Today is National Dog Day! Let’s paws and celebrate the love and joy our doggies fill in our lives and community.
Sir Omar Bradley is one of 44 animals serving in our pet volunteer program. He is a pure-bred Golden Retriever, eight years old and specially trained with his human Donna Williams to visit patients in Suncoast Hospice care.
“I call him the gentle giant. He’s like Eeyore. Everything is in slow motion. He loves being with people,” she explained.
Serving in Dad’s Memory
Williams and her family picked out Bradley as a pup because of his laid-back nature. They named him after a waterside restaurant in West Palm Beach. He likes to take walks, snack on Velveeta cheese and deliver stuffed animals or blankets as gifts to his loved ones.
Her dad was one of Bradley’s biggest admirers. She helped care for him for 11 years. Last summer he passed away at age 95 after a short stay at our Suncoast Hospice Care Center North Pinellas. Her mother and sister also had hospice care.
“This is my first time volunteering. I am here to serve the community. I had three amazing experiences with hospice. I am doing this in honor of dad. He loved Bradley. Bradley went to the foot of dad’s bed and laid down at the Care Center. It was beautiful,” Williams expressed.
Bradley, and other dogs like him, share a special connection with people in need.
“Dogs give unconditional love. They don’t judge. Making him a hospice dog was the best thing we did. He senses how you feel,” she noted.
A patient who just turned age 100 showed her affection with Bradley.
“I notice how much love and compassion Bradley’s presence gives the staff, residents and patients. I go to the activities room in a facility and notice people who are nonverbal smile. One patient took her hand outside of her blanket and started petting his head. He got her to smile. We were all almost in tears. That was such a beautiful moment,” she reported.
Caring for Patients and Families
Williams values the way hospice care embraces the decisions and comfort of all in the family.
“It helps the whole family when someone has been told he or she has a terminal illness, and gets that person out of pain. Hospice gives back some control to the person and the family. It’s education on the dying process. It’s honoring patients’ choices. It’s living life on patients’ terms,” she explained.
She sees how care teams and pet volunteers bring a similar kind of contact and support.
“Hospice listens. They don’t judge you. They accept your view and that’s what I love. They meet you where you are at. It’s the same as pets who make visits. The dogs meet you where you are at. Hospice is human touch,” Williams noted.
She additionally appreciates the bereavement support that helps families heal.
“They help you through the grieving process. I was grieving long before dad died because I knew it was inevitable. Rev. Lissa Bradford has been a blessing to me. She has been helping me with grief counseling. She did my dad’s service. Bradley laid down next to me at the service. It was comforting to me,” she added.
One day, Williams takes Bradley to visit staff and volunteers at our Palm Harbor service center. Everyone admires his friendliness and freshly-groomed, flowing coat. Many have dogs of their own and took the opportunity to give Bradley some love and hugs.
“He brings so much joy to them,” she said.
Join Our Mission
Learn more about our pet volunteer program, other volunteer opportunities and volunteer training online.