Walking into the fire
by Bill Hamelau, HPCCR pet therapy volunteer
After five years as pet therapy volunteers, my dog Rowdy and I are going to take a break. When I shared that decision with Elise Hurst, my staff liaison for those five years, she was very understanding and empathetic as usual. I explained that the last six months were particularly difficult having experienced the deaths of four of the five patients assigned to us. One might assume that after five years, you would become “accustomed” to losing your patients but the fact is, you do not. When one of your patients dies, a piece of yourself also dies.
I got involved in pet therapy for hospice for two reasons. The first was the belief that my incredibly loving Portuguese Water Dog, Rowdy, could bring joy into patients’ lives. This turned out to be true as I witnessed the smiles of patients and heard so many times, “You made my day.” They were, of course, referring to Rowdy.
The second reason I became involved was much more selfish. I wanted to see if I could overcome a life-long “problem” of becoming emotionally devastated upon the deaths of friends, family, and associates and their family members as well. I knew my reactions bordered on the irrational and I would literally fall to pieces each time this happened. I decided that I needed to walk right into the white hot heat of the fire itself and, to say the least, it has been so helpful. My pet therapy work with hospice has given me such a deeper understanding of death and the dying process. Being given the honor and privilege of interacting on an ongoing basis with these precious and wonderful hospice patients at their end of life has been a rare and special gift. Through their poise, dignity, grace, humor, and tears each one became a teacher and I, the student. I am so grateful.
We at HPCCR express our deep appreciation to Bill and Rowdy for making the days of many patients and families brighter by their joyful presence. We sincerely hope they will be back as volunteers after their break and that we will have the privilege of reading about more of their hospice adventures!Explore posts in the same categories: awareness, end of life, hospice, volunteering comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.