Pet therapy volunteers needed to bring comfort to hospice patients

The pet therapists visit Hospice patients to help relieve stress and provide emotional support
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 9:16 AM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Do you have a friendly dog or cat that would make a great therapy pet? Volunteers are needed in Marathon County and the Wittenberg area to visit with hospice patients to provide emotional support and reduce stress.

Compassus is a home health and hospice agency in Wisconsin. It used to be Ascension at Home. Volunteers visit patients wherever “home” is.  They can provide socialization and presence to the patient and offer caregiver relief while a caregiver runs errands or just gets a break. 

Dawn Freedlund is the Volunteer Community Outreach Coordinator. She said volunteers are also needed in more communities, like Wittenberg, Ringle, Wautoma, and Adams. She said certified pet therapy volunteers can contact her at 715-204-3440.

“The handlers all go through a training program just so that they have the basics of hospice, volunteering, and all of the requirements that go along with that,” said Freedlund.

Emotional support and comfort may be provided to patients by a therapeutic interaction with pets. For patients living in facilities, pet visitation may help to normalize the environment and reduce stress. Dogs must meet all health requirements and must be certified through Therapy Dogs International (TDI) or a similar organization using the same criteria for certification. If your pup is not currently certified, they can provide you with information about the certification process.

Mandy Fabich and her dog Winnie currently volunteer.

“It’s always a chorus of “Winnie!” They’re so excited to see her. So she brings great comfort in more ways than I think she even knows,” said Fabich.

She said Winnie is a sweetheart and brings patients comfort and laughter.

“A lot of times, she’ll just go later head on somebody’s labs. She just makes people happy,” said Fabich.

Fabich said the training to become a therapy pet was 10 weeks.

“We did Positively Unleashed. And then we are constantly training. We’re going to new environments... to try to adapt, and make sure that she reacts how she should. And then we spend an hour or so with our patients each week,” Fabich explained.

Fabich said some signs your dog is ready to be a pet therapy animal include a calm nature and good obedience.

Friendly cats are welcome, too. Cats must meet all health requirements, but do not have a certification process. Other pets are possibly welcome. Call and talk to Dawn Freedlund if you have another kind of pet to consider. Her number is 715-204-3440. Dawn’s email address is dawn.freedlund@compassus.com