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Volunteer therapy dog brings comfort to hospice patients

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Madeline, a fluffy 3 ½-year-old golden doodle, helps comfort Home Health United–St. Clare Hospice House hospice patients nearing end-of-life.

Animals have long been recognized as being a positive force in the healing process, and can bring a calming and therapeutic effect to hospice patients. Therapy animals can offer physical contact, and offer some relief to the boredom, loneliness, and lack of control that can come with terminal illnesses.

Madeline’s presence brings comfort, peace, and companionship to many hospice patients that come to stay at the St. Clare Hospice House. “One hospice patient we visited with really loved animals. We had several visits with her. The last time, she wasn’t responsive. Madeline lay close to her bed; the woman reached out to pet her but didn’t have the strength. So, Madeline laid her head on the woman’s hand and just stayed there for the rest of the visit,” said Susan Eldred-Kujawa, Madeline’s owner and handler.

But it’s not just the patients who benefit from Madeline’s visits; it’s the staff as well. Healthcare can be incredibly stressful, and providing end-of-life care brings its own challenges. For Hospice House staff, being able to take a short break and pet an incredibly fluffy dog helps them to cope.

“Madeline and Sue are wonderful additions to our hospice volunteer program and team. They bring a unique and valuable service to our pet-loving patients residing at the St. Clare Hospice House. If you are a dog lover, you know how important the companionship of a pet is. Madeline knows just how to brighten someone’s day and bring a level of comfort only a furry friend can provide,” said Rebecca Herndon hospice volunteer coordinator.

Madeline is not only a hospice therapy dog; she also visits Catholic Charities Adult Day Care Center, St. Mary’s Hospital, St. Clare Hospital, Kid’s Ranch in Baraboo, libraries, and Edgewood College during exam week.


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