by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager
I met the sweetest volunteer the other week. He had truly soul-searching eyes and an uncanny ability to know exactly what patients needed from him, including how he could comfort them, without being asked.
His name was Ollie and he was an eight-year old Labradoodle.
National Volunteer Week was last week and HPCCR made special efforts to recognize the amazing men and women who offer their time and love to the individuals (and their families) under our care. But what about the animals who do the same thing for our organization? It’s definitely harder to show our appreciation. But I think they know; they must certainly feel the intense adoration coming their way from everyone who meets them.
Pet therapy dogs are brilliant. Ollie knows the difference between when he can “be a dog” when it’s time to “go to work”. His owner, Robin, in fact uses those very words (“It’s time to go to work, Ollie!”) when she’s ready to load up and head to Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster, where you can find them each Wednesday afternoon.
Robin told me some amazing stories. But one of them really resonated with me and almost brought me to tears. She told me about the time when, after a patient had died, the family (who had particularly loved Ollie) requested that he participate in the ceremonial procession of walking behind the body to the waiting vehicle outside. This family had a long tradition of waving as they said goodbye and they all wanted to wave one last time to their loved one. As the vehicle drove away, all of the family members were waving and crying. Then they turned and looked down (in shock) to see Ollie lift his paw as well. Robin was not surprised. “He totally gets it. You don’t have to say anything.”
Ollie seems to sense when and where the patients need him. He’s been known to jump up on beds but he can also tell when lying on the floor next to them is the best way to offer comfort. He’s always calm, always full of love, and he never fails to bring a smile to at least one face in the room.
I watched Ollie in action that day. We entered the room and, I tell you, the entire mood shifted. Faces lit up, questions were asked about him, and stories were offered up about their own dogs. There was hardly a second when a hand was not on Ollie’s head or stroking his unbelievably soft ears.
And when it was time to go, he knew that too. He moved on to the next room, ready to offer exactly the kind of comfort they needed. Without being asked.
For more information about pet therapy or volunteering with Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, visit our website, hpccr.org or call us at 704.375.0100.