By Elizabeth Pawlak

When I began home hospice with JourneyCare a year ago, I did not expect that I had much time left due to my end-stage COPD. One of my top concerns was my pitbull, Coal. I rescued her from a shelter as a 6- month-old puppy, and she has been my constant companion for the last eight years since.

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I hated the idea of having to give her up due to my illness, so I hired a dog walker because my movement is severely limited. (Luckily the dog walker fell in love with Coal and agreed to adopt her when I am no longer here.)

But then our dog-walker went on vacation, and I was worried about Coal being stuck in the house. She is a large breed and is used to being walked three times a day for exercise. She is also perceptive and affected by my illness; Coal is going through this with me and it’s hard on her, too.

That’s when I told the JourneyCare volunteers about my concerns. They had already done so much for me, helping with shopping, hair care or anything that I could not do alone. So I was sure they could help me in the interim with Coal.

In a bit of lucky timing, JourneyCare had just launched its new Pet Peace of Mind Program that could help with Coal while the dog walker was away. Immediately, JourneyCare sent a volunteer who could help walk Coal several times a week. And since then, the program has revealed so many other benefits, too.

Pet Peace of Mind was a huge relief, since a reliable dog walker is hard to find. This program took that search off my plate, so I can focus on my health.

Dog walkers are also very, very expensive and it can cost up to $20 per walk, so the program also reduces my expenses.

In addition, our volunteer Pauline has been wonderful. She, Coal and I have formed a close friendship and she has become like part of the family. That part of it – the human part – has been a wonderful surprise.

Ultimately, Pet Peace of Mind has benefitted both my well-being and Coal’s. She is so much more relaxed and less anxious after a walk. And that is important because Coal is a comfort to me. I like having her with me so I am not all alone at night, and I love her company during the day.

By caring for Coal, Pet Peace of Mind is also taking care of me. It has been such a gift.