When people face the reality of their own mortality, it is often their loved ones they think of first. This was the case with one of Regional Hospice and Palliative Care’s hospice patients, who couldn’t bear to leave her dearest companion, friend, and comfort for the past 11 years, even though her own life was slipping away from her. To fulfill our patient’s dying wish of remaining home with Angel, the Springer Spaniel / Beagle mix whom she adored, the hospice team – nurses, social workers, home health aides, and volunteers – banded together to provide both the patient and Angel the care and dignity that they deserved.
Penny Dawson, a retired RN and current hospice vol unteer learned about the situation and quickly offered to help. “When I opened the door, my first impression was that this was a really needy situation,” Penny said. The house was in disarray, and Angel was acting “bonkers,” jumping on and off the couch. Penny saw that the dog had gone to the bathroom throughout the house and that her food bowl was empty and her water dish upturned. Penny, who had eighteen years’ animal rescue experience, recognized at once that Angel needed some extra TLC.
While the nurse, social worker and home health aides tended to our patient’s needs, Penny began caring for Angel two days a week, leading a team of additional volunteers. Sadly, as our patient’s condition deteriorated, so did Angel’s. It became clear to Penny that Angel needed additional care and attention.
Penny began driving an hour every day to care for Angel―cleaning up Angel’s messes, providing food and water, and taking Angel for long walks in the woods where, Penny said, “Angel flourished.” Penny’s daily visits continued for more than a month.
As our patient’s condition worsened, her care team encouraged her to allow another family to give Angel a home. In time, she opened up to Penny that she was ready – that it might be time to find a new home for Angel, where she would be as loved as she had been for the past eleven years. Regional Hospice put out the word, and Angel was immediately adopted, giving the patient the peace of mind that her adored dog was with a good family and being cared for and loved. Two weeks later, just before Christmas, our Hospice patient died. That very day, perhaps responding to an instinct of grief, Angel ran away. Fortunately, a kind stranger recognized that Angel was lost and took her to the nearest vet―who identified the Spaniel mix at once. He’d been Angel’s vet all along.
And so Angel’s story has a happy ending, due in great part to our Pet Peace of Mind program and our Hospice volunteer, Penny Dawson, who surely went above and beyond. It was Penny’s daily attention to Angel’s needs that helped our hospice patient remain at home with her dearest friend and companion at such a crucial time. It was Penny’s care that no doubt helped keep Angel alive and thriving during her owner’s illness. We are grateful to all those who helped care for our patient and for Angel, especially to Penny, for her initiative and selfless dedication―and we imagine Angel is too!
Penny was selected as the “Runner Up” for Volunteer of the Year by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s “Pet Peace of Mind” program in April 2017. Regional Hospice and Palliative Care is so honored to have Penny on our volunteer team, caring for our human patients and their furry loved ones alike.
To volunteer with Regional Hospice and Palliative Care, please visit our Volunteer Page and fill out an application today.