Strong and Loveable Bulldog Spreading Joy for Hospice Patients

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NORTHFIELD, N.J. -

After cheating death three times, a six-year-old English Bulldog and her owner have found a way to give back, by helping brighten the day for others.

“She’s like a cat with nine lives, she’s faced death three times, and she’s a tough little girl,” said Colleen Ortiz, a pet therapy volunteer at Heartland Hospice.

When she was a puppy, Lily, the English bulldog, was choked by her collar and ended up in the hospital for four days.

Flash forward a couple of years, and the dog had to have emergency surgery to remove her uterus, which helped her Veterinarian find mammary cancer.

Now, the six-year-old pup and her human are thanking their lucky stars by giving back.

“She’s got a big heart, and it’s almost as if she knows that she’s paying it forward,” said Ortiz.

In between tug-of-war playtime and loud snorting, Lilly and her companion travel around South Jersey to make friendly pet visits to patients of Heartland Hospice.

“Heartland Hospice provides hospice care for patients who have a diagnosis that would indicate that their condition is terminal,” said Margie Barham, the Volunteer Coordinator at Heartland Hospice.

The organization provides nursing care, home health aides, social work, and spiritual care, along with music, massage, and—you guessed it—pet therapy.

“We find that with our pet visitor volunteers, the pets are particularly useful for patients that might be non-commutative, who may have had a stroke or may have Alzheimer’s,” says Barham.

For therapy dogs like Lilly, she makes a positive difference with all of the patients that she visits.

But at Heartland Hospice, they’re looking for more volunteers and pet-therapy dogs, to help put a smile on dozens of their patient’s faces.

“We’re always looking for more,"  said Barham. "[But] the pets have to be pet-therapy certified,”

“After Lilly and I visit a patient, you leave with a very good feeling, you feel like you were able to put a smile on someone’s face who’s facing some hard months ahead,” said Ortiz.

For more information on how you and your furry friend can volunteer, call Heartland Hospice at 609-641-4675.

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