At Risk Animal helping At Risk People

Last week, our friends at Aseracare awarded Home for Life Animal Sanctuary a grant in the amount of $1000 in recognition of the contribution of Home for Life's Sit*Stay*Heal program. Sit*Stay* Heal provides healing pet therapy to patients at the VA Medical Center Polytrauma Unit,the Fairview University Hospital in Minneapolis( pediatric and adult oncology and mental health patients) and now to the terminally ill. Last summer, Renee, Asera's volunteer coordinator contacted me about the possibility of Home for Life expanding our pet therapy outreach program to help hospice patients. With the economy in such dire straits, I did not see how we could possibly manage to add this program, although we wanted to help. However, Renee was both persistent and persuasive: we agreed that we would start by providing pet therapy to hospice patients who were receiving care at facilities in Stillwater,MN,just across the St. Croix River from where Home for Life is located. As we went along, we would try to expand the services across the metro area, at the many facilities where Asera provides hospice services.
As Renee says, hospice is not a place but rather a frame of mind and a strategy of helping patients who are terminally ill. This Sit*Stay* Heal program was a big committment for Home for Life and for the HFL volunteers we recruited for the initiative. Unlike our other programs, which are driven by the facilities we visit, this Sit*Stay*Heal program is responsive to the individual patient. With this program,we don't visit the facility -we visit and commit to the particular patient. We do that knowing the patient is dying.
Each volunteer, along with the same Home for Life dog, consistently visits the hospice patient every week. Patients qualify for hospice care when they have received a diagnosis which will be terminal within six months. The patients we are working with have requested pet therapy when they enter into hospice care. Touching bonds are formed between the patient and the HFL volunteer and the HFL dog who visit the patient weekly for the last weeks of their life. Pictured above is volunteer Mary with Home for Life's terripoo Lucky. The connection among them is apparent.
It is so amazing that thru the enlightened hospice movement, it is possible for Home for Life to offer this comfort and happiness of the companionship of the HFL dogs to critically ill,terminal patients.
I can't say enough about the compassion and dedication of the volunteers who participate in the Sit*Stay*Heal Hospice initiative: Mary,Sylvia,Angie,Angela and Sara. I should add that Asera provides great and thorough training for the HFL volunteers who participate in the Sit*Stay*Heal hospice program and also support when the inevitable loss occurs.
Home for Life dogs who currently participate in the hospice program include Lucky, Sammy, a blond cockapoo, Jack, a rat terrier mix and Minnie, a miniture schnauzer. Lucky,Jack and Minnie came from abusive situations and Minnie and Sammy have struggled with behavior problems.The small dogs seem to be the popular ones among the current patients: they like to be able to hold them and cuddle with them.The dogs can also lay beside the patients on their hospital bed. Even though Sammy,Jack and Minnie are very boisterous at the sanctuary, they seem to realize that when they are with their patient,and are subdued and sweet.Lucky,the senior member of the group, has mellowed with age.

Ironically, though the survival of the Home for life animals no longer depends on their value to people,whether they are appealing or adoptable, they end up helping people in many real ways. Our hospice program illustrates our conviction that at risk animals can be incredibly effective in reaching out to the lonely,fragile and forgotten members of our society.
The four dogs got to partcipate with us in the check presentation ceremony and photos and are pictured in the check presentation above.