Saturday, April 9, 2016

CHAMP to the Rescue!

CHAMP to the Rescue is a rescue dog program run by CHAMP Assistance Dogs.  Selected dogs from local animal shelters receive 8-12 weeks of training in basic skills and house manners, giving them a "second chance" at a forever home.

Last week another "CHAMP to the Rescue" happened...  
Triad School District's Silver Creek Elementary School unexpectedly found themselves without Therapy Dogs for their much anticipated Family Reading Night.  Special young readers, through their hard work, had earned the opportunity to read a favorite book to a furry, 4 legged listener. With the event only days away, Triad teacher Andy Frey, along with CHAMP Therapy Dog Program Coordinator Liz Aurbach, put out the call to Illinois CHAMP Therapy Dog Teams to fill the need at Silver Creek Elementary School.  In addition to being a great teacher in the Triad School District, Andy and his dog, Bentley (Cairn Terrier) are a great CHAMP certified Therapy Dog Team!  (Andy in blue shirt, center, below).      
CHAMP Therapy Dog Teams and Therapy Dog friends
joined forces at Family Reading Night!
Two and 4 legged alike had a wonderful time at Family Reading Night!  Magnum (below) learned about Bossy Pigs, fishing and how to make sand castles!  But most of all he, and all his Therapy Dog friends, loved to meet and listen to the young readers at Silver Creek Elementary School.
Magnum listening to his new friend read her book!
As I reflect on this evening, I am proud to be a part of such a selfless group.  The joy, professionalism and camaraderie present with these Therapy Dog Teams is a privilege to be a part of.  Thanks to the CHAMP Trainers for training such a wonderful group of dogs (and their people!).   And thanks to Liz Aurbach, Therapy Dog Program Director extraordinaire, who keeps track of us all and coordinates the many requests for CHAMP Therapy Dogs.

Last, but not least, "Thank You" to Silver Creek Elementary School for allowing us the opportunity to share our wonderful dogs with your wonderful readers.

Miss Carol

Monday, March 7, 2016

Assignment - St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Victim Services Unit!

Smiles for the kids at the Carnahan Courthouse!
At the end of 2015, Magnum participated in a pilot program at the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Victim Services Unit.  Victim Advocate Caseworker, Becky Schulz, is a believer in the Power of Pet Therapy.  Through her Social Work Masters Program at the University of  Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL), Becky sought to evaluate the ability of specially trained Facility Dogs to help victims, primarily children, as they seek justice in the Court System.

Her results – nothing less than wonderful!  Not all victims were willing to participate in the pilot program.  (This is always a factor, no matter how impactful the study – a certain percentage of people will choose to not participate.) However, for those that did participate, the results spoke for themselves.  These results were not statistical, but they were demonstrated in smiles, calm demeanors, gentle touch and voices lifted as they told their stories to the Prosecutors and to Magnum.  While the people of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office are sworn to obtain justice for their young victims, Magnum serves in a different manner.  His job is to bring the children (and their families) unconditional love, comfort and joy. 
Even baby Magnum plays a role.  He can snuggle with kids both in the Courtroom and at home!
Magnum + Victim Services Unit.  It is a powerful combination and one which surely will make a difference in the lives of children and adults alike who pass through the doors of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office.  We are thankful for this opportunity to help crime victims and look forward to many smiles ahead!

Miss  Carol 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Every ending has a new beginning...

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.

This is how Magnum and I feel about all the people (patients, families, staff and volunteers) we have known over the last 5 years as the Facility Dog Team at Hospice of Southern Illinois.  What a privilege it has been to serve at Relais Bonne Eau Hospice Home.  While there have been many tears shed in those 5 years, there has also been much laughter, joy and comfort as Magnum loved everyone he met along this journey.

Several significant shifts in the healthcare sector have made continued operation of the Hospice Home impossible, and earlier this year Hospice of Southern Illinois made the difficult decision to close it.  Relais Bonne Eau is just one part of the services offered by Hospice of Southern Illinois.  It is important to know that the community can continue to rely on Hospice of Southern Illinois, just as it has since 1981.   Our hearts will always be with Hospice of Southern Illinois and Magnum and I will continue to be volunteers as we have since 2010.

Every ending has a new beginning.
There is much need for Facility Dogs in our communities.  CHAMP Assistance Dogs is working to find just the perfect placement for Magnum as we continue to serve and celebrate the mystery and joy inherent in the canine/human bond.

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.  Thank you Hospice of Southern Illinois for the opportunity to be a small part of your mission to enhance the quality of life for people and their loved ones touched by terminal illness.  You have all left footprints on our hearts and we will never, ever be the same.

Magnum and Miss Carol 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Interview with Magnum

Magnum met Dr. Karen Wyatt when she was the keynote speaker at a Hospice Conference he attended.  She is a wonderful speaker (and writer) with a beautiful heart for end of life issues with an emphasis on the spiritual aspects of illness and dying.  Dr. Wyatt told Magnum that she would love to interview him some day about his Pet Therapy work with hospice patients at Hospice of Southern Illinois.  True to her word, the interview took place on May 18th.  The interview can be found below.

(Learn more about Dr. Wyatt at
We sincerely thank Dr. Wyatt for the opportunity to tell Magnum's story and preserve it for people to enjoy.  He has quite a story, from his birth with CHAMP Assistance Dogs, to training in maximum security prison to caring for hospice patients at Relais Bonne Eau Hospice home located in Edwardsville, IL.

We hope your heart will be tickled and your mind will enjoy learning about The Power of Pet Therapy.

With deep appreciation for our listeners,
Miss Carol and Magnum

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Every day is a gift!

Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers along the way!

Magnum was so happy this morning to run outside and greet the day.  He walked and sniffed all over the yard trailing the bunnies or whatever other critters had visited during the night.  This is his usual routine - but this morning he stopped in the middle of his "walk about" to smell the lilacs!  I happened to have my phone with me and was able to capture him mid "sniff".  He even looks like he is smiling as he inhales the beautiful scent.  A dog's sense of smell is so much more intense than ours - so I can only imagine the powerful fragrance he smells.  Magnum's stop to smell the flowers along the way made me smile and I smelled the lilacs too.  Our morning began with joy!

Later in the morning we went to the hospice home to meet some nursing students from Lewis & Clark Community College.  They would learn about hospice and take a tour of the hospice home.  Today's theme of "joy" continued as we explained to the students that hospice is about LIVING.  My personal philosophy is this:
"There is no such thing as dying, only living life to the fullest until the moment of passing."

Magnum with Lewis & Clark Nursing Students and instructor Vickie Rodgers
That's what hospice does.  It helps people live life to the fullest.  And isn't that how we should be living each day? - to the fullest?  And as Magnum showed me again today - with JOY!

Joy to you all,
Miss Carol and Magnum

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

True Hospitality

HOSPICE:  This word is derived from Latin "hospes" - meaning a place of hospitality. 

Today is filled with both sadness (in our grief) and joy (in our memories), as today brings the funeral services for a dear friend who taught us the meaning of hospitality.  Dorothy (not her real name), was in her room, sitting in a big, comfy chair when Magnum first laid eyes on her.  He went straight to her, said hello (laid his head in her lap) and proceeded to curl up and snuggle at her feet.  Oops! - I mean ON her feet!  I have never seen Magnum do this before - he must have thought she needed 70 lbs. of warm dog snuggled on her!  That was the beginning of a unique and wonderful friendship. 

HOSPITALITY: The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers. 

We were all strangers to Dorothy when she first came to the hospice home.  However, Magnum and I and all the other volunteers received such a generous welcome from Dorothy.  It was as if she held court in her room, with all of us clamoring to spend time with her!  It is the mission of Hospice of Southern Illinois to "enhance quality of life" and yet that was exactly what Dorothy did for all of us.
Here's a picture of Magnum on Dorothy's couch.  He has never "asked" to get up and lay on the couch during a visit until Dorothy.  But I think he was so comfortable with her he just decided he'd like to watch us talk and take a little snooze during our visit.  Dorothy got a big kick out of this and always told him he could get up on her couch.  Again, generous hospitality.
Dorothy even made Magnum a bookworm in his likeness!

We enjoy and learn from each person we meet along life's journey.  From Dorothy we all learned generous hospitality. 

 Peace to her family and friends,

Miss Carol

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hospice is About Living

Magnum with keynote speaker Dr. Karen Wyatt, MD (above right)
and Miss Carol
The 32nd Annual Hospice Conference of  Southwestern Illinois was held on November 6th at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.   Our pens almost couldn't write fast enough as attendees took notes during Dr. Wyatt's wonderful presentation.  Even Magnum's ears perked up as Dr. Wyatt asked the question:
Do you have to wait for a terminal diagnosis before you can change the way you live?
Dr. Wyatt's presentation was entitled "Life Lessons from Hospice Patients:  Finding Joy in Being Alive."  She spoke of joie de vivre, the joy of living.  The enjoyment of simply being alive no matter what life brings. 

Dr. Wyatt has written a number of books as a result of her experiences as a family physician and hospice medical director.   Her book "What Really Matters" arrived in the mail today (she sold out at the conference) with a fabulous inscription...

 "To Carol and Magnum,
So lovely to meet you both! 
Blessings to you in your work!"

Magnum and I left the conference with a bounce in our steps (my 2, his 4 feet!) as we fought against the cold, blustery wind to our car.  With renewed joie de vivre, we went directly to the Hospice Home ready to learn more lessons for living.

Dear Dr. Wyatt,
Thank you for sharing your hospice experiences and insights with us all.  Blessings to you in your work.

Miss Carol and Magnum