New Tool in Veterinary End-of-Life Care Wins Top Book Award

Resource for pet owners going through anticipatory grief can also help their veterinarians

April 1, 2010—A just-published self-help book dealing with anticipatory grief that provides a new approach to pet hospice took first place at the CIPA EVVY Book Awards on March 27, 2010. The book, The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer: Lessons on Living and Dying from My Canine Brothers, by Doug Koktavy, offers help to pet owners struggling with emotions like fear, guilt and depression when a pet is terminally ill. It also provides a new tool for veterinarians when advising their clients whose pets are dying.

The award, for best self-help book, underscores the growing interest in and need for resources that provide help to people with pets. Nearly 80 percent of companion animal owners consider their pets as family members and can be affected on some level by anticipatory grief—the emotional upheaval that occurs before an impending loss, that is, between the time an animal is diagnosed with a fatal illness until it passes.

The symptoms of anticipatory grief, according to Argus Institute of Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, can range from fear, guilt, anger and denial to hopelessness and despair. These symptoms have now been documented in The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer. Doug describes in his memoir how he suffered with debilitating fear and guilt during his two dogs’ terminal illnesses. Finding no help available at the time for his own pain, he managed on his own—with the help and wisdom of his beloved black Labs—to eventually find acceptance and peace with their dying.

Pointing out that he has no training as a veterinarian or social worker, Doug says he wrote the book to pass along the coping strategies he learned on his own. One of them is a personalized version of a hospice plan for pets he developed, which he calls the Presence Plan™. Using the Presence Plan, a pet owner is better able to deal with this final period in a pet’s life, remaining present and even peaceful while providing loving care to the animal during its final months and days. The Presence Plan also can be used by veterinarians with clients whose pets are diagnosed with terminal illnesses. It is designed to be an adjunct to the traditional treatment plan a vet provides to a client.

During the soul-searching that transpired, Doug wrote, “I realized that their illnesses were just the catalysts to something more. There was a bigger story here. I was being told to write it…and so I plodded ahead, and herein lies the tale of two dogs dying and the rebirth of their brother Doug.”

The book already has received significant praise from both pet owners and veterinarians. “This unique book provides a welcome new tool in pet care, offering a subjective perspective on the reciprocal and health-promoting nature of our relationships with animals,” writes Alice Villalobos, DVM. “Koktavy, breaking new ground here, is the expert in this field. The book will help thousands of people.” Villalobos is the author of Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology: Honoring the Human-Animal Bond.

Jane Shaw, DVM, PhD, director of Argus Institute, says, “A heartfelt, transformative book. The deepest lesson learned was to listen to the dogs as they had great wisdom to share. In slowing down and spending time together, the path became clear. This book validates that the schooling is really transferred from animal to human, not vice versa.”

Conquering fear and guilt, learning to live in the present and accepting death are just some of Beezer and Boomer’s lessons in the book. The story begins with the pronouncement from his vet that “Beezer has 90 days to live.” Unable to come to grips with the knowledge that he is suddenly losing his best friend, Doug grows frantic with fear; his work and his health begin to suffer as he chastises himself over what he might have neglected to do for his dog. What follows are some of the lowest lows and highest highs of Doug’s life as he opens to the messages in saying goodbye to his pets.

The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer: Lessons on Living and Dying from My Canine Brothers, published by B Brothers Press, 2010, is a 328-page hardcover book with 47 black and white photos and 17 illustrations by artist Chris Smith.

Doug Koktavy is a creditor’s attorney in Denver. He has appeared on KUSA Channel 9 News, and was interviewed by Dr. Martin Goldstein, DVM, on Ask Martha’s Vet, Martha Stewart Living Radio, and also was interviewed on Blog Talk Radio. He volunteers for local nonprofit animal organizations and has developed a fundraiser for nonprofits called the B Brothers Project. www.BeezerAndBoomer.com/npo.html. A passionate sportsman, Doug has played ice hockey for years and competed in triathlons.

Copies of the award-winning book, The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer, are available at www.BeezerAndBoomer.com, at the Tattered Cover Book Store www.tatteredcover.com, and through Independent Publishers Group (www.IPGbook.com).