A warm autumn day and the bright colors of fall foliage were the backdrop in Verona Park on Sunday, October 24, for the Saint Barnabas Hospice and Palliative Care Center’s (SBHPCC) third annual October Tails Halloween-themed dog walk fundraiser, sponsored this year by Animal Emergency and Referral Associates (AERA) in Fairfield and the Animal Eye Center of New Jersey in Little Falls.

Honorary Emcee Maria Milito, of Q104.3 FM, led several hundred costume-clad canines and their owners through a “pet-tacular” day which featured a Halloween costume contest for dogs; children’s activities; a pet caricaturist; face painting; agility and obedience demonstrations; an elementary school student poster contest; and American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen® testing administered by Barbara Nagy, Founder, Patience Unlimited Professional Dog Training, LLC.

Proceeds from October Tails benefit Paws for Patients, a canine therapy program for hospice patients and families that is fully funded by the generosity of donors.

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“The therapeutic use of dogs in health care has been proven to help orient patients, especially those with dementia, to the present moment,” explained Lorraine Sciara, FACHE, Executive Director of the SBHPCC, an affiliate of the Saint Barnabas Health Care System.  “Dogs increase relaxation, reduce feelings of isolation and even lower blood pressure.”

“We thank Maria Milito; AERA; and all of the attendees, donors and volunteers who support October Tails,” added Ms. Sciara.  “Saint Barnabas Hospice always looks for ways to enhance the experience for patients and families who receive its services.  We truly believe Paws for Patients will make a tremendous impact.”

Volunteers and their dogs are needed to help establish Paws for Patients.  Individuals interested in becoming a volunteer and having their dog assessed for the program, or in making a donation, are encouraged to call 973-322-4866 or email sballas@sbhcs.com.

In addition to AERA, the following individuals/organizations also sponsored October Tails: Gittelman and Company, PC, Certified Public Accountants and Management Consultants, Clifton; Audrey Leigh Nevins and Stuart Schepps, dSGN Interior Design, Cedar Grove; Constance Sumas; Evercare Veterinary Crematory Services – a state-of-the art, green aftercare facility, Pennsylvania; MoFiddles®, Livingston; and Wachovia.

Established in 1981, the SBHPCC, located at 95 Old Short Hills Road in West Orange, provides comprehensive care for patients with advanced illness, and their families, throughout ten counties in the State of New Jersey.  It supports inpatient units at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, NJ, as well as Van Dyke Hospice at Community Medical Center in Toms River.  It also provides home care and services for individuals in long-term care and assisted living facilities.

For more information about the Saint Barnabas Hospice and Palliative Care Center or October Tails, please visit www.sbhcshospice.com.