by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: ANNE ENDICOTT - Veterinarian Deborah Rotman, with her feline friends Satske and Mae, helps pet owners find peace when making the decision to euthanize their animals.In a perfect world, our four-legged companions would be able to communicate when it is time for them to leave us.

But more often than not, it’s up to us to make what can sometimes be perceived as a cold and heartless decision.

“People do this because they love their pets,” said Dr. Deborah Rotman, a veterinarian and owner of Loving Hands, who provides euthanasia for dogs and cats in their homes. “I feel that sometimes, euthanasia is the greatest gift we can give to the animals we care about the most to help relieve their suffering.”

Putting an animal to sleep is never an easy choice. Is it the right time? Have we done all we can medically? Can we face the days without their company?

Loving Hands, Rotman’s Corbett-based business, offers a full spectrum of compassionate care for pets and their owners as they say their goodbyes. It’s part counseling service and clinical assistance provided in a private and personal way.

A veterinarian for 17 years, Rotman had been performing euthanasia, by request, in her clients’ homes off and on for 10 years. She owned Lombard Animal Hospital in Northeast Portland for six years but sold the clinic in 2008 to turn her attention to raising her two young children. She’s worked as a temporary part-time replacement for several area veterinary clinics since then, and recently found herself fielding calls from local folks asking for her services in their home.

“I was getting requests for euthanasia (in Corbett), but it was such an ordeal for people,” Rotman said. “They would have to register with a clinic, and I had to get the supplies, so I figured I could do this as a business. And with the economy right now, veterinary care is expensive for a lot of people. I feel I can offer (euthanasia) at the same cost as a clinic, but I’m trying to make it more affordable.”

Taking our pets’ fate into our hands is never easy, and often the decision is laced with questions over whether we are doing the right thing. Rotman recognizes pet owners’ vacillation and helps guide them toward a choice that brings them peace.

“My goal is to make them comfortable,” she said. “I want them to know they’re making the decision that’s right for them. I want them to follow their gut. They know their pet may be suffering and something’s not right, but in their mind, there are still questions about timing and the decision.”

A longtime cat owner who euthanized her own feline years ago, Rotman understands the emotions pet owners have when faced with losing a pet. She helps people understand the sometimes-subtle messages animals nearing the end are sending and what to expect during the death process.

“I spend a lot of time talking to people about what to look for,” she said. “And I talk to them about quality of life issues. It’s important from my perspective that they know what to expect. I stay with them afterward for a while, so they aren’t surprised by any part of the death process. But I understand some people want alone time, so I’m respectful of that as well.”

Helping a beloved friend move on to the big off-leash park in the afterlife needn’t be impersonal and clinical. Rotman calls the experience “beautiful” when animals are comfortable in familiar surroundings and among those who care about them most. She encourages her clients to approach the time in a manner and way that brings them as much peace as they are giving their animals.

“Being an animal owner, I know what it’s like to go through this process,” Rotman said. “And having worked with thousands of clients, I understand the empathy and sensitivity needed for both the owner and the pet. I feel honored to have the ability to help, and I respect that.”

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