I'm looking for
Voices of Care Blog
Care Dimensions volunteer Nancy Donaldson with her dog Wilson.
Care Dimensions volunteer Nancy Donaldson with her dog Wilson.

Pet Therapy Volunteers Bring Joy and Peace

Posted on April 18, 2023 by Nancy Donaldson, Care Dimensions Volunteer

As a pet therapy volunteer, you bring some joy to people in a time where they need a little happiness in their lives. It’s not just the patients, but also their families, especially children and grandchildren, who might be a little nervous to visit their loved one on hospice. Nothing brings a smile to them like a friendly furry face.

My 11-year-old Labrador retriever, Wilson, and I have been making pet therapy visits for about four years now. He's always been a calm dog and my daughter, who was a nurse at Care Dimensions, was the one who suggested that we try pet therapy. We got him certified as a “canine good citizen” and I went through the volunteer training program. Overall, it was a fairly easy process to get started, and it has become such a rewarding experience.

Pet therapy volunteers can visit patients wherever they live; Wilson and I visit at the Care Dimensions Hospice House in Lincoln about once a week. Some days, we have lots of patients to see and other days, it’s just one or two. Visits can go for 5 minutes or 15-20 minutes. It all really depends on the patient and how engaged they are with Wilson.

Earlier this year, I met a patient who was very shy and not sure what a pet therapy visit would be like. But each week, when I came back to say hello, she was more and more at ease. After a few visits, a social worker spotted me when I arrived at the hospice house and said “Oh she’ll be so happy to see you! Wilson makes her so happy.” Those kinds of days are what this is all about.

Another patient that I vividly remember is a woman who was nearing death, but still awake and communicating. On one of her last days, she said she wanted to see a dog because she had loved dogs throughout her life. I was able to come in and sit with her for a half hour. I later found out that after I left, the patient asked to go outside for some fresh air, and then she wanted a massage (massage therapy is another service that is offered by Care Dimensions). The family said spending time with Wilson made her realize there were some other things she wanted to do before it was too late. That’s what a pet therapy dog can do for people. It’s amazing.

The nature of this role is that you form strong, short-term relationships with people. There was one patient who was at the house for about six months, which is much longer than average. I not only became close to her, but also her whole family. I most likely will never see them again. But I know I was able to bring happiness to their hospice journey and they’ll have some positive memories of the experience. That’s what makes this so meaningful to me.

Learn how you can become a pet therapy volunteer with Care Dimensions: CareDimensions.org/Pets

Additional Posts

Volunteers, Community Ensure Comforting Presence at Hospice Houses

Volunteers, Community Ensure Comforting Presence at Hospice Houses

Posted on January 30, 2024 by Lisa Conti in Care Dimensions Hospice House,  Kaplan Family Hospice House,  Volunteers

Thanks to Care Dimensions volunteers and partnerships with local businesses and other organizations, flowers offer a comfortable presence at both hospice houses throughout the year. ...

Continue reading
Kindness Comes Full Circle for Hospice Volunteer

Kindness Comes Full Circle for Hospice Volunteer

Posted on January 4, 2024 by Lisa Conti in Volunteers

Having been on the receiving end of kind acts during difficult times, Michael Person is giving back as a hospice volunteer for Care Dimensions. ...

Continue reading
As Pet Therapy Dog Retires, Owner Readies Replacement

As Pet Therapy Dog Retires, Owner Readies Replacement

Posted on August 8, 2023 by Lisa Conti in Complementary therapy,  Volunteers

After visiting hundreds of hospice patients and families, 13-year-old Care Dimensions pet therapy dog Tessie is retiring, but her owner already has a new dog ready to take her place. ...

Continue reading

Anyone—patient, family, care provider—can make a referral. Fill in the form online or call us today.

Since 1978, Care Dimensions, formerly Hospice of the North Shore,  has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in over 100 communities in Massachusetts.

Copyright 2024 | Care Dimensions, 75 Sylvan Street, Suite B-102, Danvers, MA 01923 | 888-283-1722 | 978-774-7566

Privacy | Terms of Use

We use cookies and other tools to enhance your experience on our website and to analyze our web traffic. For more information about these cookies and the data collected, please refer to our Privacy Policy. Accept