About Michelle Nichols, AHELP Project Founder

Hello there, and thanks for stopping by. I am a Pet Parent like you. I get you.

 

Me and my Boston Terrier, Bunny (2023)

When my furry loved ones need me, I do my best to answer the call. I choose the healthiest foods, get them “all the things” I can afford, and do my best to find the right veterinary care that is the best fit for us all. When they are sick, I learn how to deliver the care they need in the prescribed way. I do what I can to find trusted providers to share the care: special needs pet sitters I know are up to treating them with respect and the care they need as they age, massage therapists to ease my doggy’s pain, and even animal communicators when I can’t figure out what my kitty is trying so hard to tell me! 

When they are nearing the Rainbow Bridge, I am grateful to all the animals and the families I have been honored to serve. They have taught me lessons of living and many lessons of dying, and I am deeply grateful to be able to share those lessons with you through the AHELP Project.

This is my story…

My journey into animal hospice became intensely personal when my beloved Boxer, Brodie, faced the end of his life. Under the guidance of my human hospice nurse mother Carol Soukup, RN, I chose to embrace hospice principles, allowing Brodie a peaceful passing at home and surrounded by love. This experience was a revelation as I realized that I had been providing hospice care without even knowing it. Sharing stories of Brodie’s life and gazing at him lying in state peacefully, we asked ourselves the next morning, “Where are all the animal hospice people?” 

Brodie (2008)

After over six years of nursing Brodie to treat his congenital heart disease, our sweet boy was at rest at the age of 10. My husband, mother, and 6-year-old were relieved that we were at peace, too. This profound experience showed me there could be a different way to love and live with these creatures who are never with us here long enough. I started networking until I found my people, mentored with veterinarians, and immersed myself in the nascent animal hospice and palliative care movement.
After a master's degree and a career in professional healthcare counseling, I recognized I could utilize the tools in my toolbox to educate and support caregivers, working alongside veterinary medical teams through an interdisciplinary approach. I began my first caregiver support business, "Partners to the Bridge," soon after that, our group co-founded the AHELP Project to serve more families through a nonprofit model.

carson lucky michelle

 

Me, Lucky, and his Dad in a Caregiver Support Home Visit (2019)

 

I took on leadership roles within the groundbreaking International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, including serving as their President in 2019. My conference presentations advocated the importance of interdisciplinary teamwork and showcased how the nonprofit model can effectively support more families through their pets' end-of-life journeys. 

 

 

Me & IAAHPC Founder Dr. Amir Shanan at their 20th Annual Conference (2019)

At the beginning of the pandemic, I saw an opportunity for online animal hospice education to address the scarcity of readily accessible veterinary services. I co-founded Animal Hospice Group with three thought leaders to build animal hospice education and hands-on training for people of all backgrounds, culminating in the Certified Animal Hospice Practitioner AHG headset logo(CAHP) title. I was instrumental in developing their Animal Hospice Helpline. I remain on their faculty, and recognizing the need to produce the next generation of leaders in our field, I teach and mentor allied practitioners who support people and their pets.

At the time of this writing, we are approaching AHELP's 15th year. I return to our grassroots mission to realize my life's vision: for every animal lover to have ready access to animal hospice, understand their options, and find the path to achieve the goals they visualize for their pet and their family. After years of refinement in response to caregivers' needs, I proudly offer “Partners to the Bridge" Animal Hospice Coaching for Pet Parents in greater Seattle, which is adaptable online to anyone anywhere in the United States. 

I share my life with my spouse of 27 years, my 18-year-old daughter, and two Boston Terriers. Sailing on the Puget Sound is our favorite family pastime, and I am passionate about riding horses. I volunteer with my Boston Terrier, Bunny, as an Animal Assisted Therapy team at Seattle Children's Hospital. 

I look forward to meeting you very soon. 

Professional Experience and Education:

Founder, AHELP Project

Co-Founder, Animal Hospice Group

Co-author, Certified Animal Hospice Practitioner Certification (Animal Hospice Group)

President, International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care

Director, Cancer Genetics Department (Mercy San Juan Medical Center, Carmichael CA)

Pediatric Genetic Counselor (Kaiser Permanente, Sacramento CA)

Prenatal Genetic Counselor (Prenatal Diagnosis of Northern California, Sacramento CA)

Masters of Science, Human Genetics and Counseling Psychology (Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University)

Presentations:

"Build your Animal Hospice Team" at the 1st Annual Conference of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (Ft Worth TX, 2011)

"The Interdisciplinary Teamwork Model: How's that working for you?" at the 8th Annual Conference of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (Seattle, 2017)

"Employing the Nonprofit Model for Delivery of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care Services" at the 10th Annual Conference of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (Chicago, 2019)

"It takes a village to bring a being into this world, and human hospice has shown the same is true on the other end of life.

Supporting the family through the journey from their beloved animal companion's diagnosis or decline to their death takes a TEAM."

-Michelle Nichols

family_Julie Austin_2023

 

 

 

 

 

Me and my family 

 Bellevue, Washington (2023)

 

 


WHAT DO I DO NEXT?

  1. Use the buttons below to access assistance through AHELP's Animal Caregiver Support Program!
  2. Please take a few minutes to complete the short form and tell us how we can be "A Help."
  3. We will call you for a 30-45 minute complimentary phone call.

We are also available for phone consults and email support. Distance consulting may be a good choice if you are outside greater Seattle or have an urgent need and don't know where to turn. We respond faster over email than phone and do our best to reply within 12 hours, within 24 hours on weekends and holidays. You may contact Michelle Nichols at:

  [email protected]

Do you need a referral? Learn more about our Professional Network Members, veterinary, animal and family service providers who are invited to join AHELP based upon excellent reputation and have meet our application criteria. We feel comfortable entrusting you to their care because of the many good experiences of families we've helped.  Referrals over email are offered as a community service, available to you on a donations-only basis.

With our interdisciplinary team, our practices are in accordance with the 2013 Guidelines through the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care and those through the American Animal Hospital Association. Consider asking your veterinarian if they offer animal hospice and palliative care and if not, we can partner with them. If you are a veterinarian or service provider, please consider joining our Professional Network.

Please review our Upcoming Events page to learn more about our monthly Animal Caregivers' Support Circle in Seattle. This community service is made available through your donations and formats rotate between comforting, information, and healing workshops. Our facilitators are spiritual or certified pet loss counseling professionals with experience in animal end-of-life care. Also, meet with other caregivers and families that are going through the same process.

Reach out today! Please allow us to make more of a difference with your earlier contact.

Please see the Fees and Pricing page for more on our Comprehensive Care Home Visits and Phone Consultations.

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