Students share unconditional love of animals with hospice patients
Posted by Jodie Diegel
Many of us understand the joy, love, laughter and healing that our own animals bring to our souls. Imagine a high school club that allows teens to take part in enriching lives by promoting the unconditional love and healing of the human-animal bond through visits to nonprofit organizations such as JourneyCare.
The SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program has partnered with Barrington High School to create the SOUL Buddies Animal Therapy Club. Students are teamed with mentors and animals from the SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program and the Masonic Association of Service and Therapy Dogs (M.A.S.T.) to learn how to handle registered and certified therapy animals with hospice patients and others. Then we visit JourneyCare with miniature horses and dogs (plus mini donkeys in training!) and other organizations in the Barrington community.
SOUL Buddies Animal Therapy Club members visited JourneyCare in the fall of 2018 — and we look forward to our next visit to Journeycare in April! At the Pepper Family Hospice CareCenter, the students worked with our experienced mentors as well as therapy dogs Buffett, Dudley and miniature therapy horse Mystery from SOUL Harbour Ranch and therapy dogs Liberty, Mason and Mocha from M.A.S.T.
Needless to say, there was a whole lot of that joy, love, laughter and healing going on in the hallways and patient rooms at JourneyCare! Animals connect and heal our souls on a deep level that is extremely powerful. There is something special about animals that bring out the best in humans, especially when people are in times of need, such as hospice patients.
Barrington High School student and SOUL Buddies Animal Therapy Club member Ilaria Tuluce has been with SOUL Buddies since its inception in September, 2018. She recalls the JourneyCare visit:
“I was handling Buffett as we approached a woman’s bed. We put a towel down on the bed and with a 'visit up' command, he put his paws on the bed so the elderly lady could pet him. The people we visited and their families were so happy to see us, and that made me happy. We also visited with two young boys in the waiting room who got to pet and love Buffett. Being young and visiting a loved one in hospice is not always easy, so I know that our animals brought comfort to them.
"We visited another room with Mystery and Mason. First, each received love in the form of pets from the resident in bed. With his weak hand, he was able to stroke each of them. Mystery laid her head on the bed, while Mason did a 'visit up' so that petting him was much easier. Then it was the family’s turn."
Meanwhile, other SOUL Buddies Animal Therapy Club members visited the staff upstairs with Dudley, Mocha and Liberty, all of whom are big snugglers and full of love! The JourneyCare team members were very excited to visit with all of the therapy animals too. The JourneyCare visit included a lot of pictures, with smiles that took everyone away, just for that moment in time, to a place in their heart filled with love and joy. That is what animal-assisted visits are all about.
We believe wholeheartedly that involvement with our special animals and each other will assist in the students' futures as leaders in our community. Visits at JourneyCare and other Barrington locations open the students’ eyes and their hearts, while instilling a sense of pride, collaboration, responsibility and teamwork with our animals (and also earning community service hours!). The ultimate goal is to enrich teens' lives by promoting the unconditional love and healing of the human-animal bond, so they, in turn, can share that unconditional love with others throughout our community.
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. The SOUL Buddies Animal Therapy Club is one of their many programs. 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.
The Masonic Association of Service and Therapy Dogs provides charitable and supportive services to enrich and better the lives of those who have valiantly served in the U.S. Armed Forces and other individuals under special circumstances. M.A.S.T also recruits and trains volunteers to provide therapy dog services to comfort those in hospitals, retirement and nursing homes, schools, hospice centers, court victims and witnesses and disaster areas. Visit their website at www.mastdogprogram.org.