40 for 40: Neely & Luna’s Story

My name is Neely Willett.  My Golden Retriever, Luna, and I became Capital Caring volunteers in March 2007 when we visited patients at the Halquist Center.

On one particular visit while walking down the hallway, I noticed a patient who had about five family members surrounding his bed.  When they saw Luna, they immediately motioned for us to visit.  They had me put Luna on the bed with the patient while they took pictures of her.  For that brief visit, love and joy surrounded the patient.  The following week when we returned for another visit,  the nurse stopped me in the hallway to tell me that the patient we had seen the previous week had his last cognitive interaction with Luna.  He died three days later.  “He was a dog trainer.”

Once the Adler Center opened, Luna and I visited there weekly.  This past Christmas Eve we were going from room to room asking “Would you like a pet visit?”  At one room two women jumped up and said, “Oh!  We were raised with Golden Retrievers.”  The patient was sleeping during our hour long visit, but during that time we talked about dogs, travel, family, and faith with Luna sitting on the futon between me and one of the women.   Before leaving, the patient woke up.  Luna was small enough at 53 lbs. for me to pick her up and hold her at a patient’s bedside.  The two women – the patient’s daughters – took Luna’s paw and rubbed their Mother’s cheek with it.

After 10 years as a pet volunteer, sweet Luna passed away on March 19, 2017.  Her last hospice visit was March 8.

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