Hospice and animal therapy: Sharing of unconditional love

Posted by Jodie Diegel

Hospice and animal therapy: Sharing of unconditional love
SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy visits JourneyCare at our Chicago CareCenter.

Many of us are familiar with a fabulous quote often attributed to William Shakespeare or Pablo Picasso:
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

The all-volunteer SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program has found our gift and we are happy to “give away” the unconditional love of our very special miniature therapy horses, miniature therapy donkeys and therapy dogs to JourneyCare and other organizations throughout the Chicago area!


Interestingly, there are many similarities when comparing hospice and palliative care provided by JourneyCare to the SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program:

  • SH3Both are passionate about the “Sharing of Unconditional Love.”
  • Both enrich lives through love, comfort, healing, happiness and safety, with an overall goal of improving quality of life.
  • Staff at each organization requires special training, expertise, professionalism, integrity and advocacy. While medical staff require specially-trained MDs, RNs, therapists and many other professionals, our volunteers abide by rules set forth through certifications/registrations, aligning with standards of excellence; thus our therapy animals are registered with nationally-recognized therapy animal organizations including Pet Partners and the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
  • They provide care at homes, hospitals, nursing homes and to many different demographics.
  • Both help people who are frightened and unsure of future decisions, such as what medical decisions are to be made, or whether petting or hugging a horse is okay! Ultimately, patience, kindness, understanding, respect and love help each of us (and our animals) to move forward.
  • There are key values inherent to both programs, including passion, integrity, standards of excellence, advocacy, collaboration and stewardship.

SH12Hospice and palliative care offer a full range of support programs for families, while the SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program offers several programs to enrich lives through the unconditional love and healing of the human-animal bond. Our programs include the Walk with Me and Read with Me programs (special Pet Partners Initiatives), the Just say WHOA to Bullying Program, our SOUL to SOUL visits (off-site and on-site visits at SOUL Harbour Ranch in Barrington), and an exciting new program called SOUL Buddies (coming soon!).

Our Animal Therapy Program miniature therapy horse teams have visited JourneyCare patients at both the Barrington CareCenter and the Chicago CareCenter at Rush. Our philosophy of visiting JourneyCare with our animals is a "win-win-win:"

  • It's a win for the patients and their loved ones that we visit at JourneyCare. They LOVE to pet, love, hug, take pictures with and just BE with our animals. 
  • It's a win for our special animals. They love to be hugged, brushed, cared for and loved.
  • It's a win for our volunteers. We believe strongly in the comfort and healing that our animals provide and it gives us great joy that we can share that love, laughter, comfort and healing with so many.

The human-human bond must be strong for hospice and palliative care, while the human-animal bond must be just as strong between the handler and therapy animal, or that bond will never be present with others. We value the relationship between the animals and humans that can only come through time, practice and respect. The relationships with our animals are built on trust and are paramount to the integrity and foundation of the SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program.  

So, what is your SOUL’s gift? We have found ours in the amazing volunteers and therapy animals of the SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program. The Sharing of Unconditional Love of our animals is our SOUL’s gift that we are happy to “give away!”



The SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program, located in Barrington, is a philanthropic organization whose mission is to enrich lives by promoting the unconditional love and healing of the human-animal bond, while advocating for animal therapy standards of excellence. They do not charge for visits and are funded solely by generous donations and sponsors as well as future grants. Visit their website at www.soulharbourranch.com.

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