Nancy McCranie and Ed YarboroughSelected from more than two dozen entries, the Pet Peace of Mind selection committee is pleased to award its first ever Volunteer of the Year award to Hospice Austin volunteer, Ed Yarbrough.

Each of the nominees demonstrated a deep love for pets and an enduring desire to help patients maintain the bond they shared with their furry family members.  The committee recognized that Ed brings those traits plus an exceptional ability to bond with patients and their families. This special skill helped Ed provide comfort to a young child who was losing her father and to provide peace of mind for her dying dad.   Ed’s story was submitted by Volunteer Coordinator, Nancy McCrainie.

“Ed Yarbrough is one of Hospice Austin’s most faithful PPOM volunteers. Ed has worked with many dogs during his volunteer service. One was Chaya. Her owner was a fairly young father with an adorable 3 year old daughter. The patient was frustrated and sad that he could no longer take Chaya on walks like he used to. So Ed took Chaya on long walks every Saturday for several months.

ed2Each time he visited to take Chaya for a walk Ed would also spend a few minutes chatting with the patient’s little girl and would often “just happen” to have her favorite butterscotch candy in his pocket. When Ed found out the patient died, he stopped by to take Chaya for one more walk. When he walked in the house the three year old girl ran up and threw her arms around Ed saying, “You and my daddy are the only people Chaya listens to. My daddy left and he’s not coming back.” Ed managed to hold it together until he got in the car and Chaya seemed to understand when Ed shed tears for this family’s loss.

Ed’s very first assignment was a 10 year old German Shepard mix name Cyrus.  Cyrus and Ed would take long walks in the neighborhood and sometimes on outings to the off leash dog park.  Ed has 2 elderly dogs who don’t enjoy going to dog parks, so he especially loves being able to take his PPOM clients there instead.   Cyrus’ dad loved him so much and was very grateful for Ed’s help.  When he died, Cyrus was the first family member listed in his obituary.

Ed’s most challenging assignment was a Chihuahua named Bruiser.  Bruiser was very protective of his owner and also HATED to go outside.  Fortunately he was very treat motivated so Ed could lure him off of the patient’s bed with his favorite treat.  To avoid getting snapped at when trying to leash him up, Ed would have to offer a treat in one hand and connect the leash with the other while Bruiser was eating the treat.  Occasionally his timing was off but Ed said it wasn’t a big deal because Bruiser was 10 and didn’t have very many teeth left.  Nevertheless, Bruiser still refused to go outside so Ed would have to carry him to the far end of the dog walk area of the apartment complex and force him to walk back, hoping he’d do his business along the way! 

ed 1Ed’s current assignment is a toy poodle named Tinkerbelle. The first thing Ed did for Tinkerbelle was take her to a low cost veterinary clinic to get her rabies vaccination so he could then take her to be groomed. The facility is first come, first served and Ed assumed that if he went late in the morning on a Saturday he might miss the crowds. Unfortunately, Ed and Tinkerbelle ended up waiting for 4 hours on the sidewalk in front of the clinic in the scorching July sun along with about 30 other anxious dogs. It wasn’t a great way to get acquainted with Tinkerbelle but she was a trooper and forgave him quickly. She now gets really excited every time Ed visits.

He was honored locally during Hospice Austin’s April 26 volunteer appreciation luncheon. McCrainie reported,“Ed was so surprised and thrilled.  We presented him with a goodie bag filled with dog treats.  Everyone was so happy for him!  And after the luncheon several volunteers told us they wanted to do more with Hospice Austin’s Pet Peace of Mind program.”