With Grace: Volunteer dogs help ’break the sadness spell’ in palliative care

Categories: Care.

When they’re on the palliative care unit at the McGill University Health Centre’s Glen campus, where both are volunteers, Diana Henry takes her cues from Grace — her golden retriever.They start at the door to a patient’s room, with Henry asking whether the patient likes dogs or wants a visit. If they get a yes, Grace heads directly to the bedside and places her head on the patient’s hand, or maybe licks it. And in that moment, a path is cleared for a conversation between Henry and the patient.

“The dog is the facilitator,” said Margrit Meyer, coordinator of the MUHC’s pet therapy program. “The dog is like the catalyst to creating a connection to the patient. I tell the volunteer, ‘It is very important to let the dog make the connection and not to interfere’ — because the dog knows exactly how to do it.”Grace, who is six, is a gentle, mellow creature with a sweet disposition. She wears her name well.

“Grace is a very calm dog who seeks people’s attention — but in a calm way,” Meyer said. “She just wants to be loved. And, even if you are not a dog person, you feel that — that ‘this is a dog I feel I can touch’.”

Read more at the Montreal Gazette.