Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lending a Helping Paw - Champagne Hermann

Very few animal lovers would dispute the soothing quality of an animal's companionship. Animals have a wonderful way of making us feel better even on our worst days. And cat owners in particular know how uplifting a purring cat can be even in the darkest times.

For years, therapy dogs have visited nursing homes and hospice facilities, bringing moments of happiness and ease to the patients and residents. In recent years, there have been increasing requests for cats to become therapy animals as well.

One of our patients here at Scottsdale Cat Clinic, Champagne Hermann, recently became part of the Hospice of the Valley's Pet Connections Program. Says his owner, Linda Hermann, "One day I received this friendly phone call from a friend of a friend who had personally met Champagne and observed his interactions with an 8-year-old boy and his triplet 6-year-old sisters. Who was this friend who called? Ann Roseman, Pet Team Coordinator with Hospice of the Valley.

"At first, I was surprised as I have heard of dogs being involved in this program and did not realize there was a calling for cats too. Champagne and I jumped at this opportunity to be involved with Hospice of the Valley. How delighted we are to visit each patient and see the joy that we bring to the patient and their families. Our visits are one or twice a month. Champagne makes himself comfortable in the patient's lap as the patient pets him and scratches his ears, brushes his fur, or feeds him treats. It's apparent Champagne and the patient have a unique bond. As we leave, I remind the patient that Champagne and I will be coming back soon; and we all look forward to that time."

Officially, research theories vary widely on whether there is true therapeutic value to animal visits, but those on the receiving end of those encounters seem to find them very uplifting. According to Ann Roseman of the Hospice of the Vally, "As an officially registered pet therapy cat, Champagne (and his pet parent, Linda) has already brought much joy to many Hospice of the Vally patients, family members, and caregivers since joining us this past November. He has visited patients in their own private homes, assisted living facilities, group homes, skilled nursing facilities, and our Hospice of the Valley inpatient units. Depending on the patient, his visits range from 10 to 60 minutes, from one time only to once every several weeks.

"The Hospice of the Valley care team members are constantly referring new patients for cat visits. So if your cat is good at riding in the car and arriving at their destination calm and ready to interact, please consider getting your cat tested to be a therapy cat. One of the tests will be to see if your cat can lie comfortably in the laps of several people for several minutes each. Your cat will also have to be comfortable in a collar or harness and leash. They need not walk on the leash, but it must remain attached to them and in your hands at all times."

The Delta Society is a national organizations that helps prepare pets to be part of their Pet Partners program. For more information, visit their website at www.deltasociety.org.

For information on becoming part of the Hospice of the Valley Pet Connections Program with your cat (and/or dog), please contact Hospice of the Valley Pet Team Coordinator by email at aroseman@hov.org or by phone at 602-287-6660.