The power of pets

Bella has places to go and people to see. And she couldn’t be more excited about it. As she suits up in her uniform, her tags jangling and her tail wagging, she’s ready to bring her warmth, her love, and her cold nose to some of the very people who need her most. People like Bill.

Bill, a self-proclaimed animal person under hospice care through services provided by Horizon Hospice, had requested visits from an animal therapy team as part of the holistic end of life care services it offers. Visits from Bella were the highlight of his day. The occasional Italian Lemon Ices that Bob, Bella’s owner brings along weren’t bad either.

“Excursions to see Bill could include a short stroll around the campus, with Bella patiently leading the way, but most often they just included a heartfelt nuzzle by Bella as she lay near him while Bill and I chatted,” says Bob Brandkamp, risk manager for Avista.

Bella, who is two years old, volunteers with Bob, whose age is a secret, as one of four animal therapy teams that offers comfort at Horizon Hospice. Because many people have owned a pet at some point in time, getting to interact with a dog again can be very uplifting to them. Not only that, animal therapy is a powerful, scientifically proven tool that provides both healing and comfort to those in need.

Roles for animal therapy teams can vary depending on the needs of the person they visit. Some animal therapy teams visit multiple clients for only a brief time within one clinical setting; while others, like Bella and Bob, visit one specific person who may benefit from longer visits.

Animal therapy teams are generally required to be registered with Pet Partners, a national pet therapy dog registration organization. By completing coursework and in-person evaluations, they ensure animals and handlers are suitable from a sociability and aptitude-basis for visiting people in numerous settings.

Bella loves making appearances with Bob. She gladly greeted the Freeman High School students during their first month back to school after last year’s tragic shooting, and she was on hand freely passing out gentle snugs and pats to the kiddos during the Salvation Army’s Backpack Drive.

Brandkamp, like many of Avista’s employees, enjoys being able to volunteer in the community. In addition to matching employee cash donations up to $200, the company supports and encourages employee volunteerism, as evidenced by an average of 40,000 hours they contribute each year in the communities they live and work in.

Do you know of a powerful pet story you would like to share? Send an email to: Who knows, we might just share it with others, with permission of course.

Watch a slideshow featuring Bella.

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