Feel Good Dog
Friendly and calm, Pumpkin Pie is an ideal therapy dog.
When people meet Pumpkin Pie, they cannot help but be automatically drawn to her. The Alaskan husky and Chow Chow mix is unique in her own right, and she is an unconventional member of Oxford Healthcare and Hospice’s staff. Equipped with her own business cards and a professional portfolio, Pumpkin has a busy schedule with patients to visit at nursing homes, hospitals and private residences. Pumpkin and her owner, Chaplain Cliff Rawley, spend their days bringing smiles to the faces of patients.
Pumpkin’s previous owner, who was once one of Oxford Hospice’s patients, was concerned about Pumpkin’s future until Chaplain Rawley volunteered to find a loving home for her. After considering possible homes for this beloved dog, Chaplain Rawley’s wife, Martha, decided Pumpkin was where she needed to be – with the Rawley family.
As Pumpkin made her home in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, Chaplain Rawley did not initially realize that his sweet, even-tempered new family member possessed a unique gift. In fact, one of Oxford’s physicians recognized Pumpkin’s potential to bring comfort and joy to patients. Her gentle and calm nature made Pumpkin the ideal candidate for animal-assisted therapy. After months of extensive training, she earned the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen award and was certified with Pet Therapy of the Ozarks. Pumpkin became Oxford’s official therapy dog.
Pumpkin Pie and Chaplain Rawley visit patients, whether they’re residing in a nursing home, receiving treatment in a medical clinic or spending the last moments of their lives in the privacy of their homes. As an intern for Oxford Hospice, I am privileged to accompany Pumpkin as she makes her rounds with Chaplain Rawley. No matter the circumstances, Pumpkin makes an impact on the lives of the patients she encounters. I have witnessed the therapeutic benefits Pumpkin brings to these patients. She is there to provide joy to patients who long for companionship by allowing them to pet, hug, kiss and talk to her.
Additionally, she comforts those who are dying by just being there in the moment with them. She lies at the side of each patient as if she instinctively knows their life stories are in their final chapters. There may be others in the room, but for that very moment in time, it’s just Pumpkin and the patient. Her presence brings the patient a sense of joy that comes from petting an animal.
From hugs and giggles to a simple “good girl,” patients’ responses to Pumpkin’s visits are always positive. I never would have known when I first met Pumpkin that she would have such a huge impact on the lives of our hospice patients. Chaplain Rawley could not have asked for a better dog.
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