Joy is the therapy pet in-training for the Hospice Care Plus Compassionate Care Center.

We’re happy to introduce you to the newest member of the Hospice Care Plus family: Joy, a golden retriever, was born on Tuesday, September 6, to proud parents Zach and Tillie (also golden retrievers). Zach and Tillie’s human is a Madison County resident who trains therapy pets. She has donated her services to train both therapy pets that have served full-time at the Compassionate Care Center since 2008:  Annie and Coco.

Thus far, the trainer has always chosen rescue pets to train for us: strays or dogs at animal shelters who pass her initial screening as potential therapy pets.  Annie was an abandoned mixed-breed (mostly Golden Retriever). The trainer felt she had great potential as a therapy pet, and offered to donate months of room, board, and training.  Annie joined the staff at the Compassionate Care Center before it even opened its doors. She served as therapy pet until her retirement in 2011, and is considered by our staff and hundreds of patients and families to have been the quintessential therapy pet: compassionate, tender, attentive, with a mysterious ability to know when she was needed most.

Finding another therapy pet as gifted as Annie proved to be a challenge. Several began the training process, but were not able to complete it for various reasons. Then, Coco came along. A rescued, chocolate Labrador Retriever, Coco was obedient and pleasant. She served as our therapy pet until her retirement in 2014.

Since that time, the trainer has attempted to train multiple rescues who, in the end, just weren’t up to the task. Then, months ago, she came to us with an incredibly generous (and brilliant) idea: since our best therapy pet so far was a golden retriever, what if she bred her two goldens, Zach and Tillie, and selected the most promising therapy-puppy for us? We were thrilled. Not having a therapy pet at the Compassionate Care Center made it feel like something special was missing. Plus, the trainer’s willingness to donate the puppy plus room, board, and training for a full year meant that it would affordable for us.

At some point soon, Joy will begin making periodic visits to the Compassionate Care Center. The visits will increase in frequency as she gets older. The trainer estimates that Joy will begin living full-time at the Center when she’s around 12 months old. She’ll have one or two close friends (some of our staff) who will take her home for two- and three-day periods every week or so, so that she can rest and play.

Once she begins her therapy-pet work at the Center, she’ll do what both Annie and Coco did for patients, families, and staff: visit rooms; rest her head on the bed so patients can reach her; comfort anyone who seems a little down; make rounds with Dr. Budeiri, our chief medical director; and take care of our staff, who always enjoy a good cuddle. She may also make appearances when we speak or have information booths in the community.

Watch the Hospice Care Plus Facebook page for more news and updates about Joy, and join us in welcoming her to our hospice family!