Health & Wellness

Canine Therapy Brings Comfort to Patients and Loved Ones at Center for Hope Hospice

008d31a9e5c98137ff73_Atlas.jpg
Atlas, who lives in Fanwood, visits Father Hudson House twice a month with owner Karin Brystol. Credits: Center for Hope Hospice
944ca4edefc7eeff28c8_Rio.jpg
Rio, from Warren, has an impressive resume that includes being a member of Dog Scouts of America and an AKC Canine Good Citizen. Credits: Center for Hope Hospice
7cc0ca6778aba0e5f667_CHH_Karl_6_mos.JPG
Karl comes to work with owner Nancy Rager, RN, the administrator of the Center for Hope Hospice & Palliative Care. Rager says the pup has a bright future as a pet therapy volunteer. Credits: Center for Hope Hospice
db095eeba87c50241328_Coco.jpg
Coco comes from Manville to visit Father Hudson House in Elizabeth on Tuesdays with owner Tracy Rydzy, a staff member of the Center. Credits: Center for Hope Hospice
008d31a9e5c98137ff73_Atlas.jpg

SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J., April 21, 2017 – Rio, Atlas, Coco and Karl are a special breed of volunteer at the Center for Hope Hospice & Palliative Care. The canines bring their comforting presence and the benefits of animal therapy to patients and their loved ones at both of the Center’s two residences—Peggy’s House in Scotch Plains and Father Hudson House in Elizabeth—as well as enhance morale for staff members there.

Animal therapy is common in various healthcare environments but it is unusual to bring canine volunteers into a hospice residence. As part of its holistic approach to hospice care and palliative pain management, the Center for Hope Hospice incorporates many therapeutic modalities to provide comfort for those in its care, including pet therapy.

Patients, their loved ones and employees at the Center look forward to visits from:

Sign Up for E-News

  • Rio, a Belgian Teruven from Warren, who is also a member of Dog Scouts of America, an AKC Canine Good Citizen and has a resume of other skills.
  • Atlas, an AKC champion Newfoundland from Fanwood, certified by Therapy Dogs International. He visits Father Hudson House twice a month with owner Karin Brystol. Brystol’s father received hospice care and she knows firsthand the positive effect canine therapy can have on people at the end of their lives.
  • Coco, a chocolate Labrador retriever from Manville. She usually visits Father Hudson House every Tuesday (with an occasional visit to Peggy’s House) with owner Tracy Rydzy, who is on staff at the Center. An emotional support dog, Coco provides a comforting presence, including for people in the Center’s bereavement group.
  • Karl, a six-month-old German shepherd puppy from Scotch Plains started to visit this past winter, coming to work every Wednesday with owner Nancy Rager, RN, the administrator for Center for Hope Hospice. Ragerhad two other canine volunteers who spent years bringing joy and comfort to patients and families.

Pet therapy and interaction with gentle, friendly pets have been shown to:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Elevate mood, have a calming effect
  • Reduce anxiety or depression
  • Diminish physical pain
  • Increase socialization and decrease feelings of isolation

The pups make regular visits with their owners, who agree that the visits are therapeutic and the benefits apparent for everyone who interacts with them.

Rio’s owner Joan Stiener knew of the Center through a friend whose family members received care there and she’d always heard such positive feedback about it. Now she’s getting positive feedback about Rio’s visits.

“When Rio walks in, people see him and melt. Those who have had pets before are reminded of that happiness and others, who are initially intimidated, warm up to Rio and want to pet him. It’s very joyful to see how they interact with him,” said Stiener, who added that patients’ family members come in to pet and play with him. “It really means a lot to do this,” she said.

Rydzy, Coco’s owner, said it is uncanny how the dog intuits when someone needs a visit, often pulling her into a room to visit certain patients. “Coco instinctively knows to go to certain patients or family members who need comforting,” she noted, “and at the bereavement group, just having the dog there creates a sense of calm.” Coco’s calming effect extends beyond the bereavement group.  

“I see patients with unstable moods or who are depressed but they forget all about it when she’s there. Petting a dog lowers stress and blood pressure and I can see the sense of happiness Coco brings to people at the Center,” said Rydzy.

Atlas’s owner, Brystol agrees. “It’s very rewarding to see the smiles on faces when Atlas comes by. He loves to be petted and there are people who seek him out to do just that.”

Rager has been bringing dogs to the Center for Hope Hospice since 2007—first Winston, then Wes and now Karl, who she says is showing great promise as a pet therapy volunteer.

“Not every dog is good at this but Karl is so attentive to people’s needs and so mature when it comes to dealing with patients,” she said. “He’s very gentle with the residents, letting them pet him and licking their hands. Interacting with him takes residents out of their moments of pain.” Rager added that Karl is helping families as well. “They line up outside my office door on Wednesdays to see Karl and have quiet time with him.”

Center for Hope Hospice (Center for Hope) is a non-profit, community based organization that provides terminally ill patients with hospice care, and their families or loved ones with physical, emotional, and spiritual support during their time of need. It is one of New Jersey’s only independent, non-profit, community-based hospice organizations. Center for Hope offeris services at its two residences -- Father Hudson House in Elizabeth and Peggy’s House in Scotch Plains -- as well as in other healthcare settings or patients’ homes. For more information about palliative care or to ask about volunteer opportunities, visit www.cfhh.org or call (908) 889-7780.

TAPintoSPF.net is Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s only free daily paper. Sign up for our daily eNews and follow us on Facebook and twitter @SPF_TAP. Download the free TAPinto App for iPhone or Android.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Clark

Clark's CityMD Urgent Care Shares Flu Survey

CLARK, NJ - As flu season is in full gear and the probability of catching the flu is a real concern, a majority of Americans admit to taking actions that may contribute to the spread of this highly contagious virus.  According to a recent survey, roughly three out of five Americans who have had the flu or flu-like symptoms (61%) admitted to being out and about the last time they ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_c5efd728ef2d1bbd7247_mini_magick20180206-16715-ycw7rg

Wed, February 21, 7:00 PM

The Cranford Hotel (hosted by Calvary Lutheran Church), Cranford

Beer & Bible

Religions And Spirituality

Thu, February 22, 6:00 PM

UCEDC, Cranford

Next Level Business Planning

Business & Finance

Carousel_image_248cea245b872fb9c722_resolve_house

Fri, February 23, 12:00 PM

Resolve, Scotch Plains

Free Teen Anxiety Group (Ages 14-17) at Resolve

Clark VFW : Spotlight on Joseph Horling

February’s spotlight is on Joseph Horling , Staff Sergeant US Army 1942-1946.

Joe was born in Rahway NJ on Oct 1, 1920.  He and his brother Anthony were born to Anthony Sr. and Bertha Horling .  Joe’s father was born in Munich and his mother Bertha in Austria. 

Joe enlisted in the Merchant Marines in 1942.  Eight months later, in 1943, he enlisted in the US ...

Grab the Family and Head to a Very Special Read Across America Event

February 21, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, NJ - Children and parents won’t want to miss this special event. The Union County Education Association ( UCEA)  is hosting a Read Across America Pride event open to all.   Read Across America is a national event to promote reading to every child in every community.   It is celebrated in conjunction with the famous children’s ...

Edison School in Westfield Safe After Lockdown Wednesday Morning, Superintendent Says

February 21, 2018

WESTFIELD, NJ — Students and staff at Edison Intermediate School are going back to their routines after a brief lockdown Wednesday morning, Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan said in an email to parents Wednesday afternoon.

“Edison students and staff are safe. Westfield Police are investigating a reported incident,” Dolan wrote. “A brief lockdown was initially ...

Don't Rule Out a College Based Solely on Sticker Price Here's Why

Has your child been crossing schools off their college list based solely on the sticker price?  In this week's Tuesday Takeaway, Chris Curran talks about why the sticker price is often far higher than the actual price you will pay.    Take a listen to Chris Curran's latest chat and don't forget to check out his book College Funding ...

Choosing a College With the 'Right' Fit

Do you know if your child is choosing a college with the right fit?  Do you know what the right fit means or why it matters?  Take a listen to Chris Curran's latest chat about why fit matters and don't forget to check out his book College Funding Secrets.  

Check out other columns by Chris here.

Scutari vs Mahr

February 14, 2018

I read with interest in a local newspaper regarding the Union county democrat party political infighting for their “county chair” selection.  There were 2 letters juxtaposed, each one listing supporters of either Senator Scutari or Fanwood Mayor Mahr, who are the two main people vying for the “boss” position.

Although I am a democrat I am not a committee ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 12

On this week’s episode of AtlantiCast, decade of excellence makes headlines, as Atlantic Health’s place on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List leads off the newest episode of AtlantiCast. Also on this week’s show, check out the newest “hybrid” operating room at Morristown Medical Center and find out how Atlantic Health is helping local ...

AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M7euCp86-c

AtlantiCast Episode 011

Breaking Atlantic Health System news on this week’s AtlantiCast! Plus, find out why Morristown Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the nation when it comes to recovering from joint surgery, see the newest center for fighting brain cancer and an Atlantic Health System red-carpet premiere!