Bear, an Australian shepherd, is bringing comfort to elderly hospice patients as a therapy dog. It was only two years ago that Bear was rescued from a bad situation and needed comfort himself.
Jacque Fleming answered a “Dog needs a home” ad on Cragislist two years ago. When she went to see the dog that was advertised she was troubled by what she saw. “It was a bad situation, too many dogs in dirty cages, too many people in a filthy household,” she said. When she met Bear, he was thin, matted and trembling in fear. Fleming also noticed a knot on the top of his head. The whole car ride home Bear shook and when Fleming took Bear to the veterinarian it was revealed the knot on top of his head was from a cracked skull.
Bear would heal though with the help of Fleming. He now lived on a home with over 150 acres for him to enjoy. His emotional healing would take longer than the physical though. “That first year, Bear would run and hide when friends would visit,” Fleming said. “I decided the best therapy for Bear would be to bring him everywhere with me, including work.”
Fleming works at a hospice caregiver for the elderly in Sisters, Oregon. Bear now helps Fleming’s elderly patients, like Ethel Lindsay. “She is 95 years old and appreciates Bear, since pets had always been a part of her life. He sits by her every day we come by.” Every Friday Fleming takes Ethel to get a hamburger, and Ethel makes sure that her friend Bear gets one too. “The patients respond to his gentle touch, he seems to understand their needs,” Fleming says. Bear has helped many of Fleming’s patients and many of the patients request to have Bear be by their side at the end.