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National Therapy Animal Day Celebration

Quincy keeps a hospice patient company.

COURTESY PHOTOS
The moment Quincy puts on his bowtie, he goes into work mode. His demeanor changes and his mental steadiness is locked in. He is prepared for service, and nothing can take him off his goal of obeying the needs of his clients. No, Quincy will not be the matière d’ at a Michelin-starred restaurant, neither is he channeling Groucho Marx. He’s a bowtie-wearing certified therapy dog for hospice patients at Avow, a Naples nonprofit hospice, palliative care, and bereavement support organization.

In honor of National Therapy Animal Day on April 30, it’s each a privilege and a joy to share the profound impact pet therapy animals have throughout the hospice environment. Because the Volunteer Services manager for Avow, I even have witnessed firsthand the comfort and peace these remarkable animals bring to our patients and their families through Avow’s PAWS (Pets are Wonderful Souls) program. Amongst our treasured volunteers is Coleen Harrington and her Boston Terrier, Quincy, whose journey together in pet therapy has touched many lives.

HARRINGTON
Coleen, an authorized tester/observer with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a nationally recognized certification organization, has been instrumental in growing our pet therapy program. Her commitment to making sure each volunteers and their pets meet the very best standards of therapy work has been invaluable. With a background as a registered nurse, Coleen understands the profound impact animals can have on healing and well-being. “After I retired, I knew this was what I desired to do,” Coleen shared, recalling her inspiration from therapy dogs within the hospital where she worked in Michigan.

Quincy’s story is certainly one of resilience and purpose. Rescued from a shelter in Kentucky, he has been a therapy dog for greater than seven years, showcasing the extraordinary bond between humans and animals. Coleen’s rigorous process for certifying therapy animals ensures they’re well-suited for the sensitive environment of hospice care. This includes health verifications, background checks, and a series of observations in various settings to guage the animals’ temperament and behavior.

Quincy is a bowtie-wearing certified therapy dog for hospice patients at Avow.

The impact of pet therapy extends beyond patients to staff and families, offering a momentary escape from the challenges of hospice care. Coleen recalls the heightened significance of pet therapy through the COVID-19 pandemic. She also emphasizes how Quincy and other therapy animals offer peace, comfort, and a way of normalcy to everyone they encounter who’s under stressful circumstances. “It brings a way of joy and luxury to people. It helps families within the hospice house; they’re drained and exhausted from sitting for hours, facing an enormous crisis of their lives,” Coleen noted.

Quincy’s intuitive nature, signified by his readiness to work the moment his bowtie is on, shows the unique qualities of therapy animals. They possess an innate ability to offer emotional support, enabling patients to share their stories and experiences. One touching anecdote involved a hospice patient who, upon seeing Quincy, opened her eyes wide with joy, reminiscing about her own dog. Such moments highlight the therapeutic value of those interactions, bridging human experiences through the unconditional love of animals.

SHULTZ
Coleen’s work, alongside Quincy, emphasizes that not only do these animals provide essential emotional support, but in addition they embody the spirit of volunteerism and community. The means of certifying therapy animals, as outlined by Coleen, ensures that every pet and their handler are well-prepared for the fragile nature of hospice care, fostering an environment of comfort and understanding. Currently, Coleen says she is the one certified tester/observer in Collier County, while Lee County has one other. The subsequent closest within the region is Miami, and all three people remain extremely busy with this growing need for therapy animal services. In 2023, Avow’s PAWS program clocked 146 hours of animal companionship with patients and is anticipated to do many more hours in 2024 with the addition of several recent four-legged volunteers.

As we rejoice National Therapy Animal Day, allow us to recognize the invaluable contribution of therapy animals and their human companions volunteering in hospice care. Their service goes beyond mere presence; they convey a way of solace, joy and unconditional love that enriches the lives of everyone they touch. Through their dedication and compassion, Coleen Harrington and Quincy represent the very best of what pet therapy can offer to those of their most vulnerable moments. Their stories are a testament to the ability of healing paws and the enduring human-animal bond.

If you’ve a pet you’re thinking that has the calm demeanor essential to turn into a PAWS volunteer at Avow, contact info@avowcares.org or call 239-261-4404.

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