Hospice Therapy Dog is a Gentle Giant
During World War II, Ann Meyers’ mother took advantage of a government program that allowed her to attend nursing school for free if she would enlist in the military after her training was complete.
By the time her schooling was finished, the war was at an end and the government exempted her from having to enlist. As a woman with a heart for service, she never forgot this and instead spent many hours in her life volunteering in her community.
She also raised her daughter Ann to look for ways to volunteer.
Seven years ago, Ann adopted Bella, a six-month-old puppy from an Oklahoma animal shelter. A conscientious owner, she took her new pup to obedience classes. After she went through all the regular classes, she was offered the option of agility training or training to be a therapy dog.
Ann looked at Bella, a Great Pyrenees/Afghan Hound mix who was growing fast, and thought, “Bella is huge and plodding. She doesn’t do anything fast. She could never win an agility contest.”
They opted for therapy training instead.
Bella proved to be an ideal therapy dog, a gentle giant visiting the sick. Two years ago, Bella received additional certifications through the Human Animal Link of Oklahoma (HALO).
Crossroads Hospice has a close relationship with the HALO rescue group, who introduced us to Ann. She and Bella joined our team of Ultimate Givers, making frequent visits to Bradford Village in Edmond,Oklahoma.
“Bella knows exactly what each person wants,” says Ann. “If the patient wants to pet her, she’ll lay her head on their lap. If they just want to talk with me, she’ll curl up on a corner of the floor while I visit. People are so thrilled to see her, and they’re like family to Bella.”
Bradford Village Activities Director Caitlin Kairns agrees, “Bella is as happy to visit as the residents are to see her. She announces her arrival with a happy bark.”
Bella’s visits have become so popular that she’s been added to the facility’s activity calendar so everyone knows when to expect her.
Caitlin continues, “Bella is just a great animal, so calm and patient. Our residents love to pet her, and she’s particularly helpful with our visually-impaired residents who enjoy the texture of her long hair. Because she’s so big, people know they can give her hugs and love on her more because she’s solid and she loves everyone back.”
Bella seems to have a sixth sense about what a person needs from her. When she first started visiting hospitals, Bella could somehow tell who was sick. She would ignore other people and go right to them to provide comfort. With the dying, it’s different.
“Bella will pull back when someone is close to death,” says Ann. “It’s like she knows they no longer need her.”
Ann and Bella’s visits to Bradford Village are so regular that both now know all the residents.
“It’s nice as an Activities Director to work with someone like Ann who is consistent,” says Caitlin. “The residents love her as much as Bella,” says Caitlin.
Bella and Ann are an unforgettable duo offering kindness and comfort wherever they go. We’re thankful to have them both on our team of Ultimate Givers.
Our next Volunteer event is coming up in April, but you don’t need to wait until then to join our team of Ultimate Givers. Complete the contact form on Facebook and a Volunteer Manager will be in touch with opportunities in your area.
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