Best Friend to Therapist
Pet Therapy Positively Effects End of Life
Companionship and comfort are what eight-year-old Brynn brings to Northern Illinois Hospice patients and families. Brynn, a Labrador mix, makes special visits weekly with her handler, volunteer Libby Knopp. Libby and Brynn have been Northern Illinois Hospice Pet Therapy volunteers for more than five years and the duo enjoy it just as much as the patients. “I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. You can just see the joy Brynn brings to the patients and their caregivers,” said Libby.
Pet Therapy can reduce anxiety, ease depression and encourage more communication, and Libby witnesses this firsthand. “Having a pet visit brings a spot of sunshine in a patient’s day. The positive impact Brynn has is so rewarding,” says Libby. While spending time with a furry friend has many social and emotional advantages, there are physical benefits as well. Pet Therapy can lower blood pressure, help reduce pain and increase overall comfort.
In addition to Pet Therapy, Northern Illinois Hospice offers the Pet Peace of Mind® Program. This national initiative provides direction to hospices on how to care for pets of hospice patients. The purpose is to keep pets and people together during a time of transition. Through this unique program, Northern Illinois Hospice volunteers are able to provide pet food; litter; flea, tick and heartworm medication; and basic veterinary care. If a patient’s pet needs a walk, volunteers can provide that, too. Libby says, “Our families have a lot of stress, and if we can help relieve some of that stress by helping their pets, we do it.” The Pet Peace of Mind® program is 100 percent funded by grants and donations.