Hospice can be a scary and stressful place to be, and McLaren Hospice understands that. That’s why they offer pet therapy for free to try and alleviate some of that stress.
Dean and Sharon Hartman are nice enough to volunteer as pet handlers with their service dogs, Apollo and Buck. The couple has been volunteering at McLaren Hospice for three years. Before that, the couple ran an after-school program for kids learning to read. They would bring the dogs into the school for the children to read to in order to practice the skill of reading.
The Hartmans describe their dogs as very different from each other, with Buck being the more social of the two and Apollo being more relaxed. They said that helps with their volunteering efforts because of the different needs of the patients. Some patients are looking for more relaxed companionship while others enjoy the more playful type.
“Pet therapy is used to enhance quality of life for our patients. Hospice patients are often referred because they had pets of their own, and pet therapy can help bring back memories and positive experiences from the past,” said Matt Meeuwse, McLaren Hospice volunteer services supervisor. “We also work frequently with patients who cannot communicate verbally. We connect with a lot of patients who are unresponsive but respond to pet therapy.”
For a dog to become a therapy dog like Apollo and Buck, it must complete the training through Therapy Dog International or an equivalent therapy program. The dog must also be up to date on all inoculations with proof from its veterinarian before it is allowed to see patients. Even after all that, the therapy dog’s handler is required to complete 14 hours of volunteer hospice training.
To learn more about pet therapy at McLaren Hospice, call (810) 496-8757.