Katluns training mastiffs for therapyPublished 9:24am Thursday, December 17, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
Bonnie and John Katlun of Dowagiac are the “proud parents” of two mastiff – not to be confused with massive, though they are – therapy dogs.
You might see them walking their dogs around town in an ongoing effort to train and socialize them.
The Katluns volunteer with Hospice at Home, which works with a national pet therapy organization.
The pet therapy organization’s mission is to utilize specially trained and certified animals for the betterment of mankind by promoting health, hope and healing. The pet therapy organization accomplishes this mission by:
• Establishing and communicating standards of practice for use of specially trained animals in the health care setting.
• Providing education to health care professionals and facility leaders.
• Educating communities on opportunities and benefits of animal-assisted therapy.
• Training, certifying and assuring competency of human/animal volunteer teams.
• Hospice at Home in St. Joseph arranged for the Katlun mastiffs’ training and education through this therapy organization.
“We visit wherever we’re invited. Nursing homes and hospitals,” Bonnie said. “They stay right beside us and visit the patients. When I was down there in South Bend, my office was right beside the inpatient unit, where the beds were. I have seen non-responsive patients – eyes shut, in bed – get out of bed when the dogs come into the room. They’re very gentle and love getting hugs and pets. We have a client at the nursing home in Buchanan. We went to see him Sunday. We stayed a half hour, 40 minutes, so he could love and pet the dogs. By the time we left, there were no fewer than 30 people in a crowd around the dogs.”
Both of the Katluns – John worked 12 years at National Copper Products until it closed in November 2008 after 23 years as a machinist at another place – are Hospice at Home volunteers.
If you see the Katluns walking the big dogs on their five trips to town a week, they encourage you to approach and meet them. By doing so, you assist in socializing Princess Chiana and Baron Von Magnus, “the only survivor of a sad story.”
The Katluns have always lived with big dogs – such as a 165-pound Rottweiler – and enjoy working with them so they lead happy, well-balanced lives. “We used to make fun of people like us,” Bonnie said.
As volunteers, they are helping to bring a new program to Hospice at Home. This groundbreaking national program, Pet Peace of Mind, will enable hospice patients to keep their pets at home with them throughout the end-of-life journey.
“For many in hospice care,” Bonnie said Wednesday night, “changes in their physical condition led to a decrease of previously enjoyed social opportunities and relationships.
“Their pets offer unconditional love, acceptance, comfort and companionship when it’s needed most – the time when friends and family aren’t seen as frequently or when words are too hard to say.
Pet Peace of Mind provides helping hands and financial assistance so caring volunteers are able to help patients with pet care needs, be it in their homes, nursing homes or inpatient places.”
With this loving support, patients are able to complete their end-of-life journeys without worrying about their pet’s current or future needs.
For more information on this national program, log on to www.petpeaceofmind.org.
Hospice at Home is a non-profit community hospice focusing on the patient and family regardless of the patient’s diagnosis, treatment choices or ability to pay.
It cares for people adjusting to living with a serious illness, to people facing death, to people anticipating the death of a loved one or to people healing their grief after the death of a loved one.
Hospice at Home emphasizes the emotional, social and spiritual needs of those who need care and those receiving support services.
Serving Cass, Berrien, Van Buren and Allegan counties, a team of physicians, nurses, hospice aides, social workers, spiritual care counselors, bereavement coordinators and trained volunteers coordinates care.
Extending this care, Lory’s Place, a bereavement and education center that builds hope and strength for every grieving family is available to anyone in southwest Michigan or in northern Indiana.
“Not all hospice agencies are the same,” Bonnie said. “A big differential is for-profit or not-for-profit. And with that, one would be encouraged to speak with others who have experience with and a positive recommendation before choosing a hospice. A good reference through word of mouth is never a let down. Services offered by each agency vary greatly. I was a volunteer for Hospice of Southwest Michigan, which is a great organization, but it’s in Kalamazoo. I was an employee for seven years of the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care in Mishawaka,” with an inpatient unit in Roseland, Ind.