JJ — Therapy
JJ is a 6-1/2-year-old golden retriever female who has been a therapy dog from the tender age of one. She is prone to sassiness and constantly in search of bacon, while often confused with a male Irish Setter of unknown origin. JJ serves as the primary therapy dog for our inpatient hospice facility, where I am a hospice nurse. She works 3 twelve hour shifts each week, providing comfort to patients, families, staff and volunteers, passing out hugs along the way. During her off time, JJ also is a HOPE Crisis Response canine, responding with me to national and local crises while offering support and comfort.
JJ also serves as a virtual therapy dog, helping others through her stories and antics. We balance heart wrenching stories with more lighthearted moments to educate and support not only families we have served in hospice, but the public. End of life is a very difficult topic for people and we’ve found stories including animals can be a non-threatening bridge to the conversation that everyone will eventually need to face.
In an unexpected turn, patients and families now are relating to JJ in a different way. This last December, she was diagnosed with lymphoma. She is currently in clinical remission after starting chemotherapy. The staff at the veterinary teaching hospital continue to be charmed by her hugs and love while she receives her treatment, including a radiology tech whose mother we cared for at hospice. Once a therapy dog, always a therapy dog.