CORONAVIRUS: Animal-assisted therapy offered virtually at hospice

Patients at Ohio’s Community Mercy Hospice in Springfield have been receiving animal-assisted therapy virtually through photos and videos during the coronavirus pandemic.

Amy Dobyns and her animal-assisted therapy cat, Maxwell Pepperoni, usually visits the Springfield hospice two times a month, but due to COVID-19 their visits were suspended, according to a press release from Ohio’s Community Mercy Hospice.

“We miss our patients,” Dobyns said. “I wanted to make sure they had a chance to see Maxwell Pepperoni.”

Dobyns created a variety of photos and videos of Maxwell Pepperoni to be shared with patients and their families.

Tami Clark, volunteer coordinator with Ohio’s Community Mercy Hospice, said that she shared the photos and videos with staff - case managers, social workers, personal care specialists and chaplains.

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“I was so impressed with Amy going out of her way to support to others as best she could offer during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Clark said. “Her tender love and care of Maxwell Pepperoni and our patients is very sweet.”

The press release explained that the photos and videos are used with patients who could benefit from the virtual animal-assisted therapy.

Dobyns said that she and Maxwell Pepperoni are excited to get back to their regular visits.

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“Before COVID-19, Maxwell Pepperoni enjoyed his visits with patients. He loves the attention,” Dobyns said. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has missed visiting with patients. Some days, he jumps in his stroller and sits there ready to go.”

Dobyns and her cat began volunteering in 2018 at the Hospice House at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, but decided to volunteer at Ohio’s Community Mercy Hospice after learning there were not many animal-assisted therapy volunteers, the press release said.

Maxwell Pepperoni is a certified therapy pet through Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association. During visits he practices Animal Assisted Activities - visiting patients bedside, allowing patients to pet or hold him and performing tricks.

“He is there for comfort and companionship for the patients,” Dobyns said. “But that comfort is often shared by those around the patients as well, from the family members there visiting to the medical staff treating the patients.”

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