A Visit from Clancy Provides Much Needed Hope and Comfort
The journey to hospice volunteer work includes some long-standing roots with Cathe Keres. Thirteen years ago, her mother was in the care of hospice and she remembers the experience as comforting and beautiful. Regrettably, when her father passed twelve years earlier, he did not have the same opportunity to connect with the local hospice. More than ten years ago, fate stepped in, formally connecting Cathe to hospice.
Attempting to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest (having served as the long-time caterer for the local hospice), Cathe remained silent about her desire to volunteer. But years later, the silence ended when she, and her newly certified pet therapy dog, Clancy, ventured into hospice volunteer service.
Clancy, a docile yellow lab, and Cathe now make weekly visits to the in-patient hospice unit. Over the years, she has seen Clancy motivate and offer hope and comfort for patients along with emotional support, including pure joy. And, patients aren’t the only recipients of these pleasures; often times, the hospice staff will seek the dog out, giving Clancy a treat and loving pat on the head, a much need playful break from demanding day of patient care responsibilities.
The special connection between people and dogs is undeniable. But, Cathe’s experiences with Clancy go beyond that universal bond. She recalled one patient, seriously declining in health, yet determined to get out of bed and dress for the dog’s visits, walking to the corner of her street to introduce Clancy to the neighbors. This interaction developed over weeks and Cathe took a photo of patient and Clancy together. Little did Cathe expect that this photo would be the centerpiece of the woman’s memorial board at her funeral service. And, that the family made a donation in Clancy’s name, to the Therapy Dog International organization.
Cathe has also made short-term visits with Clancy, which have been similarly profound. For one family, Clancy filled the void of a much-loved and missed family dog, a circumstance of moving from over seas to the United States for patient care. For another gentleman, it was Clancy who provided him comfort in his last hours, the man stroking the dog’s head, triggering reclaiming of lost speech, uttering Clancy, his last words.
Not only has Clancy provided comfort to the “hospice organization family”, but he has also provided Cathe with the opportunity to observe and interact with those at the end of their lives. These experiences force her to reflect upon her existence and the manner in which she leads her life. Often times, it is the younger hospice patients that give her the most pause for thought.
During her own mother’s time in the care of hospice, Cathe remembered her saying, “We are all stepping toward death the moment we are born”.
And Cathe knows that the gift of perspective is such a treasured gift, one she receives each time hooks the leash to Clancy’s collar and journeys out the door together to see a patient.
“When mortality stares you in the face, it brings it back home, coming full circle. It makes you realize that one day it will be you,” Cathe said.
Until then, Cathe and Clancy are grateful for the opportunity to deliver daily comfort and joy to hospice patients, enriching their end of life journeys.
- The presence of pets provide undeniable healing
- Remember that we are all stepping toward death from the moment we are born.