Monday, March 3, 2014

Meet Mikey: State of the Heart Hospice’s Newest member of the Pet Therapy Team

Mikey is pictured her with his owner Jessica Fullenkamp.
“Mikey,” a 15 pound Yorkiepoo, is the newest addition to State of the Heart Hospice’s team of pet therapy dogs who visit hospice patients and families to bring joy and cheer to their households. His owner, Jessica Fullenkamp, describes Mikey as “loving, and a dog that likes people.”

Fullenkamp, who teaches at Ansonia Schools and lives near Rossburg, said she became interested in pet therapy when she witnessed the joy that pet visits brought to her brother when he was hospitalized. “He really enjoyed the pet visits,” she said. That experience was “the spark” she said that started her and Mikey on the path to becoming a part of the State of the Heart pet therapy program.

State of the Heart Hospice cares for patients and families in eastern Indiana and western Ohio who are confronting a life limiting illness. Last year, the nonprofit program launched a pet therapy program. Marta Wetzel of Lakengren and her dog Mannette, and Kelly Fourman and her dog Joey of Arcanum, completed hospice volunteer orientation and became the first members of the team. They do pet visits primarily with residents in Darke County. Fullenkamp and Mikey will do visits to patients and families in Mercer County where State of the Heart has an office in Coldwater. The agency has an office in Greenville and one in Portland.

“We have been pleased to have the pet therapy program,” stated State of the Heart Volunteer Manager Pauline Faller. “Adding Jessica and Mikey to the team gives us more complete coverage for pet visits. The feedback we have gotten with the program has been positive and encouraging. By adding Mikey and Jessica to the team, we can provide pet therapy to even more patients who want to have visits from the pet therapy dogs.”

Fullenkamp explained that the route to becoming a pet therapy dog and hospice volunteer had its requirements. Mikey attended a Pet Therapy Assistance program for ten weeks and was later verified by a veterinarian that he is a “safe” dog and not aggressive. Fullenkamp followed Mikey in her training by completing the hospice volunteer orientation. They have begun visiting their first patients.

Faller explained that that pets are used in many health care settings. Studies have found that pets fulfill the basic human need to touch. Stroking, holding, cuddling or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe people when they are stressed. “The pets will help relax a patient, bringing them comfort and offer them a distraction from their illness,” she added. “In some cases, the patient may recall a pet they owned years ago and the joy they found in their pet.” She explained that the State of the Heart staff will assess whether or not a pet visit would be beneficial.

Fullenkamp said she is excited to be involved in the pet therapy program, and, as for Mikey, “It is a good place for him to be.”

For more information about the pet therapy program or any of the services provided by State of the Heart visit the agency web site at

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