Handled by Shari Glickman
When Glickman’s father was in a hospice home in Las Vegas, a pet therapy dog would come to visit. “My mother said to me at that time, ‘this is something you should do,’” she said. It was both her mother’s encouraging words and her father’s experience with hospice’s pet therapy program that encouraged Glickman to become a certified pet therapist. Both of Glickman’s parents were in hospice care – her father for nine days and her mother for three hours. “So I have a heart and a passion for hospice care and what it means to patients and their families,” she said.
Sambuca Allegra “Leggy”, a Cirneco dell’Etna sight dog, is 5 years old. The breed originated from Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy, and were bred to hunt rabbits. “Allegra will hunt rabbits in our yard,” Glickman said. “We have to watch her.” She was a therapy dog for hospice patients in long-term care facilities for eight months prior to the pandemic. “Allegra is intuitive with people,” she said. “She can tell when someone is not feeling well. She will lie down and comfort them.”
Glickman recounted an experience with a patient in which the man reached down to pet Allegra and “she jumped up in his lap.” “He had a blanket on his lap and she loves blankets,” she said. “He was so happy to be able to pet her and talked about how she was ‘a keeper.’” Allegra, she said, “has very little hair so she’s super warm – it’s like having a heating pad on your lap.”
“Her coat is like velvet, too, and she is bright-eyed, which draws people in,” she added. In addition to serving as a therapy dog, Allegra competes in disk flyball events. “She is the only dog in her breed in the world to play flyball,” Glickman said. “The breeder we got her from was convinced that I could train her to play flyball, and I did. She is a special dog.”
Glickman and her husband, David Peden, an immunologist, have three other dogs – an 11-year-old miniature American Shepherd; a 3-year-old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever; and a 1-year-old Border Collie Whippet. The opportunity to volunteer with AuthoraCare Collective, Glickman said, “has been amazing. We really miss it a lot and look forward to when we can return to helping patients and their families.”
Handled by Judy Foster
It was Judy Hinsdale’s sister-in-law, who lives in Indiana, who inspired her to become involved in pet therapy. At the time, Judy and her husband, Ron, were kitchen volunteers at the Hospice Home. “Hospice provided in-home care for my dad and they provided care for my best friend’s mother when she was moved from the hospital to hospice care,” she said. “So I have a heart for the organization.”
After the death of the family’s Yorkie, Hinsdale began looking for a Cavalier King Charles puppy. She wanted an allergen-friendly puppy that the grandchildren could play with. While looking online, Hinsdale discovered King LionHeart Puppies. “They nurture these puppies and pray over them,” she said. “They take care of them with so much love.”
Bentley, a Havanese Cavalier Poodle (HavaCavaPoo), joined their family. Following a year of intense training, Bentley began visiting hospice patients at long-term care facilities. “We just hold the lead and let him do the work,” Judy said of how she and Ron work with Bentley. “It’s the greatest feeling in the world. People are lonely. We all want to be loved and these animals provide that.” Bentley, and the Hinsdales, visited several nursing homes before the pandemic hit.
“He’s been a joy. He’s the best dog I have ever had. He has helped the families of patients as much as he’s helped the patients themselves. And the nurses love to see him, too,” she said. “When I put his therapy dog jacket on, I know I better grab the keys because Bentley is ready to go to work.”
Judy Foster and Judy Hinsdale trained and certified their dogs, both named Bentley, at the same time.
Handled by Judy Hinsdale
Foster’s Bentley is a King Charles Cavalier. “I always knew I wanted a therapy dog,” Foster said. Bentley volunteers mostly at the Hospice Home in Burlington, something he has been doing for about three years now.
“He senses a critical situation and interacts with families. He’s so loving and gentle with patients. He does a world of good with your staff, too. They love Bentley,” she said. “most always, someone will go back in time and tell me of a dog they had growing up, which makes for pleasant memories and good conversation.”
Foster said one of the most memorable situations involved a patient in a memory care unit. “He was in another world, staring into space and I took Bentley and plopped him in his lap,” Foster said. “And he came to life. He was hugging and rubbing him. But when I picked Bentley up, he went back to staring into space.” Bentley has also received training from Dogtown Training Academy in Burlington. “He’s my best friend and companion,” she said. “The world is a better place with him in it.”
Luc and Polly
Handled by Gary and Juli Hauser
Juli and Gary Hauser first learned of the pet therapy program at AuthoraCare Collective while visiting a Dog Days of Summer event at Burlington City Park 10 years ago. “MJ Tucci (Lead Bereavement Counselor on the Burlington campus) approached us and suggested that we bring Foxy, our dog at the time, to be trained to be a therapy dog,” Juli Hauser said.
Neither Juli nor Gary had ever considered training pet therapy dogs prior to the encounter with Tucci. Juli is a retired educator and Gary is a retired CNA. “We’ve always loved dogs, but that was it,” Juli said. Juli and Gary would bring their dogs to the Hospice Home on Fridays. “There’s just something about bringing a dog into a patient’s room. The dog is wagging its tail and the patient starts petting it. There’s something about a dog that calms you.” Juli said that she and Gary have a number of stories through the years of the benefits of pet therapy, but two stand out in her mind.
“I took Polly, our black-and-white Grand Pyrenees, to the Hospice Home and a gentleman was sitting with a woman. When Polly walks in, he puts both arms around her neck and sobbed. He then said, ‘thank you.’” The other story involved a teenager with a brain tumor. He was in a coma. Foxy, the Hausers’ Finnish Spitz, was the therapy dog at the time. “I asked, ‘May I put Foxy on the bed?’ And when I did, his fingers started moving to rub her. He never gained consciousness, but that moment meant a lot to his family,” she said.
Luc, a Papillon, can be quite energetic. “I will talk to him like a child – asking him to calm down – but when he’s with patients, he is so gentle,” she said. “He likes to lick elderly ladies’ hands.” Working with the therapy dogs has been a blessing for Juli and Gary. “It keeps us young,’ she said. “I’ll be glad when this (the pandemic) is over so we can get back to helping people.”
Ekko | Retired
Handled by Pam Gaynor
Honorary Volunteer, Served Beacon Place 2013-2020
Ekko, a German Shepherd therapy dog, and her owner/handler Pam Gaynor, used to visit Beacon Place on Tuesdays. It was their routine for about seven years. Gaynor has been a volunteer with AuthoraCare Collective for 22 years. Ekko is Gaynor’s third therapy dog. Elka, also a German Shepherd, served as a therapy dog for 10 years at Beacon Place. She died nine years ago.
Ekko’s first visit to Beacon Place was as a puppy. At the time, Gaynor hadn’t planned for Ekko to be a therapy dog. “I took her to get her puppy shots and decided to take her over to Beacon Place to see the staff,” Gaynor said. “I came walking in, carrying this 10-week-old puppy when the volunteer coordinator at the time tells me about a man in Room 8. He wouldn’t speak to the staff at all. I walk in with Ekko, and his face lights up. He was in love with this dog. Ekko and I brought him out of his shell and he brought us back to pet therapy.”
Ekko recently broke her leg and due to complications from surgery, “she’ll never be able to walk down the halls of Beacon Place again,” Gaynor said. While Ekko is retiring as an AuthoraCare volunteer, the stories of those she’s helped through the years remain.
“Elka was so trained and so obedient, but Ekko had this ability to walk up to someone because she felt their grief,” Gaynor said. “She has pulled me over to people so many times. And I end up finding out their stories, thanks to Ekko.” Ekko and Gaynor will become Honorary Volunteers, meaning that there will be no direct patient care or service.