When she’s not running on the trails, taste testing treats, hiking up mountains, or entertaining house guests, Tatum takes time to give back to the community. The day I met Tatum, I realized that her sweet demeanor and positive attitude would be a great asset to any volunteer organization. As a long time volunteer with many local organizations, it was important to share this part of my life with my dog. Just another way to bond and learn respect for others! I searched for the perfect opportunity to include Tatum in my volunteer efforts, and came across a local Hospice organization offering pet therapy certification.
Research has shown that the therapeutic use of pets as companions provide a constant source of comfort, providing a fun and friendly way to bring joy to the lives of the elderly and physically infirmed. Tatum naturally brings out my nurturing instinct, which reflects upon the work we do visiting Hospice patients, bringing a safe and unconditional accepting feeling to the patients. The American Heart Association published a study suggesting that pet therapy programs (in particular, dogs) reduced stress levels in heart patients. Patients in nursing homes and long-term care facilities often crave simple companionship, and sometimes they are alienated from family or friends. They really just need to see a friendly face. Since many of these people were once pet owners themselves, they quickly remember how a casual encounter with a friendly dog can make them feel like the center of attention.
For those of us who have a special bond with our dogs, this work is equally rewarding for us, the owner! It brings me such joy to see the smiles all around as Tatum walks into the nursing home. With her head held high, she knows that she’s there to do a “job” and immediately goes into work-mode when I clip on her badge and open the front door.
As we make our way to our assigned patient(s), Tatum happily licks willing participants, sits calmly waiting for a pat, and even jumps into bed with anyone requesting the full cuddle treatment!
Today we were introduced to two new patients. They lit up when Tatum made her way over to their chairs to say hello!