Brenda Weintraub is rarely seen without her friendliest companion by her side. In larger cities it’s reasonable to think he could get lost in a crowd, but not here. He’s little, he’s furry, he brings smiles to every face he meets, he’s Satchmo.
Satchmo, is a mini wirehair dachshund. He and Brenda began their training for therapy work approximately two years ago. In December of 2011 Brenda felt the time had come and they both were ready to take the next step, getting sanctioned by Therapy Dog International. The tests are very thorough and dogs are tested in everything from laying quietly beside a patient to being unflappable if something unexpected happens such as a sudden movement or noise made by the patient. During a particular test, a cluster of pots and pans are dropped behind the dog while he is interacting with a “patient” to see what his reaction is. Out of the 13 tests the dog is given he cannot fail one if he is to be certified. Satchmo passed all 13 tests on his first try. The pair has now been doing therapy work for one year; their first visit to a nursing home was February 2011. In the past year Brenda and Satchmo have made over 100 visits to nursing homes, a hospital, a library and private residences.
In the summer of 2012 Brenda attended the classes for becoming a Rockbridge Area Hospice volunteer and together, her and Satchmo started a new chapter in their journey together. “Each and every patient we meet becomes special to us and lasting friendships are formed”, said Weintraub. “Satchmo has a way of drawing a patient out with his calm, friendly attitude and it is truly special to see the bond the patient forms with Satchmo. He seems to have an innate understanding of what a patient needs from him and gives this willingly with a wag of his tail. We have both been blessed from these visits and look forward to the many visits we will make in the future.”
Pet therapy has been shown to decrease pain symptoms, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and bring smiles to patient’s faces. It can be especially useful in the hospice setting for patients who have withdrawn from the people around them but find interacting with an animal easier and less painful. For more information contact Rockbridge Area Hospice, 540-463-1848.