Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hospice and Dogs

Slate posted a heart warming article by Jon Katz on his dog's uncanny abilities with hospice patients. Here's an excerpt:

Izzy and I became volunteers together last summer, after weeks of rigorous training by Washington County Hospice. Volunteers are an integral part of the hospice philosophy, but they have to be taught to behave differently than they might normally—to listen rather than give advice, to accept the reality of death rather than cheer everybody up, to be comfortable with the fact that patients will not recover. To never, for example, tell a patient or family to buck up, move on, or cheer up. Generally, things do not get better.

While the hospice workers at the Washington County Hospice and Palliative Care Program are always looking for ways to make patients more comfortable, they weren't immediately certain that a canine would make an appropriate hospice volunteer—they had to ponder the insurance and health implications, and the particular sensitivities of hospice work. What, for instance, would be the consequences if a dog bit a patient or ate his medication? Final moments matter. My vet had to testify to Izzy's temperament, attesting to his gentleness and responsiveness.

As it turned out, he is a natural. I was the one who needed all of the training.

Read the rest of the Slate article by clicking here.

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