I am privileged to have a kind, intuitive, and very huggable partner as an important component of my death doula and grief support work. Mowver is a 15-month-old Bernese/shepherd dog that has been willingly working hard to become a certified pet therapy dog with me as his partner and is almost done with all the required work needed. As a pet therapy team, we will be able to visit folks in hospitals, hospices, schools, their homes or wherever they want to meet.
Pet therapy dogs like Mo offer companionship for the dying and their families. Research has shown that the close proximity of a therapy dog helps to reduce physical pain, lowers blood pressure, helps to alleviate anxiety, and increases overall comfort level. Mowver will be able to provide companionship, unconditional love, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry into, as he is able to just sit or lay and be present in someone’s grief.
Therapy dogs work wonderfully with all ages and are able to connect with the needs of the person they meet. With an older person, Mo is trained to sit in a position where they can easily pet him, where he can lean his head on their lap if appropriate, and to lay at their feet or bedside as he is too large to lay on their beds. With children, Mo is trained to sit or lay beside them and let them pet, cuddle him, and tell him whatever they need to say.
Recently Mowver offered comfort to a young woman who was quite upset. He just leaned his body into her so she could bury her face in his chest as she wept. It was a magical experience for me as his partner to see him help her in a way that I could not offer. Watching Mowver at work, I am reminded that the best way to help those who are grieving is to come alongside, sit quietly, and actively listen. Together I believe we can offer that in a very comforting way to dog loving families.
Come the end of September, we will be starting at the Wellington Terrace as a pet therapy team visiting folks and offering support in the palliative care area. It will be exciting to see where we go as a team and where we can serve. As a team, we are hoping to offer our support throughout the county.
Lisa McColeman has recently graduated from HHA's death doula certificate program and is a Wellington Terrace pet therapy team member.