Vince the dog’s owner Eddie Berger said pet therapy visits brought a lot of joy to his clients during a difficult time in their lives.
What started as a family visit turned into a certified volunteer position with the Hospice of Michigan.
“About three and a half years ago, I was tagged on a Facebook post from another animal lover saying that Hospice of Michigan was in need of pet therapy friends,” said Eddie Berger of Bloomfield Hills. That’s when Eddie realized his 3-year-old labradoodle Vince would be a perfect candidate after seeing how calm he was around his wife’s grandmother.
“When my wife’s grandmother was alive, Great Grandma Jean, we would go to her facility. After we were done visiting with her, we would then walk up and down all the hallways and interact with people,” Eddie said.
Eddie decided to take his 62 pounds of furry love to Hospice of Michigan for an interview. The interview process was extensive, Eddie explained. “I had to show them some of his obedience then had to fill out forms. Then I had to go through an extensive eight or 10 hours in classroom training. We also learned and got training on palliative care and learned about what hospice means and what the roles and responsibility of Hospice of Michigan were,” he explained.
Once training was finished, Eddie says he and Vince began visiting clients, and before the pandemic hit, they did a lot of visits.
Eddie said he had a preference to serve Jewish senior citizens, being Jewish himself. “I always have had a passion for giving back. I was in BBYO and always had a strong passion for volunteering,” he said.
Even though Eddie works fulltime while raising two young children with his wife, Sarag Miller, he still made volunteering a priority. “Pre-pandemic, I was able to bring my kids into the assisted living center and show them why it’s important to give back and to use that as a life lesson. At the same time, when you bring a small child into a facility like that, immediately smiles show up because people love to see kids run around.”
Even during the pandemic, Eddie and Vince continued their pet therapy services virtually. “I was able to connect and do some virtual home therapy visits where I was able to show Vince and bring his face very close to the camera, boop his snout and get him to do some tricks.”
Eddie said pet therapy visits brought a lot of joy to his clients during a difficult time in their lives. “I remember going to this person and their spouse,” he said. “When Vince went to work, he put his head right on the knee of this person who was partially nonverbal and the spouse really appreciated this joy,” he said.
“It was almost a family interaction and at that point, I almost remove myself from the situation — Vince knows what to do. The husband and the wife were enjoying Vince together. For them to be together and share those additional moments near the end of life, that’s really special.”
As things start to open back up, Eddie says he and Vince want to continue bringing smiles to senior citizens in the Jewish community.
If you would like to nominate someone to be the next volunteer of the week, send a nomination with a short paragraph telling us why to firstname.lastname@example.org.