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Hartselle Enquirer

Pet brings a smile to Hospice patients

By Staff
Tracy B. Cieniewicz/Hartselle Enquirer
Sometimes a touch means so much. That's why Edna Tyler and her dog Gus make a special trip each month to Sunshine Haven for Hospice patients to experience the therapeutic feel of petting a special animal.
According to Hospice of the Valley, research indicates people will respond to pets and animals much more readily than they will humans when they are depressed, ill or lonely. "A terminally ill patient, even with family and friends close by, sometimes feel depressed and worried," Diane Scanland of Hospice said. "Hospice of the Valley has a special program to help these patients and others who need a pick-me-up during a time of illness and uncertainty. It is called Pet Therapy."
Scanland explained that pets who are qualified to help those who are ill, depressed and/or lonely visit such patients in nursing homes, family homes and assisted living facilities to bring a smile to everyone's face.
Hospice of the Valley has several different dogs who perform pet therapy on a regular basis, but Gus, a 7-year-old West Highland White Terrier, is the newest addition to the team.
Tyler, Gus' human, completed Hospice volunteer training in September and decided she and Gus, a certified Canine Good Citizen through the American Kennel Club, would like to do pet therapy.
On their first solo visit to Sunshine Haven, Edna and Gus made several stops to visit Sunshine Haven residents aside from their planned visits with Hospice patients.
Hospice patient Henry Kitchens, 86, was happy to see both Edna and Gus. While he and Edna talked about former neighbors in Decatur and his 65-year membership at Oak Park Church of God, he gently stroked Gus.
Tyler shares laughter and smiles with everyone she meets at Sunshine Haven. She introduces Gus and lets residents who are interested in the four-legged visitor pet or give him treats.
Therapy dogs visit Cedar Springs, Sunshine Haven, NHC in Moulton and SunBridge on a regular basis.
The Pet Therapy program is just one of the free ancillary services available to terminally ill patients and their families through Hospice of the Valley, the only nonprofit community hospice provider serving Morgan and Lawrence Counties since 1984. For more information about Hospice of the Valley services or how you can get involved as a volunteer, call 350-5585.