When John and Maddie enter a room, people take notice. Eyes brighten. Smiles erupt. Even the air feels lighter.
It’s a break, if you will, from life’s heavier dealings. John Wood is a volunteer with Hospice of Cincinnati. His furry sidekick, Maddie, is a certified therapy dog. Together, they are a breath of fresh air to patients.
“It’s a moment in time,” Wood said. “But it’s a moment. It’s just knowing you’re contributing to the better thoughts of a person – distracting them from perhaps things that may be weighing on them at the time.”
Hospice of Cincinnati patient Earl Stith enjoys his moments with Wood and his golden retriever. A resident of Angel’s Care Family Home in Newtown, the 89-year-old receives regular visits from Wood.
“This is a really good day for me,” Stith remarked during a recent visit. Playfully looking toward Wood, he continued, “You’re like old hat.”
Stith’s daughter, Linda, appreciates the visits as well, especially Maddie’s unconditional love. Her father struggles with memory but lights up when Maddie and John visit.
“My dad is a huge animal lover,” she said, recalling always having pets growing up. “I think the visits are beneficial because they offer sensory stimulation and socialization, trigger past memories and are comforting.”
Recently retired, Wood has been volunteering with Hospice of Cincinnati for three years. Currently, he spreads his time among four home care patients. One patient has no family members who visit her. “Hopefully, I’m kind of giving her a substitute family member,” he said.
He also makes weekly visits to patients and families at Hospice of Cincinnati’s East Inpatient Care Center in Anderson.
Wood credits his easy going personality as his special skill for bringing joy to patients, paired with Maddie’s gentle nature.
“They [patients] unhinge themselves and enjoy a stranger coming in with a dog … or a dog coming in with a stranger,” he said. “It’s just the satisfaction that you’re bringing a happy moment to somebody’s life, and you’re the driver for that happy moment.”