Volunteer Therapy Pets Provide Comfort for Downriver Hospice Patients

Fred Fisher and Bridgette are among those donating their time to comfort others

TAYLOR, MI. Feb. 20, 2018 – For thousands of years, humans and dogs have shared a special kind of bond. That bond is very apparent at the bedside of Hospice of Michigan patients, where therapy pets provide emotional support, comfort and care for patients during the final stage of life. The nonprofit is currently looking for companion volunteers with dogs or other pets interested in spending time with patients throughout the Downriver area and beyond.

Grosse Ile resident Fred Fisher and his golden retriever, Bridgette, may be new to hospice visits, but they have nearly a decade of experience supporting those in need. The pair has spent nine years visiting nursing homes, hospitals, schools and other organizations across the state and country. Despite being newcomers to Hospice of Michigan, the pair’s impact has been immediately apparent.  “Patients suffering from dementia often, sadly, forget the names of those closest to them in life,” Fred mentioned, “We brought Bridgette into one patient’s room and her presence alone helped him remember the name of his childhood pet.”

Bridgette is a certified service and therapy dog with Therapy Dogs International, where she underwent intense training in busy settings testing her patience and temperament around patients, loud noises and other distractions. She assisted in disaster recovery efforts following the devastation of Hurricane Irma. She has also spent time as a reading education assistance dog (R.E.A.D) with Trenton Public Schools, listening to children read as a way to boost confidence in their literary skills.

As a HOM volunteer, Fred gains satisfaction through helping people. “I do it to give back to the community. Some patients don’t get many visitors, so just being there to provide some companionship can go a long way.” Fred recalls one particular visit that stands out to him: “A patient loved having Bridgette around so much that she tried picking her up – all 90 pounds of her. While we had to stop her before she got hurt, it was a very sweet thing to witness.” Patients also love Bridgette’s tricks, which include rolling over, shaking hands (paws) and even retrieving tissues for them when they sneeze. “The patients love Bridgette, but she certainly loves them back.”

Those interested in volunteering with their pet should contact Alana Knoppow at 248.303.6818 or aknoppow@HOM.ORG to learn more about opportunities. Many different types of pets are accepted in addition to dogs, which must be at least one year old and current on all shots. Past therapy training or experience are preferred but not required. For more information on the opportunities and services offered by Hospice of Michigan, please visit www.hom.org.

About Hospice of Michigan
A nationally recognized leader in end-of-life care, Hospice of Michigan (HOM) is the original – and largest – hospice in the state. A founding member of the NorthStar Care Community, the nonprofit delivers the highest quality of care, raising more than $5 million each year to cover costs for the uninsured and underinsured. HOM offers a broad range of services to enhance the quality of life at the end of life. HOM also provides grief support and counseling, as well as caregiver education and support. A member of the NorthStar Care Community, HOM also provides palliative care through NorthStar Palliative Care, pediatric hospice care and compassionate support services through Jo Elyn Nyman Anchors Programs for Children, and education programs for physicians and health care professionals through the NorthStar Institute. The NorthStar Care Community also includes Arbor Hospice. In total, NorthStar Care Community members serve more than 1,500 patients daily across Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. For more information, call 888.247.5701.