Therapy dog lights up hospice patients
by Staff Writer
IRON STATION – It’s a win-win situation every time Iron Station resident Jeri Edwards takes her dog, Titan, to visit patients at Hospice & Palliative Care Lincoln County.
Actually, according to Edwards, it’s a win-win-win situation.
“It’s makes everyone happy,” Edwards said. “The patients, Titan and I all get enjoyment from it.”
Edwards has been taking Titan to Lincoln County residents for about eight months now. Titan, a 130-pound Anatolian Shepherd, is a volunteer therapy dog for hospice and can be seen lifting the spirits of patients at Cardinal Healthcare and Rehabilitation each Saturday morning.
“I would take him out in public and he would be a rock star,” Edwards said. “He likes being around people so much; he’s just so happy doing that. You can just see it in his face and his expressions.”
After seeing Titan’s love for being in the public eye, Edwards put him through the required training courses for Therapy Dogs International.
It’s a nonprofit, New Jersey-based organization that provides qualified dogs and handlers to visit anywhere a therapy dog is needed.
Crystal England, volunteer program coordinator with Hospice and Palliative Care Charlotte Region, said having dogs serve as therapists for hospice patients is nothing new.
They’re able to provide a calming influence on the patients, Edwards said, but she doesn’t have specific goals in mind each time she sets foot in a hospice or palliative care facility.
“My intentions are, ‘Let’s go in and make a difference,’” Edwards said. “A pet brings them out of thinking about their illness to, ‘Hey, let’s focus on this pet and enjoy life.’ The pet is enjoying life and he makes everyone around him do the same.”
Edwards, who lives on a farm, originally bought Titan because of his breed as a livestock protector.
“I think he guards us and protects us as much or more than the livestock,” Edwards said.
Linda Baxter, director of activities at Cardinal Healthcare and Rehabilitation said Titan’s visits each Saturday are the best type of therapy they can give to patients.
“Some of them are just waiting on them to come each week,” Baxter said. “When he comes up and they pet him, they just smile and their entire mood changes. It just makes all the difference in the world. The good Lord knew what he was doing when he gave us animals.”
Edwards can see the difference, too.
“Their face lights up, it’s like a little spark of life goes in them when they see him for the first time,” she said. “That’s what I love about being in the presence of a dog, you’re getting the most out of life at that moment. When it comes to hospice patients, all they have is the moment.”
Think your dog is qualified?
The nonprofit Therapy Dogs International provides training courses for dogs. Go to www.tdi-dog.org or call 973-252-9800.