference? There were three concurrent speaking tracks running over the 3 days (Advanced Hospice Medicine, Mental Health, and Nursing/Business Tracks. I am currently pursuing my professional certification in Veterinary Hospice and Palliative Care – hopefully leading to the CHPV designation next fall. Thusly, I attended a pre-conference Communication Workshop with Dr. Jane Shaw prior to the three days of lectures/labs. This workshop had us role-playing various client-communication scenarios, and really got me thinking about what we say to clients – especially in the difficult conversations about end-of-life. 

In the subsequent three days, I attended lectures on Grief/Bereavement, Compassion Fatigue, and Euthanasia Techniques.  Saturday Night Dinner was a fun event, featuring Keynote Speaker, ‘Veterinary Pain Management Guru’, Dr. Robin Downing

I can’t say what the highlight of the entire event was – I think for me, it is always the colleagues you meet and bond with. As you can likely imagine, end-of-life work is not for everybody and can leave those us of in the field feeling a bit like islands. Finding others who share your passion, and don’t think that you’re crazy for doing the work you do – is reinforcing and up-lifting. 

Stay tuned for updates as I move through my certification journey – I’m sure this blog and my area of focus are a niche-interest, but I appreciate you taking the time to read this 🙂


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