How One Ethos Volunteer Is Making a Difference Using Pet Therapy
July 22, 2022
By Danielle Andersen
Ethos Patients May Have a Surprising Pet Therapy Visit: Comet, the Miniature Horse
Many volunteers at Ethos work hard to brighten the days and lives of patients, but Terry and Comet might be the most unique.
Terry, a volunteer at Ethos Hospice, bought Comet seven years ago at a horse auction. Although Terry had never owned a horse before, her experiences with Comet led her to consider the idea of pet therapy.
Over a period of months, Terry built a connection with Comet through multiple training sessions and sometimes just by sitting and being calm around him. Eventually, Comet grew used to Terry’s company and then the company of others.
Soon, Terry was taking Comet out to community events and even took him into local stores that allowed service dogs, just so he could get used to different environments. Now, Comet and Terry are registered as a therapy team through Pet Partners, which has an extensive evaluation process for certification in animal-assisted activities and therapy pets.
Using Pet Therapy to ‘Make People Happy’
Today, Comet is well known by Ethos patients, which was Terry’s aim all along.
“My goal with Comet was to be able to make people happy,” she said. “And I just felt like Ethos would be something that would make people happy. You can see that there are some people that can’t wait for him to come back.”
Getting Comet to the point where he was comfortable in a place like a nursing facility was not necessarily easy. He had to get used to groups of people, walkers, wheelchairs, med carts, and many other things.
“We’ve been to several nursing homes and that has been a great experience for both of us,” Terry said. “They just can’t believe that they are seeing a horse. There are a lot of smiles and a lot of people wanting to pet him and are just amazed to see such a little horse in a nursing facility.”
Promoting Positive Interactions
Terry's favorite interaction so far was bringing Comet into the room of a woman who had severe Alzheimer’s. The nursing staff did hand-over-hand petting with Comet, and then the woman reached up and stroked Comet’s nose on her own, which was more interaction than she had initiated in a long time.
Terry chose to volunteer at Ethos because many of the patients grew up around horses. They will reminisce about their experiences and tell stories.
The benefits of pet therapy are many, and last beyond the initial visit:
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved mood
- Decreased depression
- Reduced stress
- Increased alertness
Bringing Comet to volunteer with Ethos Hospice is as much of a bonus for the patients as it is for Terry.
“It makes me happy,” she said. “It makes my heart full.”
Learn more about Ethos Hospice
Volunteers are essential members of the Ethos Hospice team. Click here to learn more about the critical role they have in our care and how you can become one.