Canine Therapy Teams Honored

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From left to right, Michael Allen of Maplewood and his Newfoundland, Ticee; Verona resident Dotty Ostella, with her Corgi, Haley; Betty Pyatak-Monaghan, VMD, chief operating officer, Animal Emergency Referral Associates of Fairfield; Laurie Berkman, program coordinator, Paws for Patients, Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center; and Denise Bastanza, also of Verona, with her mother-daughter team of Samoyeds, Faith and Sarah.

An evening hosted by Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center  in West Orange went to the dogs recently as the facility honored the accomplishments of three of its Paws for Patients canine therapy program volunteer teams, including two from Verona. Paws for Patients, launched in 2009 by BHHPCC, pairs trained hospice volunteers and their certified therapy dogs with patients and families who request a pet therapy visit. The program is fully funded by the generosity of donors.

The celebration recognized the canines and their human companions for leading the Paws for Patients pack in volunteer hours and visits in 2011. The honorees included Verona residents Denise Bastanza and her mother-daughter team of Samoyeds, Faith and Sarah, and Dotty Ostella and her Corgi, Haley. They received enrollment in the Very Important Puppy (VIP) Passport to Health Program courtesy of Animal Emergency and Referral Associates  in Fairfield and the Animal Eye Center of New Jersey in Little Falls, the evening’s sponsor.

Michael Allen of Maplewood and his Newfoundland, Ticee, were also honored as the new team to watch and received a gift certificate for a free grooming session donated by Lisa Lent of Puppy Love in Maplewood.

Since 2009, Paws for Patients has expanded from a team of five original volunteers to now more than 35, according to Laurie Berkman, Paws for Patients Program Coordinator, BHHPCC. With a regular presence in more than 10 Essex County long-term care facilities, a research project on the horizon and a goal to expand into surrounding counties and become a model program for other hospice organizations, Paws for Patients is on track to touch the lives of more than 150 individuals in 2012.

“The emotional and therapeutic benefits of canine therapy in the hospice setting are immeasurable,” says Berkman. “Our pet therapy teams bring good cheer, offer a distraction from thoughts of illness and prompt reminiscing among patients and families – something that is so important during the end-of-life process. We are proud to offer this service to patients, thankful for the generosity of our volunteer teams and donors, and grateful for the continued support of AERA and AEC of NJ.”

For more information about the Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center Paws for Patients canine therapy program or to make a donation, please contact Laurie Berkman, Program Coordinator, at 973-322-4800 or [email protected].

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