Pet therapy: a prescription for well-being at the Marley House

Pet therapy: a prescription for well-being at the Marley House

“Would you like to go visit?” That’s all it takes to get a reaction out of Maggie, Melinda McGrath’s 12-year-old greyhound. Her eyes pop open, she tilts her head, and she’s off.

Maggie is a therapy dog who volunteers with McGrath at the Good Samaritan ­­‑ ­Marley House, an inpatient hospice house in Prescott, Ariz. She even has her own business card featuring her picture and a list of her favorite treats.

The Marley House cares for people in the final stage of life who need around-the-clock nursing services that cannot be managed at home. While there are other hospice houses in the United States, the Marley House is unique in the Prescott region. That’s why McGrath urges support for its mission.

“Medicare helps, and with the endowment, getting this care would be less of a financial burden on families. There are a lot of older people in our community who may need this service one day,” McGrath says.

The Marley House endowment provides unrestricted support for the work of health, healing and comfort that happens within its rooms. Having a robust endowment means that the Marley House is prepared for whatever its patients and families need.

Maggie makes her rounds

Maggie and Melinda make the rounds at the Marley House about once per week. They can spend anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour per week. It depends on how many patients are there and whether they want a visit.

They always start with the nurses’ station. “The staff are equally important,” McGrath says. “They have hard days too.”

"There are a lot of older people in our community who may need this service one day,” McGrath says.

The healing power of animals

McGrath says they are careful to check with patients and families first before entering a room. She keeps a pocketful of Maggie’s favorite treats handy to help break the ice. The dog’s presence often gets people to open up.

“Some had dogs and cannot have them anymore,” McGrath explains. “They miss their pets. That’s where Maggie comes in. The conversation flows from those memories, and I follow the story.”

McGrath says that she often gets so engrossed in the conversation that Maggie whines with impatience.

“I have to tell her, ‘I might want to chat too, Maggie,’” she says with a laugh. “She gets anxious when she isn’t the center of attention.”

The faith-based mission is the draw

Two years later, Maggie and McGrath are weekly volunteers at the Marley House. McGrath says she was originally drawn in by the Society’s mission.

“I hope Good Samaritan never gets rid of its spiritual component,” she says. “I love that this community is more open to the faith life.”

She and Maggie will continue volunteering, in part, because McGrath recognizes the importance of the Marley House in a community the size of Prescott. Volunteering there is also good therapy for her and for Maggie.

“I feel blessed when we come in here,” she says. “In all ways, it’s a blessing.”

The Good Samaritan – Marley House is a special place because of people like McGrath who give their time and their gifts to support its mission. While the Marley House is restricting visitors and volunteers to protect patients and staff from the COVID-19 virus, you can still make a difference when you give online.  Support for the endowment ensures that the people of Prescott continue to experience loving hospice care provided in the light of God’s love long after this crisis is past. You can sustain this legacy when you support the Marley House endowment fund.

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