In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

September 1, 2022

Therapy dog is best medicine for hospice patient

By In the Loop
Lois with Lily

The story of Lois and Lily is told by the son of a Mayo Clinic Hospice patient in Rochester. Lois Rink and her family wanted to share this story to honor her legacy and to show the power of pet therapy for those in hospice care. They also believe stories like these are a way to inspire others to serve.

Lois lies semi-reclined in her bed, relaxing and half asleep. She is 91 and under hospice care at the Rochester Rehabilitation and Living Center. 

Lois is very fortunate to have attentive hospice and facility staff plus frequent visits from her family, friends, church and volunteers. She is also a voracious reader and enjoys watching the Twins and Vikings.  

Even so, afternoons can still get rather monotonous since she can only read and watch so much TV.

She hears a light knock on her door and a familiar face appears. The face is attached to four legs and a wagging tail. Lois perks up and exclaims, "Ohhh — Lily has come to see me!"

Lily is a friendly 4 1/2-year-old English yellow Lab with the perfect mix of being outgoing but showing caution around fragile seniors. Despite the term "yellow," she is almost completely a creamy white color.  Although Lily, like many therapy animals, seems to have a sixth sense of knowing how to behave around vulnerable patients, much of the credit undoubtedly is due to the training and handling by her owner Charlie Waite. 

A visit from Lily is the highlight of Lois's day. Lily will carefully climb on Lois's bed and curl up within arm's reach. Lois will happily spend an hour, petting and talking to Lily (and also chatting with Charlie). Lily seems perfectly content with the arrangement and appears to enjoy the attention.   

As Lois's son, I know how important Lily has become to Lois. On the days of a visit from Lily, that is the first thing she mentions when we talk by phone in the evening. Other days, I often hear, "It's been soooo long since I've seen Lily" — even if it has only been a day or two. 

Our entire family is very grateful to all the outstanding hospice staff that provides amazing care and support to Lois. But we particularly admire the volunteers such as Charlie who generously donate their time to bring some sunshine into the lives of seniors.  

Perhaps Lois summed it up best when she said, "I know with all my heart that the dogs and animals make a difference to people in my situation."


Tags: Patient Stories

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