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A four-legged volunteer joins Encompass Health Hospice

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 4:54 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - A unique partnership was formed after a simple conversation in the check out line.

“Gale was like an open book standing it was just like an invitation and after a brief conversation with my daughter she said why don’t you just ask and I turned around and said hey do you think you’d like to volunteer with hospice and maybe use your service dog with us,” said Deborah Yohn - Volunteer Coordinator for Encompass Health.

After a couple weeks of thinking it through--

“I thought you know what she does for me won’t be compromised by her helping other people and so I called Deborah and I said we would be willing to do that I figured if Dixie could somebody else smile then it was worth it,” said Gale Kurschrer - Hospice Volunteer, Dixie’s Owner.

As they say,the rest is history.

Dixie is not your ordinary dog.

“Oh gosh now that is a subject that I could go on forever because I could brag about her forever not that I’m partial though,” said Kurschrer.

“I wanna take her home with me. She’s got the eyes of an angel and I remember telling Gale probably on our second visit when you look into her eyes it is like you’re looking into a persons eyes they look like they see you they see your inside feelings and emotions and she’s just like i”m here I just love Dixie,” said Yohn.

While she has clearly won everyone’s hearts, the hope now is to open the door for others to consider doing the same.

“I want other people to realize that they might have a gift there that they can give somebody else,” said Kurschrer.

The volunteer process is simple.

“They would have to go through obedience training and we have a checklist that their vet checks off that says this dog is healthy its got a calm demeanor it’s okay to put it in a home its had all of its vaccinations it’s good to go on our part,” said Yohn.

Once training is complete and they move to the stage of being in homes Encompass nurses will suggest if pet therapy is best.

Duties in the homes will differ from patient and pets or owners comfort.

“Some of them may want her right up next to them so they can pet her and love on her and of course gale has to allow her to do that so of them may just want to look at her some of them may want her to hop up on the foot of their bed or just lay at their feet it’s based on individual patient need and Dixie’s comfort level,” said Yohn.

While dog therapy may not be for everyone, Gale points out Dixie may not be a match for everyone. Which is why she thinks that others should be involved.

“Not everybody is going to fall in love with a doodle maybe their pet was a Chihuahua maybe their pet was a Terrier and if somebody out there has that dog that has those quiet characteristics that can come in and touch somebodies heart then I would like to see them considering doing that,” said Kurschrer.

If you have a therapy dog and would be interested in volunteering you can contact Deborah at 334-699-2010.

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