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Friday, 10 January 2014 11:58

Peace of mind for people and pets

Written by  Dennis Hines
Lenore Green of Janesville sits with her dog, Maggie Mae. Green received the dog through Mercy Hospice Care’s Pet Peace of Mind program. Green’s husband, John, requested that Mercy Hospice find a pet companion for his wife before he passed away. The Pet Peace of Mind program offers pet care services for Mercy Hospice patients. Lenore Green of Janesville sits with her dog, Maggie Mae. Green received the dog through Mercy Hospice Care’s Pet Peace of Mind program. Green’s husband, John, requested that Mercy Hospice find a pet companion for his wife before he passed away. The Pet Peace of Mind program offers pet care services for Mercy Hospice patients. Dennis Hines

 WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY — Lenore Green has a four-legged friend to keep her company thanks to a program that is offered through Mercy Hospice Care.

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Green’s husband, John, died in August and one of his requests was to have a pet companion for his wife before his passing. The Janesville couple received the dog, which they named Maggie Mae, in June through Mercy Hospice Care’s Pet Peace of Mind program.

“Since my husband passed, she’s been a real comfort,” Green said about Maggie Mae. “She’s very gentle and just a very well-behaved dog. She likes to get on my lap. She follows me everywhere, but I guess all dogs do that.”

 Mercy Hospice Care implemented the Pet Peace of Mind program to provide pet care services for its patients. However, in this case, they used the program to find a dog for Green and her husband.

“We kind of did things in reverse because what we had was a request from Lenore and her husband. They wanted a certain size dog and a certain breed,” said Nancy Bracken, Mercy Hospice Care director. “We reached out to all these different contacts that we made since we started Pet Peace of Mind. We said, ‘Look, we have a patient that’s looking for this and this and this.’”

Mercy Hospice Care obtained Maggie Mae from Friends of Noah. The dog was found abandoned near Milwaukee and was fostered by Friends of Noah after no one claimed her. After being contacted by the hospice, Friends of Noah adopted the dog to the couple for no cost.

“When they heard the story, it touched their hearts and they coordinated everything from there,” said Angie Marshall, a volunteer nurse for the Pet Peace of Mind program. “It was very seamless. Everything fell into place.

“John was unique. He didn’t ask for much. This was one thing he did ask for. We wanted to make every effort to do it.”

Green said, despite being abandoned, Maggie Mae seems to be a well-trained dog.

“She must’ve had an owner. She seems to be trained,” Green said. “Before she eats or has a treat, I have to say ‘That’s OK,’ so she must’ve been trained and ran away from her first home or something. That’s why she’s always on a leash, because I don’t want to lose her.”

Green said Maggie Mae provided a source of comfort for John before her husband died.

“She gave John the only thing he was really interested in. The only thing that gave him pleasure during the last few weeks of his life was Maggie…,” Green said. “We would sit together in the morning, and she would always come in right between where we were. She would come and sit with us.”

Laura Bergeron, volunteer coordinator, said Maggie Mae seemed to be the right dog for the couple.

“There were actually several dogs available at the time, then one by one they were adopted out,” Bergeron said. “Then there were two left, and we just felt Maggie Mae met more of their specifications than the other dog.”

“We feel that she belongs to all of us,” Marshall added. “We feel we all had a little part of getting her adopted. She’s just so cute. Who couldn’t love her?”

About 15 percent of Mercy Hospice Care patients use the Pet Peace program. Some of the services include temporary pet sitting and boarding, pet food and litter, transportation to veterinary and grooming appointments and financial assistance for pet care services. The program serves clients in Rock, Walworth, Green, Jefferson and Dane counties.

Patients may request to have their pet taken to a certain veterinarian or groomer.

“We always tell the families that if they already have a groomer or use a vet, whatever the case may be, we will take their pet to a particular business,” Bergeron said. “So, it’s not that we’re taking business away from anybody else. It’s continuing what the family wants.”

Through the program, Mercy Hospice Care also finds foster care for the pet if no one in the family is able to take care of it. Pet owners and family members often are concerned about what is going to happen to the pet if the owner passes away, Bracken said.

“Many times, families don’t know what to do with their loved one’s pet because they’re losing their loved one, and yet there’s this cat or dog or bird or fish that they have to worry about,” Bracken said. “That’s where we step in, to relieve some of the family’s and the patient’s stress. The patient no longer has to worry about what’s going to happen to their dearly beloved pet, and the family can have that burden lifted off of them.”

Mercy Hospice Care began offering the program in December 2012 and has hosted several events, including a bake sale and a plant sale, to help fund the program.

The program has a lot of support from the community, Bergeron said.

“Every time we’re out in the community, people are just blown away with it,” Bergeron said. “They just can’t believe what the program offers, and it’s specifically for our hospice patients.”

Mercy Hospice Care recently received a Wisconsin Hospital Association’s Volunteer Excellence Award for the program and has been nominated for two national awards.

“We weren’t expecting (the award) at all, so it was an honor and a privilege to be nominated, and to be a winner, it was amazing,” Bergeron said. “It just kind of validates why you’re doing what you’re doing.”

The program currently has 10 volunteers; however, Bergeron said they always could use more help. Training is required in order to volunteer.

“All volunteers, whether they’re visiting with patients or involved with our music program or veterans’ program or Pet Peace of Mind, they all need to go through the same kind of training,” Bergeron said. “It gets more specific with Pet Peace of Mind because we have release forms that patients have to sign, in order for us to transport their pets and then for foster care and then to possibly adopt out.”

“We try to be all-encompassing as far as helping the patients and their family as much as they want. It’s very much driven by the patient and the family,” Bracken said. “It’s what the patient and the family would like. We don’t want to be intrusive. We want to be there as a support.”

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