JJ the hospice dog spends time with a dying woman

JJHospiceTherapyDogPublished: March 23, 20171,641 views
Published: March 23, 2017

In an incredibly poignant demonstration of the power of the human-animal bond, JJ is shown here doing what we call a therapy dog bed visit. JJ is a golden retriever who works with me at our inpatient hospice facility, caring for those who are dying and their loved ones. JJ has times when she is a silly distraction and times like this when she is present and offers quiet reassurance and comfort. This intimate moment, rarely ever captured on video, shows the power of connecting with an animal, even when it does not seem someone can communicate.
This lovely lady had no family to visit her and had not made any purposeful movements all day as we cared for her. This woman was not abandoned by family. She simply had no family, but some very lovely caregivers who took care of her for years. She was a feisty, independent blind person who would try to get around on her own and ended up falling, thus the bruises. She came to our Hospice House from the hospital when it was clear she was close to death and in fact she died peacefully the next day. We have some wonderful CNAs at our hospice facility, and one gave her a manicure earlier in the day.
As we often do when we have some quiet time and someone is alone, JJ and I sat at her bedside toward the end of our shift. Our therapy dogs do not interact with those who don't want to see a dog. I had been told by caregivers that this woman liked dogs and when JJ indicated she wanted up on the bed with her, I very gently placed her at her side. JJ was very insistent that this woman touch her, and she started nudging her head under her hand. I was amazed to actually see the woman's fingers start to move. At one point, it looks like JJ was poked in the eye, but I could clearly see her eyes were shut and protected. With Yeats playing in the background, both of them fell asleep with the woman's hand resting on JJ's head, staying like this for the next 20 minutes, with JJ softly snoring.

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