Bunny here at the keyboard, writing about something that I thought you might find interesting.
It’s not a secret that I work as a therapy dog and a hospice volunteer. I enjoy going to visit people and bring smiles to their faces. Usually, I know where we’re going before we even leave the house. Sure, we dogs are pretty smart and figure things out, but going to visit has a special routine that I can spot a mile away. I know we’re going visiting before we ever leave the house.
In some ways, it’s like having a mini spa day before I go. One of the first things you have to know about going to visit is that you have to be clean when you go. A lot of our patients have compromised health and immune systems, so we don’t want to bring in anything that could make them worse. We also want to make a good impression when we are there, which means clean breath and no dead animal smell. For some reason, humans like the aroma of flowers and fruit, although to be really honest, neither of those really do much for me. Personally, I think dead fish smell would be a lot better, but they never ask me.
So, step one is that I get my teeth brushed. I normally get my teeth brushed at night or get special dental chews, but before we go visit, I always get my teeth brushed to be sure I have good breath. The patients seem to like it, and the toothpaste actually tastes pretty good, so I have no issues with that part.
Next, I get a bath. Once in a while, this involves actually getting in the tub and getting hosed down, but most of the time, it means that I get wiped down with shampoo wipes, get my face washed really well and get spritzed with canine eau de parfum. My fur is really short and washing too much can really dry it out, so my human tries to keep the balance by using things that will get me clean without damaging my fur.
Right before we leave, we pick out a fancy collar and leash to wear. I don’t wear the best stuff when I’m just hanging out at home. We try to pick something that goes with the time of year of our visit, or that we think our patient will really like, and then we head out to the car. I get my seat belt harness on, get comfy in the back seat and then we take off.
Once we get to our destination, I put on my vest and my credentials. I have an ID badge that I wear on my vest for hospice and a special tag that I wear that identifies me as a therapy dog. These are both pretty important to the humans, but I don’t pay much attention to them. I don’t know many other dogs that have their own ID badge or business cards, though. My business cards are special for when I go to visit my hospice patients and they aren’t there or they’re asleep and we can’t wake them up to let them know I came by. Sometimes we give them to family members who are there, too, who want something to remember our visit by.
After a quick potty break, it’s time to go inside and get to work. Sometimes we have to sign in or be buzzed in, and other times, we can just go in on our own. At all of the places, you have to be very careful and make sure you don’t let any of the residents out, because some of them are prone to getting lost. I don’t want to start bringing Küster along to find people I let loose. I’m pretty sure that would be frowned upon and might end up with me losing my privileges or credentials. Some of those senior humans are pretty wily, too, so you have to keep a close eye on them.
It’s about at this point that I stop and remind my human to use hand sanitizer. It goes back to not bringing in germs. I carry some on my pack so that she doesn’t have to worry about forgetting. Once we do that, we’re sure we’re ready to visit. I even put my game face on at that point. You need your doe eyes and cute ears to appease your public, you know.
On the way, I often run into a lot of humans who want to pet me and ask questions. Sometimes I think the humans that work in the nursing homes need regular canine visits as much or more as the residents. Anyway, once we find my patient, we spend some time visiting. They might want to pet me and talk to me for quite a while, or sometimes they don’t have the strength or energy for a long visit. We play that part by ear.
After we’re done visiting, we go back out to the car. I take off my vest and my human wipes me down and uses hand sanitizer again. We make sure to put our credentials away and keep track of our time. We usually both need a drink by that point, too. Visiting is thirsty work, and it’s usually on the warm side where we visit.
Of course, the last part is our stop for puppucino. It’s a reward for a job well done, and it’s something I always look forward to. Of course, after that, I usually fall asleep on the way home.
I hope you enjoyed hearing what it’s like to spend a day in the life of a hospice volunteer, though. There are sometimes things that you don’t expect to encounter, but this is basically what it’s like. I suppose it’s not for everyone, human or canine, but I think it’s a pretty easy and rewarding job. I’ve certainly never regretted giving up a career on the race track for a job that brings smiles and peace.