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Pet Patrol Visit Brings Joy to Family During Difficult Time

Posted on: June 28, 2017

Despite the loss of his father, a family member tells Mercy Volunteer Services that Pet Patrol volunteer Lisa Carter and her dog Riley brought joy to him and his family.

Mercy Pet Patrol Canton Ohio - Lisa Carter and dog Riley

Last December, Lisa Carter received an unexpected call from Mercy Volunteer Services. She and her dog Riley have been part of Mercy Pet Patrol since 2006, meeting many patients, families and visitors over the past decade. Yet, unbeknownst to her, one brief stop she and Riley made with a dying man and his family left a sweet, lasting impression.

“Although the patient was not awake or responsive, Riley and I offered to visit with his family, which included the man’s adult son,” Lisa remembers. “We talked mainly about how Riley, now 12-1/2 years old, became a therapy dog. I always try to focus on my therapy dog or the family’s pets, if they have any, to keep the mood light.”

Riley had a few Cheerios and gave some “high fives” during the visit, and Lisa left her Pet Patrol card with the family.

After his father died, the son contacted Mercy Volunteer Services to say how much joy Lisa and Riley’s visit had brought to him and his family. They considered it a moment of happiness in the midst of a difficult time. 

Lisa, who lives in Plain Township, is the owner of four dogs. Two are therapy dogs. In 2016, she completed her practicum and now is a Pet Partners Team Evaluator who can test up to nine animal species for work as therapy animals. Her dog Dalia has participated in Stark County Library Pups and Pages and two pet safety programs with area Kindergarten students.

Lisa and dog Riley - canton ohio - animal therapy at Mercy Medical CenterLisa says there are days when she finishes a stressful day at work and doesn’t feel up to volunteering. “But those are the days we truly have the most rewarding visits,” Lisa says. “It’s like the patients are there to help me as much and Riley and I are there to help them.”

Lisa and Riley have been thanked on more than one occasion by patients and families who tell them the Pet Patrol visit was the bright spot in their day. Many people talk with Lisa about how they miss a pet they once had.

She says, “I love hearing stories of patients’ beloved pets and receiving handshakes and hugs. That is why I continue to volunteer, and that is what is rewarding to me—making a difference in someone else’s day, even if it is only for five minutes.”

Over the years, Lisa and Riley have collected many special memories. Even when patients are very sick, they often want a Pet Patrol visit anyway.

“A few years ago, there was one very ill woman we visited with each week for several weeks until she died,” says Lisa. “The last time I saw her, her family tried to tell me she was in too much pain to visit, but the patient spoke up and said she wanted the visit. So I placed Riley right on the bed with her.”

She also remembers a visit with an elderly man last year. His wife was across the hall from him on the same floor. Lisa says, “He told me his life story and that his wife was unresponsive, but he asked me to see her because she loved dogs. I did and I left the floor in tears. It was heartbreaking but rewarding at the same time. A few days later, they both passed away.”

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