Celebrating Carin


I’ve spent the past two months trying to figure out how to write this post. It’s not a post about me, my writing, books or anything like that. I’m devoting this time, this space for someone else. Someone I never met, someone I only know through others and what I found online.

Dr. Carin Rennings. A holistic veterinarian who made house calls. A creative, intelligent woman who made a career from helping animals and their owners, but was also a gifted singer. What was happening in her heart and soul the day she climbed into her bathtub, put a pillow behind her head and shot herself?

My husband works for a property maintenance company. When a tenant has stopped paying rent, an eviction is eventually scheduled. One day this past July, an eviction was scheduled for Carin Rennings because, for whatever reason, she wasn’t able to keep up with her payments. Two employees from the company and a sheriff were there one morning. The house was quiet, the screen door was locked. There was no answer to either door knocks or bells. As per rules, the sheriff entered first and discovered the reason for the silence.

As my husband told me this devastating story, I could picture the scene. When he showed me a photo of Carin and a video of her singing, I felt like I knew her. Over the days that followed, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I felt a connection with her. I needed to know more about her. So I searched online. And I found more than I thought I would.

I want to share with you a blog post Carin wrote in 2009:


Frank & Mabel: a love story

It was a typical day for me when I made the appointment. Mabel, an elderly woman living in an apartment in the suburbs, was very worried about her 15 year old cat named Frank. He’d been healthy most of his life, but over the past two weeks, he had become lethargic, eaten very little, and was drooling a lot. She was concerned that he might have a rotten tooth that was bothering him. I suspected otherwise. I had seen hundreds of cases like this.


Cats are a rare combination of predator and prey animal in one body. When they become sick or injured in the wild or on the streets, displaying illness or weakness openly is the equivalent to wearing a bull’s-eye during hunting season. Domesticated indoor cats haven’t gotten the evolutionary message that it’s safe to whine and whimper the way humans do when we don’t feel well. As a result, when their owners finally observe that their feline companions are a bit “off,” they often either discount it or just watch them for a while to see if they’ll bounce back soon. This becomes more concerning when cats get into their teen years. They are prime candidates for kidney insufficiency and, later, failure, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and cancer, among others.

So after giving me a detailed description of Frank’s unusual behavior by phone, Mabel asked me to come to her house to give him a thorough physical examination. She requested that I pay special attention to his teeth. I emotionally prepared myself to console and give careful advice to a very concerned, compassionate old lady whose only living companion was a cat. I would talk to her about death, letting go, and most likely schedule another appointment in a day or two to humanely put Frank to sleep.

By then, I’d been a house call veterinarian for a decade. I spent eight years and a minor fortune getting my degree. I worked at many hospitals, apprenticing under various doctors before becoming one myself. That experience was fun and interesting, full of exciting growth and learning. My job was simply what was in front of me.

I barely lasted a year in a busy practice after graduation. I was well paid considering the profession’s usual slim salaries. I was respected, and had found one of the best associate positions available to me at the time. I hated it. It felt like an endless, miserable assembly line to me. Everything moved so quickly that I didn’t feel connected to my clients or patients at all. Most of the animals were terrified, the staff felt disrespected and could barely make a living, and the clients, after sitting for up to an hour in the waiting room, felt rushed by the veterinarians and then overcharged. Nobody seemed happy there to me. A friend of mine, who had graduated a few years earlier than I, confessed that his closest classmates all hated their jobs. It was a depressing realization after a life-long, arduous struggle to become a veterinarian. One colleague said that she’d rather be doing anything else, though I recall that she hadn’t been treated very well by the owner of the practice where she worked.

By the time my contract expired the following year, I resigned and immediately started my own business treating cats and dogs in their own homes. The contrast was dramatic; no sterile rooms, no office politics, and no frantic rush — just a relaxed visit in a family’s living room or kitchen. I didn’t have twenty to thirty animals to treat per day; typically just five or six. I didn’t rush through an appointment in 15 to 20 minutes; I took the time that was necessary to get to know the animals and their owners in the comfort of their homes, as well as attending to the medical or behavioral issue at hand. And most importantly, pets were no longer in a hysterical state of fight or flight. While some may have been slightly upset or concerned, most didn’t behave as if their lives were at stake. Many were absolutely thrilled that someone had come just to see them!

I entered the apartment dwelling where Mabel lived. She was well into her seventies and had lost her husband some months earlier. Frank had belonged to both of them and was the last living connection to her beloved. Except for her feline friend, she lived alone.

I knew I had grossly underestimated Frank’s condition as soon as I walked through the door. He lay on a sofa in a contracted upright position, intentionally frozen in place to minimize the suffering. His jaw rested heavily on the fabric and his forehead looked as if it would sink into the couch. There was a steady stream of saliva coming from his mouth, and based on the layers of towels covering the furniture, it was evident that he had been living like this for some time now. I winced in empathy.

Frank was a typical teenaged cat suffering from kidney failure. He was nothing but skin and bones, and most of his muscle had been metabolized by his own body to fulfill nutrient requirements. His eyes were sunken, showing signs of severe dehydration. His case was quite advanced based on the ulcers throughout his mouth; thus, the drooling.

As I was directed to a chair next to the sofa, Mabel did something that very few of my clients had ever done. It made me smile! She approached her companion and said, “Frank, this is Dr. Rennings.” I was stunned. I have always viewed animals as equals. Equal and different, just like people. The more they are talked to and interacted with in this manner, the more refined their behavior becomes, and the more well adjusted they feel living in an alien world. It is alien to them; some more than others, depending on their environment. Talking to them also greatly improves their self-esteem and understanding of our, at times, seemingly bizarre behavior.

Frank casually looked up at me from his internally fixed state like a waking zombie. He stared me right in the eyes and seemed to say, “Nice to meet you. You’re different.” I get that a lot! I’ve studied animal behavior and their culture my whole life. I trained and showed dogs throughout my childhood and adolescence and instructed classes as a teenager. I engrossed myself in the methods of the most gifted “horse whisperers” for over a decade, culminating into a beautiful experience of communion with my four-legged partners. I had bred and raised two foals with this approach and could point and send them over a jump from the ground like a well trained dog. I could lead them by holding a few hairs from their mane or forelock, and ride them without a saddle or bridle in an arena. They responded to the slightest touch from my hands or legs and changed directions to follow the focal point where I was looking and the resulting curve of my body. Later, I became intrigued with the idea of training cats and used many of the same tools that I’d learned from the pack and the herd. My two rescued friends, Simon and Sam taught me their delicate language and subtle intricacies of the feline world. They both ride in a car without a carrier, come enthusiastically when they’re called, go for long hikes in the woods, and sit politely waiting for their food at meal time. I used to take Simon into stores, to friends’ houses, on errands, and once had him sit and stay with a leash and collar attached to a picnic table outside a restaurant while I picked up dinner. He calmly waited while I watched him through a window, knowing he’d get a treat when I came back.

With this background and many years of veterinary house call experience, and with an insatiable passion for the fine art of animal communication, including apprenticeships, classes and certification, I’d developed an ability to read animals very quickly and accurately. Sometimes I could hear them conversing with me, just like chatting with a friend. I heard Frank that day as clear as a bell. He was used to being heard, acknowledged and honored; just not with guests.

I was very concerned about Mabel. Frank couldn’t hold on much longer and then she’d be all alone. I told her that we could run blood-work to determine the exact nature of his illness but that at this point, the answer would be an academic one. He was dying and the cause was a moot point as far as he was concerned. I explained that I could hold him down and frighten him by taking his blood, charge her a lot of money for the service, and then wait a day to get the results back. But the outcome would be the same; he needed to be put to sleep. And soon.

In their hearts, most clients know the right thing to do. But they are often deeply conflicted by the intensity of their feelings for their pets. They just can’t bear the thought of losing their best friend and, typically, their only source of unconditional love. It usually takes some time for people to come to terms with the idea and be at peace with it.

Mabel had more to lose than most of the people that I’ve cared for as a veterinarian. She had every right to fight and say, “Please, just give me a few more days with him.” That’s a common response to the suggestion that one’s dog or cat is ready to die. She was extraordinary in every way, though. As I talked, I could tell that in spite of her loneliness and the relationship she had with a very special cat, I didn’t need to handle her with kid gloves. She was emotionally mature and mentally acute. I read her like I read animals. I asked, “You knew this was coming, didn’t you?” She nodded. She didn’t want him to suffer. I asked her if she wanted to wait 24 hours and spend some quality time with him before she said goodbye. “No,” she replied after a few moments of calm consideration. “If he’s in pain, I don’t want him to wait any longer.” I was surprised and relieved.

We made plans to have Frank’s body cremated, took care of paperwork and I drew up a hefty sedative to take him down to a surgical plane of anesthesia before I gave the second shot of barbiturate. It was all going so smoothly.

Then things became complicated. I came back to address Frank and he told me very clearly and authoritatively that he wasn’t going anywhere.


He felt responsible for Mabel’s well-being and he loved her unfathomably. “She’s alone,” he explained. “I can’t leave her.” Mabel was fussing in the kitchen, looking for her checkbook.

“Frank, your body is failing. It’s time to go.”


So this was the difficult negotiation that I had to handle. It’s usually the other way around.

“What if I find someone to be with her, Frank?”

“Yes,” he decided. “That’s a good idea.”

Mabel was completely unaware of the tense dialog going on in her living room. I found her writing a check with terribly shaky hands. She was trying to be brave but, inside, she was crumbling. Frank was right.

“Is there anyone that you can call to be with you while we do this? You really shouldn’t be alone,” I offered gently.

She pondered this for a moment. Why, yes. There was the lady who had referred me to her and she lived right upstairs. Mabel phoned her and she was happy to come right down. Providence! The Good Samaritan arrived in just a few minutes and gave Mabel a big hug. They seemed to be close friends. Okay, we’re on, I thought to myself.

So while they talked, I conferred with Frank again.

“So it’s all set, Frank. You can go.”



This time he explained that the kindly neighbor would help Mabel out in the short term, until the “job” was done and then she’d be alone again.

“Okay. Hmm…”

I joined Mabel and her friend and delicately asked if there was a family member who could stay with her after Frank was gone. Yes, she did have a daughter that lived a short distance away. But she didn’t want to bother her. She lived such a busy life.

“This is a big event, Mabel. Could you just ask her?”

She dialed the number with trembling fingers. Luckily, there was an answer on the other end and Mabel began speaking and crying at the same time. Her daughter rose to the occasion and said she drive right over.


Once more, I came face to face with Frank. He’d been the rock all the way through.

“So, Frank, is everything okay now? Can we proceed?”

He sat in what appeared to be a meditative state. He was weighing everything and watching Mabel with his eyes and his heart. He lingered there for some long time.

Without another word, Frank raised his weak, frail body from the sofa that had been his throne. He hadn’t moved an inch save his head to communicate with me the entire time I was there, which was the better part of an hour. He hopped down to the floor, walked over to the chair I had sat in, and with more grace and dignity than I thought possible of his tired, bony frame, he jumped into the seat. Beside it lay my box of supplies and the powerful sedative that I’d drawn up in a syringe for him.

“Okay, Carin. It’s time.”

I cried when I read this beautiful story. Of course I felt a connection with Carin. Her deep love for both animals and people. Her sensitive, intuitive nature. She was an empath, a healer. On her blog, she labels herself, Veterinarian/Animal Whisperer/Healer. She was all these and more. I wanted to meet her, talk to her, just be in her pure, amazing presence. How could a woman so filled with gifts and talent and love take her own life?
I could write more about suicide. I have my own personal experiences, but it’s not about me. This is about Carin, and I’m never going to pretend I know what she was thinking or feeling or what pain was crushing her so badly that she felt death was the only way out. What about her family and friends? What about her career as a veterinarian? Her singing? How can our dark, depressing world lose such a bright, special, wonderful soul like Carin?
I wrote this article today to celebrate Carin Rennings. I celebrate her life, her beautiful heart, everything she gave to this world, all the animals and people she touched just by being herself. I celebrate Carin and pray that everyone who reads this is touched by her talents and her sensitive soul. She will not be forgotten. She will be remembered here and always.
I hope and pray she is resting in the peace she so well deserves. 
Curious about her angelic voice? Click here.
She was also featured in an article in The Baltimore Sun.

17 thoughts on “Celebrating Carin

  1. Did she really kill herself?

    Was there any foul play. The pillow part I don’t understand. I can reason the pillow from preventing the harsh sound of the gunshot, but using a pillow during suicide.

    Are you sure she could not have been killed and made to appear as a suicide?

    • I know that for most people the thought of suicide is difficult. And it seems like mainstream media gives us the idea that a lot of suicides are, in fact, murders.

      The truth is, depression is real. Mental disorders are real, and if not treated, can lead to suicidal thoughts and ultimately, suicide. Unfortunately my husband and I have both lost loved ones through suicide. Living in today’s world is hard, but it’s brutal for empaths and sensitive souls.

      As you know, I never met Carin and only wrote about what I discovered. But I received a comment on this post last week from an old friend of Carin’s. Rebecca was friends with her for many years before she moved out of state, and she said she struggled with suicidal thoughts back then. I’m sure it was heartbreaking for Rebecca to discover that her old friend ended her own life.

      I think more people need to be aware about how serious an issue suicide is in today’s world. It’s not discussed enough. People aren’t aware how common it is. I wrote this post about Carin to honor her memory and in hopes of letting readers know that suicide is an issue. We can all check in with our friends and family to see how they’re doing, to see how they’re really feeling, especially now, when life is even harder due to the virus and the state of our country.

      I hope you and your loved ones are doing well. Thank you for taking the time to read and for your thoughts.

      • The thought of suicide is not at all a difficult subject to me. I asked because of the details you wrote about her death.

        I myself am an empath/intuitive. I know people who have attempted suicide or contemplated the idea. Everyone who thinks about it or wants to do it does not always go through with it.

        I know how serious depression can be with certain individuals, however, everyone should not be categorized or assumed to be a danger to themselves.

        Each individual is different that is why some keep things to themselves because others take things out of context and the next thing they know they are in a mental hospital because someone jumped to conclusions.

        I understand your message and it is good to put out awareness. There are so many dealing with whatever it is they may be going through.

        Whereas there is cause for concern for many I am just mentioning some who have talked about it, thought about it, or even have tried it are not always mentally ill, overly depressed, or a threat to themself and they go on living healthy and productive. I know this for a fact.

        I am in no way minimizing anything you said I am just stating that every cannot and should not be judged within the same manner.

        I had wrote a post myself about suicide

      • Thank you so much for your reply and for sharing your post. I loved it. Everything about it resonated with me. I, too, have always believed that people who commit suicide are not cowards, but are instead very strong and courageous. I have thought about suicide myself many times over the years, but have never come close. Why? Not because I believe we go straight to hell. On the contrary, I know God understands my heart and would never punish me for my feelings and what they might lead me to do. But I do think about God and His many blessings and I always manage to pull myself out of my depression.

        You’re right. Depression and mental illness doesn’t always lead to suicide. Sometimes it does, and that is a terrible thing and one I wish was talked about more. I will probably always battle negativity and depression like many others, but writing about it, and meeting others who have been through it and understand, helps.

        Yes, sometimes people are just tired. That’s so me when I start thinking about leaving this life for good. Just so tired. Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts and writing. I really appreciate it. I wish I had come across your post a long time when I was desperate to find another person who understands exactly how I was feeling.

        Sorry for this late reply and God bless you.

      • Yes. There is always someone out there who understands and who can relate even if they are hard to find or we don’t come across them too often.

        There is no mistake we crossed paths.

        God uses his children to share, encourage, and to inspire one another. He gives us these special gifts to help one another. We are not like the rest of the world and don’t fit into mainstream society because we are ahead and not a part of this crazy world. Yet at the same time we are stronger than the world and we can handle just about anything even when we do not realize it because the power of God resides within us as he sustains our every move. He is always with us, within us, besides us, and around us 24 hours a day seven days a week and more!

        We see deeper into things, feel, and discern with a keen grasp into reality and into the unknown.

        I wanted to leave this world too at one time because I knew I did not belong here, but I realized it wasn’t the right time for me to go and I would have deeply hurt the ones who loved me the most and they needed me. Love is such a wonderful thing and there is so much strength and beauty within love.

        God has us, will always lead us, and will never let us go. No matter what takes place or what happens everything will turn out okay because God is in control and watching over us solicitous attending to our every need and concern.

        God always makes a way out of no way.

        So glad to have been able to correspond with you too. I hope your day is filled with love, peace, and many blessings.

      • Beautifully written and I one hundred resonate with it. I have always thought I didn’t belong here, but I also knew I would’ve deeply hurt my family and friends and I knew I couldn’t do it.

        It’s so wonderful to meet people who understand, people who write something that’s exactly what you’re thinking and feeling. I’d love to sit down with you over hot chocolate (I don’t drink coffee!) and just talk. Share. And know that there are amazing people out there even if they are difficult to find.

        I thank God for leading me to people and situations that He knows are good for me. He is always there and is always generous with blessings.

        Please reach out any time!
        God bless you always.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. For some reason the thought to Google Carin Rennings came to me this morning. There was nothing recent besides your post.

    Carin and I friends when I lived in Elliott City, MD. We lost touch with each other when we moved out of state in 2014. But she was talking about suicide back then. I did what I could at the time to encourage her. So it’s obvious to me that this is something she struggled with a long time.

    Thank you again for telling her story.

    • Hi Rebecca, thank you for your comment. I’m glad you found my post, and I’m sorry that it wasn’t a happy one. It’s nice to be in touch with someone who knew Carin, and it doesn’t surprise me that she struggled with suicidal thoughts.

      I had a friend many years ago who also struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts and I also did what I could to be there for her. I was crushed when she killed herself and I wondered if I could’ve done more. But, I learned through the years that sometimes we can’t help others as much as we want to and as much as we try. If someone truly doesn’t want to be in this world, there’s nothing you can do to change their mind. I do hope and pray Carin has found peace.

  3. I am so sad to read this. Carin was the first love of my life after we met in 1985. What a truly exceptional person. After 25 years she reconnected with me and I was blessed to spend time rediscovering how kind she was and how dedicated she was to helping families with ill pets get through incredibly hard times.
    My heart hurts.

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  6. Oh my gosh, I’m devastated to read this. I met Carin in 2006 when I used her mobile vet services. She was a lovely woman, I went to hear her sing at Cocoa Lane in Ellicott City, and even set her up on a date with a friend! We needed her services a few years ago and she was again, right there to help us in the most painful of times. Thank you for showing the world who she was … we all deserve at least that much. Rest peacefully, Carin.

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