Pet therapy is used at Hospice of Douglas County to help patients cope with their health conditions. Visits between patients and therapy dogs promoted activity, conversation and emotional connection, said Janelle Negen, a Hospice of Douglas County volunteer and handler of Brutus, a pet therapy dog.

The presence of a pet, like Brutus, in the room can bring a sense of comfort and joy, as well as help ease anxiety and discomfort, she said.

“From the moment I walk in with Brutus, I see smiles from my patients,” said Negen. “I love how the presence of a dog in the room evokes such happy memories for them.”

Janelle Negen
Janelle Negen

Negen said dogs have a special way of communicating and are very intuitive and smart. Outside of the initial training and testing, she said they don’t spend a ton of time training as dogs are able to sense who needs their love and they naturally seem to gravitate toward those who would benefit from their presence.

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When she and Brutus work with patients, Negen said the patients, if they had pets previously in their lives, can usually recall them and that she loves to hear stories about all of them.

“Brutus also loves all the attention and love he receives when we’re visiting,” she said. “After each visit, I leave with a full and happy heart.”

Negen said it takes a special dog with a loving and gentle personality to become a therapy dog, adding that the training isn’t “super intensive.”

“I encourage anyone who is interested to ask questions to learn more about the process because there is always a need for therapy dog teams,” she said.

For more information, contact Hospice of Douglas County at 320-763-6018.