August 2016: We would like to celebrate Val and Frankie!
Frankie and I volunteer on the Neurology unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital.
How long have you been volunteering with Pets and Friends?
We joined Pets and Friends in January 2016.
How did you get involved with Pets and Friends?
I was working at Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children when I ‘adopted’ Frankie. I had a few opportunities to take Frankie to work with me, and watching her spend time with some of the kids, it didn’t take me long to realize that she had a perfect temperament for visiting.
We had a regular therapy/visiting dog at Sunny Hill that would visit with the inpatients and their families. When he ‘retired’, I checked with the Volunteer Coordinator to find out what the criteria was for becoming a pet visitation team. She pointed me in the direction of Pets and Friends. With a little bit of research, and after our pet screening and orientation, we chose Surrey Memorial and we were so lucky to be matched with the Neurology Unit.
What is your favourite part about volunteering?
I was already a firm believer in the benefits of pet visitation and volunteering in general. Frankie and I are both very social! We love people. We believe that we can make a difference for patients that may not have a lot of visitors, or may be missing their own pets while in hospital. Our favourite part of volunteering would be the relationships we build and the love we share.
Describe a typical visitation.
The Rec Therapy team leaves us a list of patients that would like Frankie to visit. Frankie has become quite a celebrity, and our friends there look forward to her regular visits. When we arrive on the unit we get our list, and get rolling with our visits (keeping in mind that we often need to stop and say hi to the staff as well as we make our way through the hallways!)
Many of our patients may not be too mobile, and this is where Frankie’s size can be a real advantage! She loves to snuggle on her blanket in bed with anyone, or on someone’s lap. Frankie is able to break through language barriers or communication difficulties; her love is truly unconditional.
To date, what is your favorite memory of volunteering?
I can’t say that we have one favourite memory – every visit creates special memories and bonds. We miss our friends when they move on to an intensive rehab program or return home, but we know that someone new will need Frankie’s hugs soon.
What do you think is the most important part of about your visits?
I truly believe that both Frankie and I benefit from our visits as much as the people we are visiting. It’s great to learn about people and give them the opportunity to share something about their lives, family, pets etc. Being in the hospital is not someone’s choice and people do not want to be there any longer than necessary. If we can help take their minds off of some of their concerns while we are there, then we have accomplished something. Even petting Frankie can encourage someone to use a part of their body that might not be as strong as it used to be. I think the most important part of our visit is just being there!
What is Frankie’s favourite part about visiting?
Frankie’s favourite part about visiting is everything about it! She gets so excited when I ask her if she is ready to ‘go to work’ or ‘go visit’. She has a ‘visiting bag’ that holds her blanket, toys, snacks etc. Frankie loves everyone! She is an expert at cuddling, giving hugs, sharing her toys, and she may even come close to having a nap with someone when she gets too comfortable!
Tell us about Frankie.
Frankie is a 3 ½ pound, 2-year-old Chihuahua Yorkie cross. She is a little scruffy looking – kind of has a bad hair day everyday! – and has a very calm temperament. She has taught me that BIG hearts can come in small packages! She is very relaxed in anyone’s company and is full of love.
What do you and Frankie like to do for fun?
Frankie and I continue to learn; we still take ‘puppy’ classes to learn new tricks. She loves to go anywhere. We regularly visit my mom and all of her friends in a senior’s residence. We get out of the house a lot together including visits to ‘small’ dog parks, camping road trips and dragon boat regattas.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We consider ourselves really fortunate to have the opportunity to be involved with Pets and Friends. We are really enjoying our regular visits with the hospital and the other opportunities we have had to at UBC with student orientation and Puppy Love for staff at Surrey Memorial Hospital. We are both looking forward to more opportunities in the future.
Would you like to participate as a Pets and Friends Featured Member? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.